A David and Goliath fight

With less than a month to the same-sex marriage referendum, the ‘no’ side have an uphill battle, writes Greg Daly

Mothers and Fathers Matter (MFM) chairman Prof. Ray Kinsella was bemused to hear Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney recently describe ‘no’ campaigners being well-funded. 

Calling the minister’s comments a “kind of ad hominem” that point to his “failure to address arguments”, MFM, he says, is “supported by volunteers across the country and people working hard together” and is “driven by volunteers who are passionate about the truth, families and children”. Such volunteers, he said, “don’t have Government support or platforms or ministers or offices”.

Explaining the genesis of the movement, Prof. Kinsella – a UCD economist – told The Irish Catholic “we first met about a year ago in the aftermath of abortion legislation, which was just one plank in a much wider agenda intended to remove the sense that the family is intrinsically good for the child and replace it with an ideological process,” he explains, adding, “It grew from that into a campaign against the Children and Family Relationships Bill.”

It has since become the leading group campaigning against the proposed redefinition of marriage in the upcoming marriage referendum, formally launched on April 17 last and this weekend hosting a major conference featuring Irish and international speakers setting out an evidence-based case for a ‘no’ vote.

Describing MFM as “representative of people of all faiths and none, from all parts of the country and all occupations, who stand by the values embedded in the Constitution about the family”, Prof. Kinsella says it is founded on three principles.


The first, he says, is “respect for every single person and where they’re coming from”, pointing out that the group has members from, for instance, Ireland’s gay community, and that its “values are shared with people across the political, cultural, and religious spectrum”.

The second principle, he says, is respect for Ireland’s democratic constitutional system. Arguing that the absence of green and white papers on marital redefinition have undermined parliamentary institutions, he says, “we believe that the Government’s attempt to stifle debate and dialogue on this issue by suppressing discussion in both parliamentary parties using the party whip have done a bad service to democratic process in Ireland as they did on a whole range of other issues”, adding that “the failure to present rigorous preparatory documents to inform people is of far-reaching consequences”.

“Finally,” he says, “Mothers and Fathers Matter is about protecting children and the right of a child to its biological family and an identity that is embedded in family and a mother and a father joined together in a lifelong commitment reflected in marriage.” 

Children, he says, have a fundamental right “to know and experience the love of their siblings, their grandparents, and especially their mothers and fathers, all of which”, he says, “are threatened”.

Stressing that all things being equal, children should be reared within their biological family “where at all possible”, Prof. Kinsella says that as an economist he always found “great difficulty with things that are at odds with common sense”, adding that “common sense here has been turned on its head”. 

“Anything that challenges our common sense and lived experience has got to be problematic.”