The Irish Taoisceach (the equivalent of Prime Minister) has been speaking about the forthcoming referendum in Ireland on same-sex marriage – due to take place in May.
Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny, who has previously been viewed as conservative, told journalists in a briefing that he would be happy to ‘campaign strongly’ for a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, and has confirmed that he will take part in a live debate on the issue ahead of the vote.
In 2012, Kenny said that he would not be ‘pressurized into a box-ticking exercise’ when it came to the issue of gay marriage and refused to give his opinion on the subject. However, when asked by a journalist at the briefing, which took place just before Christmas, if he had been on a personal journey on the issue, he simply responded, ‘Yes.’
When it was put to him that he has often been seen as on the conservative side of his party, he replied, ‘perception is not often reality’.
‘I have made it clear to Deputy [Jerry] Buttimer, who is the chair of the [LGBT] group here in Fine Gael, that I will be very happy to campaign for a Yes vote when the referendum is held in the month of May
‘Fine Gael actually were the first party to deal with civil registration and civil union.
‘We have had that for quite some time here and obviously society has changed and equality of marriage is an issue.
‘I have obviously committed the party and myself to working in favor of the vote and I think it is time to do this so it’s a people’s choice.
‘So I am happy with my decision and as I say it is a matter for the people at the end of the day but from my point of view I will be very happy to campaign strongly in favor of the question.’
Kenny became the first known serving Irish Taoisceach to visit a gay bar when he popped into Dublin’s Panti Bar last month. He visited to participate in the Fine Gael LGBT Groups’s Christmas party.
The referendum on same-sex marriage in the country is expected to take place in early May, but although early polls suggested a ‘yes’ vote in favour of equal marriage is likely, there has been growing concern amongst the Irish Government that complacency and a low turnout could swing the result to ‘no’.
Enda Kelly leads a coalition made up of Fine Gael and Labour politicians. Labour’s Equality Minister, Aodhan O Riordain, told the Irish Independent this week, ‘If the vote were held next week – we would lose it. We need an all-out campaign and complacency is among our biggest problems.’