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.

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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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    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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    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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    Children’s Rights Referendum, Saturday November 10th

    An Toaiseach Enda Kenny has announced that the Children’s Rights Referendum will take place on Saturday November 10th.

    More details, including who will chair the referendum commission, will be announced tomorrow following the briefing of opposition leaders.

    This will be the second referendum to be held on a Saturday. The first one was the second Nice Treaty referendum.

    We have waited a long time for this referendum and while we still await the exact wording, the announcement of a date for the referendum is an important step. We can now, hopefully, look forward to a day when Children’s rights will be included in Bunreacht na hEireann

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    We Do Need a Referendum on Children’s Right

     

    Austria, Vienna, Stephansplatz This shot was t...
    Austria, Vienna, Stephansplatz This shot was taken on Nations Children's Rights Day", on 'Stephansplatz', in Vienna, Austria. Thisone seems to be the first ever-oganized 'Smart Mob' on such occasion, although it was somewhat misnamed to be a flashmob'. Participants where asked to to lift any piece of white cloth during that time. This 'smart mob' happened for 60 seconds, beginning at 14:22 local time (13:22_Z). See also: Children's rights movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Today former Supreme Court Justice Hugh O’Flaherty wrote in the Irish Independent that we do not need a referendum on Children’s right’s.

    As Justice O’Flaherty points the aim of this referendum is what an Oireachtas committee in 2007 set out,

    • Enshrine and enhance the protection of the rights of children.
    • Express recognition of children’s rights.
    • In its laws and actions the State shall cherish all the children of the State equally and the State should not discriminate as between children.
    • Protection of a child at risk — children of marital and non-marital families to be treated identically.
    • Welfare of the child to be of paramount consideration.
    • Extension of the right to adoption where the child’s welfare so requires.
    • Provision for education, including free primary education.
    • The rights of parents to be preserved except in exceptional circumstances.
    • The State’s laws and services to accord with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    The Minister for Children, Francis Fitzgerald, was quick to challenge him on this assertion, and she is not alone. Olivia O’Leary wrote a fantastic piece on Friday on adoption on the Campaign for Children website setting out a very good reason for this referendum: Adoption.

    She wrote:

    Why should the children of legally married parents have less rights to adoption than other children? Why should over 1,600 children in Ireland live in institutions or have only foster parents, no matter how good, because the adoption laws here, taking their lead from the constitution, say so. The laws say that the child of married parents can only be placed for adoption where it is shown to the court that exceptional circumstances exist and their parents have failed in their duties towards them and will continue to fail until the child reaches 18 years. As a result it is almost impossible for them to be adopted. I don’t know of any other country in the European Union where this is the case. It is wrong.

    The time for Children’s right to be second to the family should be gone. It was 20 years ago that this referendum was first called for and we have been promised this referendum since 2006 and it is finally close at hand, so why give up on it?

    Why not give Children the highest protection possible in this country by putting them in the Constitution?

    A countries constitution is normally a good guide to how a country treats it citizen’s, and the fact that we include protection of the most vulnerable in our society will be a good thing. It also mean that our children will not be ignored by the highest law in this land.

    So I must disagree with the Former Justice and say We Need this Referendum and we need it soon!

    If you are interested in this issue and want to get involved in the campaign, do check out Campaign For Children

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    YFG Launches YES Campaign

    Young Fine Gael today launched its Yes campaign for the Referendum on May 31st. The campaign is titled “Secure our Future, Vote YES”. The official launch will take place this evening in UCD.

    The campaign is structured around 3 messgaes:

    • Ireland Needs Stability & Growth
    • We need an Ireland that Competes
    • Ireland needs Real Certainty

    There is a Website (with a blog), Facebook page, a Pinterest page (a first that I know for a referendum campaign in Ireland) and they are doing the Treaty in 21 tweets on Twitter!

    There is also a few video’s from members:
    Una Clarke

    Patrick Molloy, President of YFG

    Frankie Mulqueen,

    Pollwatch: Sunday Times/Behaviour and Attitudes April 22nd

    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 05:  A polling st...

    Yet another poll! Thats the way I’m feeling at this point anyway, but back to this poll which does have some interesting details on the Referendum. The poll by Behaviour and Attitudes survey of 946 over seven days ending on Tuesday.

    The topline figures on the Treaty Referendum are as follows:

    • Yes: 42%
    • No: 27%
    • Undecided: 31%

    When undecideds are excluded the the figures look more familiar:

    • Yes: 61%
    • No: 39%

    So no major news there. The interest is when people were asked to they understand the treaty, the responses were as follows:

    • Understood Very Well: 6%
    • Understand Quite Well: 12%
    • Understand to some extent: 27%
    • Do not understand it particularly well: 23%
    • Do not understand it all: 32%

    The big task on the Yes sides now will be to get the 55% of people who don’t understand to understand! If the Yes manages that will win the referendum on May 31st!