As Ireland prepares to go to the polls on Friday (May 22), former president Mary McAleese has given an impassioned speech on why the country should vote ‘Yes’ to equal marriage.
The 63-year-old, who served as Ireland’s eighth president from 1997-2011, has movingly said that she did not bring her son Justin – who came out as gay publicly last month – into the world “to be a sceond class citizen.”
“I am grateful that my gay son grew up in a gay-friendly household,” Mrs McAleese said at an event in Dublin hosted by BeLonG To, a national organisation for LGBT youth.
“But we were not able to protect him from hostility outside our home and like so many parents of gay children we were worried sick about the man-made barriers we knew he would encounter, including the Constitutional barrier that would never let him marry the person he loved.
“Ironically he is a twin and his heterosexual twin faces no such barrier.
“No parent brings a child into the world to be a second class citizen,”
She added: “We who are parents, brothers and sisters, colleagues and friends of Ireland’s gay citizens know how they have suffered because of second-class citizenship.
“This referendum is about them and them alone. The only children affected by this referendum will be Ireland’s gay children. It is their future which is at stake. It is in our hands.”
Mrs McAleese went on to say that Ireland’s gay citizens were too few in number to win the referendum on their own.
“We, the majority, have to make it happen for them and for all the unborn gay children who are relying on us to end the branding, end the isolation, end the inequality, literally once and for all,” she said.
“A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything.”
Mrs McAleese concluded by dismissing arguments from the ‘No’ campaign that introducing equal marriage could have consequences for surrogacy and adoption law as “nonsense”.
She said: “No-one in Ireland, whether heterosexual or homosexual, has a legal or constitutional right to procreation using surrogacy. This referendum if passed will certainly not create any such right. It is a nonsense to think it could.”
Ireland’s referendum on equal marriage takes place this Friday (May 22), in the world’s first national public vote on the issue.