The Government is to “throw everything” at a yes vote in the marriage equality referendum, after tightening poll numbers set Coalition nerves on edge.
Fine Gael and Labour are determined to avoid the kind of destabilising last-minute defeat the Government suffered in the Seanad abolition vote, as both parties fear this would undermine the Coalition’s authority and record in the run-up to next year’s general election.
Though polls continue to suggest a clear win for the yes side, opposition appears to be hardening and more voters are identifying as unsure ahead of Friday’s vote.
As the Catholic Church intervened in its most pointed way so far to call for a no vote, both sides stressed that turnout would prove a crucial factor in the referendum on extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.
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A well-placed Government source said: “We still think it will pass, but we really need to throw everything at it to prevent any more slippage on the yes side.”
Sources said they believed the fact it was a vote on a “social” issue which would impact on virtually every family in the country would stem the natural anti-incumbent government surge seen in the Lisbon Treaty and Seanad abolition campaigns.
Amid signs of some tension within the Coalition over how the campaign was handled, Tánaiste Joan Burton denied Labour had “thrown a tantrum” over Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar taking a prominent role on RTÉ’s Prime Time tomorrow, insisting Labour’s Alex White should appear on the programme instead. However, Ms Burton stressed there had been a deal between the parties as to how many appearances they would each get, and these needed to be adhered to.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald urged a yes vote as she pointed to statements by the impartial chairman of the Referendum Commission, Justice Kevin Cross, that the referendum result would have no consequences for adoption laws or planned surrogacy legislation.
Ms Fitzgerald insisted the referendum was only concerned with ensuring gay people were no longer treated as second-class citizens. She accused the no side of “scaremongering” by attempting to make the vote about children’s rights.
However, the Church made clear its opposition to marriage equality as letters from bishops read out across the country said a yes vote would go against the “natural order” of marriage between a man and a woman.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said a yes vote would impact on every citizen. “Because it would fundamentally change the philosophy which underpins cohesion in society,” he said. “Marriage is not simply about a wedding ceremony or about two people being in love with each other.”
Dr Martin called on people to consider “the profound implications which the constitutional amendment on marriage would have on the family and on our understanding of parenthood”.
While Kieran O’Reilly, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, said the Church did not want to alienate any individual or group, three pro-yes faith groups complained to Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, demanding “insensitive” no vote literature be removed from churches.
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