“A historic day” – A Look back on a campaign

2015-05-17 11.51.40Its been awhile since I blogged and I only managed one post here during the referendum campaign itself, I felt I was playing a greater role through working with the amazing team in YesEquality Cork and Faith in Marriage Equality.

It was very tough campaign, but the result was phenomenal.

But not only was the result phenomenal, but the volunteers were phenomenal. Having been involved in Referendums and Election Campaigns in the past, I have never felt part of something bigger then me, or been involved in something that would have such a profound impact on me.

Across the campaign I was blown away by the enthusiasm of those involved in the campaign, not only from the LGBT Community but from those who were not going to be directly effected by this vote, but that they were doing it for friends, for family members or because they believed it was the right thing to do.

The Community though were by far the stars for me. It has always been described as a community, but I must say, despite having involved in Cork Pride and other groups, I never felt part of ‘community’. That changed in this campaign. They stood up, went outside their comfort zone and got involved.

2015-05-14 11.08.43At the beginning of this campaign I was worried about this. How do we get those who’s idea of a community was a pub, out campaigning. But I didn’t need to worry. Once the campaign got going they were there. They were helping prepare for canvass’s, they were answering phones, making badges, knocking on doors. The passion, the importance, the integrity, it just blew me away.

Across the country from Donegal to Wexford  people stood up to be counted. They campaigned Monday to Sunday, sun-up to sun-down, and convinced the people on the ground on how important a Yes Vote was.

And it worked. It worked hugely. The Yes Campaign managed to catch the imagination of the electorate and that was evident in the result.

On the campaign, it had some of my best and some of hardest canvasses that I have ever did.  It was often though going on the door, basically asking for my right to Marry, but some nights the reaction was just mind-blowing. Some nights the reaction wasn’t great, being told to “f**k off” or that is what “unnatural”, but the nights I was hugged or rewarded big smiles did make it worth it.

2015-05-18 19.44.42I also had some first’s in the campaign. Publishing my first Election Material, a faith based letter giving out at churches across Cork (Big thank you to YesEquality Cork for this!), and running the tally in Cork City Hall. Of course I was well used to canvassing, I had never led canvass’s before so this was another ‘first’, but one that many in this campaign can share. It was amazing out on the ground with YesEquality Cork which can be seen in all the Selfies from the campaign trail!

The result though was better then anything I ever expected. A 62% yes vote was out of this world and better then I ever expected. As anyone who say me on the day of the results (and the days after) knows how emotional I was and its only now that I was feeling ok enough to write this without crying!

What we did, as a campaign, as a country, was historic. We made many people’s hopes possible. We completed a path, that many before us laid. We can be very proud of what we did, while there are still many equality issues in Ireland to be fixed, this is one less issue.

I know I can’t wait for Cork Pride this year!

Diary of a Canvasser – Entry 1 #MarRef

2015-03-21 12.10.26So the Marriage Equality Referendum is starting to get going campaign wise. While we are 62 days out from the referendum on May 22nd, some campaigns have started.

YesEquality Cork is one of the groups that have started, with canvassing beginning on St Patricks Day before the Parade  and evening canvasses also.

Today was my first proper canvass with YesEquality Cork (as I had to go to work on St Patricks Day). We were joined by the INTO LGBT Group and Teachers for Marriage Equality as we set up shop on Paul St.

2015-03-21 12.11.55

As the sun was shining everyone was in a good mood. We had a great crew of canvassers. We met a varied group of people and the majority were quite positive towards us.  But with 62 days to we cannot be presumptive in any way, shape or form.

One lady stood out to me today. She was 86 and made a bee-line for me. I must admit I was expecting an ear bashing. Instead it turns out she was Women’s rights campaigner for all her life. She strongly believed in Equality and as a person on the ‘Left’ she would definitely be voting Yes on May 22nd! Not just for herself and her generation, but also her 23 year old grandson who is Gay! Now that is words a canvasser loves to hear!

canvass equality
Author with 86 year old equality campaigner, photo courtesy of Ken Curtin.

