Joan Burton worry over impact of low turnout on Yes vote

Tánaiste Joan Burton says she is “nervous” about the possibility of a low turnout in next Friday’s marriage referendum — and how this might affect the yes vote.

Her comments came as a group of lawyers for the no side yesterday argued that a yes vote would introduce a false understanding of equality into the law

Ms Burton said yesterday that most of the campaigning on both sides had been “respectful” but she also had concerns about the turnout next week.

“What I’m a bit nervous about is that... people mightn’t actually commit to coming out to vote in a way that’s essential to carry the referendum,” she said.

Turnout for referendums in Ireland is traditionally about a third lower than for general elections, she said, but added that it was “brilliant” that many people have recently signed up to vote for the first time.

“I’m particularly anxious to say to young people, no matter how much they’re on social media campaigning in favour of the referendum, the really fashionable place to be will be next Friday in a polling station, voting yes for equality,” she said while canvassing in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

A group of senior lawyers against the referendum yesterday made a number of strong claims warning against changing Article 41 of the Constitution.

They cited several reasons why the referendum should not be passed. These include claims that it would lead to a systematic cutting of the biological ties between children and their natural parents, as well as the imposition of a new theory of gender which says there are no real differences between the sexes.

“The Government now seeks to ‘cut and paste’ into the Irish Constitution the claim that marriage has nothing to do with gender; that it is to have no regard to distinction as to sex between a man and a woman,” the lawyers stated.

However, Sinn Féin equality spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said that a yes vote was needed to remove the inequality at the heart of civil partnership arrangements, where gay couples are not offered the choice of civil marriage.

Singer Daniel O’Donnell said he will vote yes as he believes “everyone should be equal”. He added: “I can’t see what a yes vote is going to do against anybody.”

Joan Burton worry over impact of low turnout on Yes vote

The Donegal entertainer added that he did not agree with the rigid view of the family as a mother and father. “I was brought up without a father. My father died before I knew the benefit of a father. It was just my mother,” he said.

In response, the Iona Institute said last night that, while it accepted that O’Donnell’s view was sincere and heartfelt, there was a world of difference between losing a parent through circumstances and by deliberate design.

“Unfortunately, if we vote in favour of this referendum, the result will be that a certain number of children will be deliberately raised without a mother or a father from the very first day of their life with the full blessing of the State,” said Patricia Casey, co-founder of the group.

A number of opinion polls are expected this weekend to indicate where both sides stand ahead of Friday’s vote, while a debate will be hosted by RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, cab company Hailo has promised to ferry voters to polling stations next Friday between the hours of 11am and 4pm, if people pre-book the day before. Its ‘drive for equality’ campaign will offer free fares of up to €15 on the day for up to 1,000 passengers.

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