Donegal’s Éamon McGee shrugs off criticism over marriage equality vote stance

Donegal footballer Éamon McGee has revealed he had to contend with opposition towards his involvement in the campaign for a yes vote in May’s marriage equality referendum.

Éamon McGee: GAA represents a strong reflection of Irish society.

The 2012 All-Ireland winner is taking an active role since attending the launch of Yes Equality’s nationwide voter engagement initiative last month.

In the wake of it, he was criticised on Twitter about his support for the movement, although he insists it hasn’t been a regular occurrence. “The reaction has been more than positive. A Catholic organisation was ribbing me on Twitter and asking why the GAA was taking a stand on this. It’s a societal issue rather than a political issue but the majority of it has been supportive and I think it’s a good opportunity too for people to talk about it. It just shows you there’s that bit of open-mindedness there.”

McGee believes the GAA represents a strong reflection of Irish society and in turn its attitude to issues such as marriage equality. “There’s no point lying about it: there’s certain aspects of GAA folk that are traditionalists, have Catholic viewpoints and are old school. They will view this with a bit of suspicion, this lifestyle. Maybe that’s 20-30% of them, 30% maximum. The majority of the GAA are coming on now to it.

“The GAA’s a good indicator. It comes into every aspect of society from the cities to the rural communities. I think society in general is coming to accept it but you’re always going to get those one or two traditionalists that are slow to change. Gradually, it’s coming. These people are entitled to their viewpoints and it’s unfair on me to call them ignorant.”

McGee agreed to become involved in the campaign when he considered what he might have to say to any children he may have in the future. “If I ever have a child and he or she turns out to be gay, they could say to me ‘you had a chance to make a difference in that vote’. I don’t know would I be more ashamed that I didn’t vote or the fact I voted against it. It comes down to equality and one less difference in society.”

He would like to think the next high profile Gaelic player to come out won’t have as much of a media circus to deal with as Dónal Óg Cusack.

“If you look at the statistics, I think there are going to be more and more and more. Fair play to Dónal Óg, it’s something that when people do come out they can see the reaction that he got and the majority of it was supportive. If anybody has to make a choice, they’ll be able to look at that and say ‘this isn’t such a big thing’.

“Maybe in the next generation because of the vote this year and because of people like Dónal Óg, it won’t be such a big thing, just normal. Hopefully, that’s where we’re going to now. But it’ll just take time.

“It’s not that I have any friends who are gay or any close family members but it’s a social issue and the easiest thing would have been to put the head in the sand and let them fire away themselves. But that attitude hasn’t served us well before and the more I read up on it the more I found there’s a high level of ignorance in parts of society.”

Meanwhile, ahead of Donegal’s Division 1 clash with Monaghan in Letterkenny on Sunday, McGee reckons score difference may be needed to separate teams for semi-final spots and relegation. Donegal were relegated two years ago thanks to a late Paul Mannion equaliser for Dublin in Ballybofey. Currently, they have four points after three rounds along with Cork, Mayo and Kerry.

Should three teams finish on the same number of points, score difference will be the determining factor. It’s what sees Donegal in fourth place at the moment as Mayo have the better margin while Cork and Kerry have scored more than Rory Gallagher’s side.

“The way the division is shaping up, you have to be taking something from your home games if you want to be staying up. Teams are taking points off each other and it’s more than likely going to come down to a situation where points difference has to be considered.

“It’s very dangerous to say ‘we’ll aim for six or seven points’. You just really have to try and win every game. It’s as good a preparation as any for the championship and that Tyrone game in May.”


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