 

For many young people we canvassed it was an open and shut case, they were voting yes, no question about it. Same with two ladies who worked in a cafe who called me over to say they were having a rant and “people should be allowed do want they want”. They were delighted to see us out campaigning for it.

We did of course come across a few No voters, who it must be said, were very respectful, apart from one Lady who decided to shout “No, you should be ashamed of yourselves”. But I was pleasantly surprised we didn’t hear a lot of that!

There is a still a long way to go to ensure that this referendum passes on May 22nd, but today for me was a great start!

If you want to get involved with the campaign, join your local YesEquality Group, and if there isnt one locally why not get a group together and set one up! Its by working together we will ensure Equality for all couples in Ireland!

For those of you unsure what the #MarRef in the title is about, it is shorthand being used on Twitter.

Why I’m Voting No on October 4th

On October 4th I will be voting No to the 32nd Amendment to the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Eireann) Bill 2013. I am doing this for a number of reasons. I spoke against the abolition of the Seanad Eireann at this years Young Fine Gael’s Garrett Fitzgerald Summer School and this blog post is broadly based on that speech.

Note: following a tied vote on a motion to back the Fine Gael stance in the Referendum at the Garrett Fitzgerald Summer School, The National Executive of Young Fine Gael took the decision to remain neutral in the referendum and allow members to campaign on either side if they wish.

Abolishing the Seanad is not a measure that reforms Irish Politics in a way that is better for the people. It further concentrates power in the Dáil and focus’ more power and influence on TD’s and the whip system, the plague of Leinster House.

This simplistic populist policy was created to grab a headline  and draw attention to a Presidential Dinner and to bolster Enda’s poll rating. There was no debate, there was no consultation, it was within the leaders prerogative we were told.

This will be the biggest change to Bunreacht na hEireann since its enactment. A change it was not made to withstand. It recklessly severs the constitution with a scatter gun effect.

This amendment does more then abolish the Seanad. It will also change the following:

  • This possibility of the reference of Bills to the people by the President will be removed from the Constitution
  • A nomination for President may be made by 14 members of the Dáil.
  • Impeachment of the President would be dealt with by the Dáil. A proposal to impeach would need the signatures of at least 30 members of the Dáil and its adoption would need the agreement of at least four-fifths of the total membership of the Dáil. The Dáil would then investigate the charges against the President and could remove him/her from office if four-fifths of its total membership agree.
  • Judges could be removed from office for stated misbehaviour or incapacity if at least two-thirds of the total membership of the Dáil so decide
  • The arrangements for removing the Comptroller & Auditor General from office would be changed in the same way as for judges.

(Taken from www.referendum2013.ie)

The Seanad has many possibilities and some of our greatest politicians have realised this and used it. Garrett Fitzgerald used his Taoiseach’s appointments to appoint the lead Jim Dooge as his Minister for Foreign Affairs. Enda Kenny used the majority of his appointments to appoint various people from Civil Society to give a wider range of voices in the Seanad. Though he recently missed the chance to replace Senator McAleese with an independent person to chair a Banking Inquiry, using it instead to appoint a party member.

Seanad reform has been constantly ignored by successive Governments.  12 reports and a constitutional amendment all not acted upon by the Governments and the Dáil.

At the end of the it is only the Dáil that can bring the true reform that is needed to ensure that we have a proper functioning bi-caramel system. We are not ready as a state to be a uni-caramel system. The political system has not been reformed enough and our constitution is not made for it.

Abolishing the Seanad will also not save us money. More sitting days and more committees, which have been promised, will end up costing the same, if not more!

The Government have also decided to hold Dáil reform hostage to this amendment by promising that the reforms promised in the Programme for Government will only happen if this amendment is passed. This is a wrong and cynical move by the Government. Those of us who want a reformed system want Seanad AND Dáil reform so that it works better for the people of Ireland.

If we abolish Seanad Eireann we lose an expert voice and an independent voice in our political system. The Seanad can have real power and influence over legislation, tidying up things that come from Dáil Eireann. It may not be front page news, but it is an important function and one we will regret when it is gone. Appearances in front of a committee are not the same.

