Varadkar favours 2014 for same-sex marriage poll

A referendum on gay marriage could be held within six months, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has indicated.

Mr Varadkar suggested the same- sex marriage poll should be held on the same day as next May/June’s local and European elections as it would ensure greater voter engagement and result in a higher turnout in comparison to previous referendums.

Mr Varadkar, who said he was personally in favour of same-sex marriage, is the first member of the Government to say he wants the referendum held as early as May.

“One option is to have it in 2014, same day as the local and European elections, at least we’d be assured a substantial number of people would come out and vote,” he said.

The Cabinet is due to discuss the gay marriage referendum next week. Labour has been pushing for a poll in 2015 and while it is expected a referendum will be approved, it is unclear as to when it will be held.

There is substantial unease among some Fine Gael TDs on the issue following the trauma over the abortion bill which resulted in the expulsion of five TDs and two senators from the Parliamentary Party. It is causing a real political headache for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who is believed to be concerned over six TDs in the party. He is expected to consult with backbenchers and senators in the run up to next week’s Cabinet meeting.

Mr Varadkar said he recognised the dangers of holding a stand-alone referendum and would rather push the vote out than lose it in a hurry.

“I’m in favour of approving same- sex marriage but that’s a personal view and not necessarily the view of the party, we haven’t had the chance to discuss it as yet,” he said. “Referendums are funny things, some people believe they are the purest form of democracy. In reality the vast majority of people don’t vote at all and those who do often vote for extraneous reasons that have nothing to do with then proposition they are actually being asked about.”

The minister said although he favoured a 2014 date, he wouldn’t want it rushed through with a low voter engagement. “So I would rather have the referendum later and win it than have it sooner and loose it,” he said.

The Dublin West TD agreed with his coalition counterparts that new legislation on parenting and adoption rights should be pushed through by Justice Minister Alan Shatter before any constitutional poll on same-sex marriage.

“I think if it is not out of the way it might complicate the issue because of course gay people can adopt but at the moment they can only adopt as individuals. They can’t adopt as a couple so I think it’s would be better to resolve and clarify those issues before a referendum.”

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, who previously described gay marriage as “the civil rights issue of this generation”, yesterday said he believed there would be a referendum in the life time of this Government.

Speaking in Cork, he dismissed concerns from Fine Gael backbench TDs that gay marriage was back on the agenda. “Well it is on the agenda of the Government and we will make a decision on it as we have made decisions on all the other recommendations from the Constitutional Convention.”

An Ipsos MRBI opinion poll last June showed 69% in favour and 25% against, but such referendum polls are often unreliable.


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