‘Yes’ side accused of blocking debate as campaign intensifies

Activist rips down ‘no’ votere ferendum poster

Cathal Barry and Greg Daly

With just a month to go to the referendum on same-sex marriage, the campaign has intensified with ‘no’ activists accusing the ‘yes’ camp of politicising the Gardaí after members of the force were photographed at stalls promoting a ‘yes’ vote.

The campaign took a nasty turn this week when a pro-same-sex marriage activist ripped down a Mothers and Fathers Matter (MFM) poster in Dublin. MFM spokesman Keith Mills described the incident, a criminal offence, as a “very worrying development”.

Anyone taking down posters, he said, is “trying to stop the debate”.

Senator Rónán Mullen warned the involvement of Gardaí in political campaigns endangers the public respect the force has long had as an impartial keeper of the peace

Describing himself as “alarmed” by photographs showing a uniformed Garda working from a pro same-sex marriage information stand at University College Cork, he called on the Minister for Justice to clarify the role of Gardaí in voter registration events, and said “the presence of a Garda at such a location clearly associates the force with one side in the referendum campaign”.

“This incident is a symptom of a wider problem with the current referendum campaign,” he said, arguing that there has been “no fairness or impartiality in the debate up to this point” but that “members of the Gardai being involved in ‘yes’ campaigning brings the problem of lack of balance in the debate to a whole new level.”

The UCC event followed after a uniformed Garda was directed by a senior officer to take part in a ‘Yes Equality’ photocall outside Pearse Street Garda Station.


Gardaí have since said the photocall was “not appropriate” given their status “as an apolitical and impartial organisation”.

UCC constitutional law lecturer Dr Seán Ó Conaill said “the fact that they’re helping people to be registered to vote is to be welcomed, but that they’re doing it at events organised by one side is worrying”.

“There wouldn’t be an issue with a Garda stand at an event organised by either side, provided that it was clearly separate and distinct,” he told The Irish Catholic, adding, “To any onlooker at either event it looked like the Gardaí were part of the ‘yes’ campaign.”

David Quinn, Director of The Iona Institute accused those in favour of same-sex marriage of making inflated claims. He pointed to a claims by Eoghan McDermott of the Communications Clinic who encouraged voters to choose a ‘yes’ to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

“These claims all smack of desperation, and the irony is that the ‘yes’ side are consistently accusing the ‘no’ side of precisely this.

“This makes for a very one-sided debate. Don’t be taken in,” Mr Quinn said.