We need effective Check’s and Balances in our system which is dominated by the Executive. Abolishing the Seanad is not reform, but will further entrench the power of the Executive to the detriment of our democracy. Vote No on October 4th!

 

I encourage you to read the full details of the Governments proposals on The Referendum Commission website. If you wish to get involved in the No Campaign check out Democracy Matters and Future Matters

Note: I am fully in favour of the 33rd Amendment to the Constitution (Court of Appeal) Bill 2013.

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    Seanad “No” Campaign to launch tomorrow

    English: This is a photograph of the Seanad ch...
    English: This is a photograph of the Seanad chamber, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin Ireland. The Seanad is the upper house of the Irish parliament(Oireachtas). It is the chamber and seat of the Irish Government senators (Seanadóirí). The photograph was taken on 28th of June, 2008 at the inaugural opening of the Houses of the Oireachtas for a 'family fun day'. This we were told (by the guides) was the first time that photography was permitted inside the houses of the Oireachtas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Tomorrow morning in Dublin “Democracy Matters” will launch in Dublin. The campaign will be calling for the Seanad, instead of being abolished as suggested by the Government, that it be “radically” reformed based on the bill published recently by Senator’s Katherine Zappone and Feargal Quinn. The bill can be viewed here.

    As well as the two senators, the others involved are former Senator Joe ‘Toole, former Attorney General and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and journalist Noel Whelan.

    The campaign is launching well before any date has been set for a referendum on abolishing the Seanad, but it is expected to take place in the Autumn of this year.

    Already the opinion pieces have started. On Thursday Fine Gael Dublin Central TD and former Senator Paschal Donohue wrote a piece in the Irish Times entitled “Only political insiders would mourn the passing of the Seanad“. His piece contained the usual reasons for abolishing, lack of reform, lack of powers, lack of legitimacy and of course the cost as well as comparing it to other parliaments.

    While those who want Seanad Eireann abolished always give out that it hasnt been reformed, they seem to be throwing the baby out with bath water as they seem to have given up on any chance of reform by abolishing it.

    With proposals for Dáil Reform from Eoghan Murphy TD being discussed, should we really embark on the biggest change of Bunreacht na hEireann? Many already complain of the power of the whips and the government controlling the agenda of the Dáil, and the Seanad is the one place where they do not have that power, is it wise to get rid of that place? I have yet to be convinced.

    I shall be attending the launch of Democracy Matters tomorrow so do watch my Twitter feed for details coming from that.

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    How do we get Same Sex Marriage? Step 1: Register to Vote

    Voter Registration 6/14/08 #2
    Voter Registration 6/14/08 #2 (Photo credit: John of Lebanon)

    I posted on Sunday after the Constitutional Convention that it will be more than likely Autumn 2014 before we see any referendum vote on Same Sex Marriage. There will be many steps on the road to winning this referendum, but we have start at the basics. And now is the perfect time to start!

    Register to Vote!

    From my experience, young people and members of the LGBT people are not that great at registering to vote and actually voting. But this will be the first key step in ensuring that we can win a referendum on same sex marriage.

    While there will be a vote on lowering the voting age to 16 before this referendum, depending on the Governments response to the Convention report on lowering the voting age, it is still hugely important that people are on the Register of Electors

    The Register of Electors is done up once a year and while you can always register for the Supplementary Register before the referendum this can be quite rushed as you must have the forms filled in two weeks before the referendum date.

    You can register to vote using this form.

    Your Registered? Good, but are your details correct?

    This can be a big thing. While we always remember to tell friends and the various companies we deal with any changes to our address, how many of us remember to move our vote?

    This is a major inconvenience when you go to try to vote! Make sure your details are correct on CheckTheRegister.ie and if they are not, or you plan on moving, use this form to update your details

    Now Vote!

    Ok so you have done all that! Excellent! Now get used to voting. Make sure you cast your vote at every election and referendum and get used to the idea of visiting the polling station so you know how it all works and of course how long it takes so you can factor it in on the day of the vote!

    Also remember that by voting for people who support Same Sex Marriage in the Local and European Elections will also help push it along! It is a good bit away but no harm in starting now!

    But Who Can Vote?

    When it comes to referendums and Presidential elections in Ireland, only Irish Citizens can vote.

    British Citizens may vote and Dáil, Local and European Elections.

    European Union Citizens may vote at Local and European Elections.

    Non-EU Citizens can only vote in Local Elections.

    I’m sure many college based LGBT Groups will be running Register to Vote Campaigns when the Colleges go back this Autumn, but it is just as important for non-college based groups whether they be youth groups, sports groups or dining groups that they urge their members to register to vote and vote!

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    The Convention on the Constitution and Same-Sex Marriage – This is Only The Beginning

    Same Sex Marriage
    Same Sex Marriage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Today’s vote at the Convention on the Constitution was an amazing step on the road to Same Sex Marriage in Ireland. The overwhelming support from the convention to changing the Constitution is certainly something to bolster those campaigning for Same Sex Marriage. A huge well done to GLEN, MarriagEquality and the ICCL on their presentations and everyone that took part in the panel discussions in favour of Same Sex Marriage.

    The details of the vote and results are as follows:

    The Convention decided to recommend that the Constitution be changed to allow for civil marriage for same-sex couples by:

    • Yes – 79%
    • No – 19%
    • No opinion – 1%

    The members of the Convention were also asked what form the amendment should take. Delegates were given the option of voting that the amendment be:

    • permissive (‘the State may enact laws providing for same-sex marriage’);
    • directive (‘the State shall enact laws providing for same-sex marriage’);

    On this matter the Convention decided:

    • Permissive – 17%
    • Directive – 78%
    • No opinion – 1%

    A final question asked delegates if they agreed, disagreed or had no opinion that ‘having regard to the changed arrangements in relation to marriage, the State shall enact laws incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’.On this question the Convention decided:

    • Yes – 81%
    • No – 12%
    • No opinion – 2%

    Full press release on vote result (PDF)

    While many of us are certainly delighted with today’s result it really is only the beginning of the process towards a Referendum on Same Sex Marriage in Ireland. The Convention will send a report to the Houses of the Oireachtas. That will take about two months going by the first report issued by the Convention on lowering the voting age and the presidential term.

    The Oireachtas then has 4 months to respond as set out by the Terms of Reference

    “the Government will provide in the Oireachtas a response to each recommendation of the Convention within four months and, if accepting the recommendation, will indicate the timeframe it envisages for the holding of any related referendum”

    So that means we will find out in about 6 months when the referendum will be held. We then have to allow for the Local and European Elections in May 2014, meaning that unless the referendum is held at the same time (could be an idea to raise turnout) it probably will be held in the Autumn of 2014. This could be a very long campaign, just like the Scottish Referendum Campaign!!

    This of course raises many issues. How will TV and Radio cover it?

    During the week Una Mullally raise some very valid points on this.

    The main problem with how the Irish media frames the debate is around a skewed view of what ‘balance’ is. ‘Middle Ireland’, the ‘silent majority’, the ‘mainstream’, gay people are told, are not ready for something so drastic as equality. I don’t know about you, but I never actually hear that middle ground. What I hear again and again is yet another articulate gay person trying to hold their temper while they are subjected to ignorant and juvenile arguments. And I hear an opposing view, generally one from the far out end of Catholicism, blustering about children’s rights (which Civil Partnership denies, thank you very much), and trying desperately to fight against equality with arguments based on their own personal belief systems or grievances. I don’t hear middle Ireland. I don’t hear a middle ground. I don’t hear the mainstream. I don’t hear the 71% of Irish people who believe the Irish government should amend the law to provide civil marriages for same-sex couples, or the 75% who said they would vote yes in a referendum to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples, or the 72% who believe that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is a form of discrimination*. I don’t hear the voices of teenagers and grannies who think “I don’t mind, actually.” All I hear is hate.

    Constructing polarised conversations for the sake of ‘good radio’, ‘watchable TV’, ‘lively debate’, or an urge to get a radio programme or TV show’s hashtag trending doesn’t serve anyone because no real information emerges. All you come away with is conflict and division. Facts and reason are drowned out by emotional arguments and inaccuracies. It’s pointless. And while listening to Pat Kenny’s radio programme yesterday morning where the editor of GCN, Brian Finnegan, was met with bizarre anti-equality arguments from Gerry Fahey, a sickening feeling resurfaced. Because there is something more insidiously harmful going on. Broadcasters will cite ‘balance’ as a defense for allowing these views to be broadcast. But I’m sorry, there is nothing balanced about someone going on air and voicing opinions that are hateful and discriminatory. The pro-marriage equality side doesn’t do that, yet the anti side seems to have a free pass to bang on about whatever paper thin argument, conspiracy theory, or downright homophobic view they want. I am OVER it.

    Gay-bashing, gay marriage, and how the media needs to get a grip – Irish Times do read the full article as it does highlight what will be a major issue during the campaign, which I’m sure will remind some people of the referendums on Abortion and Divorce in Ireland.

    With polling showing that 72% of people are in favour of allowing Same Sex Marriage in Ireland any major campaign on this must take heed of what happened in the Children’s Rights Referendum last year. Polling there also showed that over 70% were in favour of that, but in the end it passed with a 58% yes vote on a 33% turnout, which is much lower then how the polling predicted it with go.

    Any campaign will not only have to win the argument (which today shows it certainly can), but will have to make sure that it can get the vote out and of course make sure that young people (and members of the LGBT community), who are the largest group that back this change, are registered to vote!

    That will be the biggest challenge.

    It can be done.

    It will be done!

    This is only the beginning,

    but it will happen.

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    A Permament Referendum Commission? How about an Election Commission?

     

    No Jobs In The Lisbon Lisbon Treaty
    No Jobs In The Lisbon Lisbon Treaty (Photo credit: infomatique)

    Today the suggestion has been made for a permanent Referendum Commission after everything that happened with the Children’s Right’s referendum, but is it really viable? Would an election commission be a better idea?

    Apart from recent spate of referendums (4 in the last 12 months) we do not have that many referendums, so a permanent Referendum Commission is really out of the question, it would be a quango and we are supposed to be cutting them!

    But would not an Election Commission or Electoral Commission be a better solution. So what would it do?

    It could do the following:

    • take on the functions of the Standard’s in Public Office Commission (SIPO),
    • take on the roll of registering political parties from the Clerk of the Dáil,
    • take on the roll of registering nominating bodies from the Clerk of the Seanad,
    • take on the roll of maining the electoral register from local authorities,
    • take on the roll of the Referendum Commission during the referendum,
    • take responsibility for the running of all elections as well as the appointment of returning officers,
    • and take responsibility for educate the public on voting in all elections in the state.

    Would that not be a better solution? Would that not be more useful? I doubt this will happen, but I think the Government should consider it at least!

    The least the government should do is return the powers of the Referendum Commission it had before the first Nice Referendum! But I won’t hold my breath!!

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    Why I am voting Yes on Saturday

    Due to work I cannot take part in Yes For Children’s Big Canvass today so here is my contribution.

    For the second time this country is being asked to vote on a Saturday. This time it is on Children’s Rights. We are being asked if we want to delete the current Section 5 of Article 42 and replace it with a new Article 42A. See Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Bill 2012 (PDF)

    This is an important amendment to the Irish Constitution. It will be the first time we will explicitly mentioning Children’s Rights in the Irish Constitution. This was first called for 20 years ago, so it is a long time coming.

    This amendment is very important for the Children of Ireland. It will ensure that Children in long term care can be adopted. It will give the state more responsibility (NOT Power) towards the children of this country. It will ensure that Children’s best interest is put first and where appropriate the Child’s own wishes will have be taken into account for the first time by the courts.

    This referendum on its own will not change a lot, but it will underpin a lot of the changes occurring at the moment. From the creation of the Child and Family Support Agency to the Children First Guidelines. And it will also give a statement of us as a people on how we want our children to be treated. It is for these reasons I am voting Yes. We have a poor record of looking after those who marginalised in this society and this is a way to start changing that. There are many other reasons to vote Yes. See YesForChildren.ie for more reasons!

    See also Gregg Kelly’s piece on Spunout.ie for more reasons to vote Yes

    This is one of the first referendum’s in the state where every major party and nearly every TD and Senator (bar one) is supporting. It has the unprecedented backing of chldren’s groups, parents groups, foster groups, various other NGO’s, Trade Unions, legal bodies and religious leaders. For the first time in any sort of election the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) has recommened that its members vote for this referendum.

    I have yet to hear a good reason for a No Vote. Those against this referendum have mainly spurious arguments about Parental Rights (which the Conference of Catholic Bishops say is false), forced adoption (never going to happen), vaccinations (also not going happen), birth control (not a hope) and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (your seriously scrapping the barrel here).

    Saturday will be an important vote for another reason no matter what your view on this referendum. It will be about whether or not we as a country will bother to vote on Saturday. So for that reason it is important that between 9am and 10pm you go out and vote.

    Its your Constitution, Your Decision, Your Vote! So Vote!

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    Children’s Rights Referendum Public Meeting.

    Fine Gael have organised a public information meeting on the Children’s Rights Referendum on Monday November 5th at 8:00pm in the Imperial Hotel, South Mall.

    Speakers on the night include:

    • Simon Coveney TD, Minister For Agriculture, Food and the Marine
    • Mr Geoffrey Shannon, Government Special Rapporteur on Child Protection
    • Mr Joe O’Toole, Yes for Children
    • Ms Sinead McKee, ISPCC
    • Ms Gwen Healy, UCC

    This is the perfect event to get more information on the referendum to help make up your mind before voting on Saturday 10th.

    Remember its Your Constitution, Your Decision, Your Vote!

    Facebook event here

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    Diary of A Canvasser: Children’s Right’s Referendum


    So it’s the second Referendum of 2012 and it is one we have been waiting for! While polls show that the Yes Side is a good bit ahead,  a Red C Poll for the National Youth Council of Ireland last week put the the Yes campaign on 74% and 4% against. The remaining 22% are undecided/Don’t know. While this is good news, there is a word of warning number of people who are informed about the issues. The poll has these numbers:

    • 14% say they are extremely knowledgeable about the Children’s Referendum
    • 19% say they are quite knowledgeable
    • 39% say they are not very knowledgeable
    • 22% say they are not at all knowledgeable

    Its because of this Groups in favour must be out there making there points to ensure that they get their point across before the No side really get going!

    So who is out campaigning on this? On the Yes Side we have:

    • Fine Gael
    • Labour
    • Fianna Fail
    • Sinn Fein
    • ULA
    • All independent TD’s and Senators
    • Yes For Children (composed of ISPCC, Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance and Campaign for Children)

    On the No Side you have:

    • Alliance of Parents Against the State
    • Two Right Now
    • Parents for Children
    • John Water’s
    • Vincent Browne

    So it does seem a bit one sided! But the Referendums last October was similar and we all know how that worked out for the Oireachtas Powers of Investigation Amendment.

    So I have been out canvassing with Yes for Children and Young Fine Gael. With Yes for Children I took part in their canvass in Wilton (12th Oct) and Kinsale (13th Oct) and boy are these people good. Most of their canvassers are workers and volunteers with children’s charities and certainly passionate on this. As you can guess the majority of the responses were quite positive with some people questioning the cost, timing and a few people thinking we were voting on abortion (not yet!!!).

    Kinsale was a very similar and we were blessed with the weather and certainly the people of Kinsale were very interested in what we were doing and supportive. One of or two people were against the amendment, but that is the joy of a democracy! One person was against the amendment because it didnt go far enough, which was an interesting point!

    With YFG it has mainly been an information campaign on campus, but a door to door canvass is also under way, which I have been able to partake in yet. Hopefully that will change!

    With today being the last day to register to vote, the campaign enters the final stretch. With TV3 hosting a debate next week, hopefully more coverage of the referendum will follow.

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