No Moratoria apply to Blogs

You know those times where you think of the perfect response to an argument five minutes after walking away from the person you were arguing with?

Well, it wasn’t an argument, but that happened to me yesterday, and I don’t think I’ll top it for a long time.

Yesterday, I met the Taoiseach.

He was campaigning for a Yes vote in tomorrow’s Marriage Equality referendum (while quietly ignoring the Age of Presidential Candidates one, a matter I’ve made my views more than clear on).

The Taoiseach, who I have to admit was very polite, saw me standing there with my as yet un-sipped coffee in my hand, offered his hand and said “Hello, what’d your name?”

For the purpose of this article my name was Contributor X, and the conversation went like this¹:

Taoiseach: Hello, what’s your name?

X: Good morning Taoiseach, Contributor X.

*At this point I realised that opportunities like this don’t come along every day so an admittedly half-formed question came blurting out of my mouth.*

X: Taoiseach, is there any chance of making it illegal to put up lies and propaganda posters for future elections and referenda?

Taoiseach: Freedom of expression is important.

X: Yes, but people are putting up posters that are deliberately misleading the public as to what the referendum is actually about.

Taoiseach: I believe the truth will win out in the end.

X: Well… I hope so.

At this point I would like to say that I believe the early and unexpected nature of this meeting, coupled with my uncaffeinated state is why the conversation went like that, instead of like this:

Taoiseach: Freedom of expression is important.

X: If freedom of expression is so important, does that mean that your Government has plans to repeal the Blasphemy Law?

(Imaginary Random Bystander: Awww snap!)

I am kicking myself a little that I didn’t think of turning the conversation that way. But I am buoyed by the fact that just an hour ago I was speaking to a Fine Gael source, a TD actually, who shall remain nameless since I didn’t let him know at the beginning of our conversation that this article was likely to be written.

Naturally, I put this scenario to the TD¹:

X: I was speaking to the Taoiseach yesterday morning and I suggested that perhaps putting up posters that were wrong or misleading should be made illegal for campaigns like this in the future. The Taoiseach said that freedom of expression wouldn’t allow that.

TD: You see the problem with that is it all comes down to interpretation. If we say “if you say anything that’s factually incorrect, you’re going to prison” someone might say something that’s then interpreted the wrong way and they’re punished.

X: If freedom of expression is that important, do you think the Government should repeal the Blasphemy Law?

TD: Yes. We should get rid of the Blasphemy Law, in my opinion it should have been the second referendum along with the Marriage Equality one tomorrow as opposed to the Presidential one.

X: The No campaign are obviously well funded and have a lot of legal advice behind them; because a lot of their posters and what they’re saying is veering dangerously close to Incitement to Hatred but stopping just short of hitting the nail on the head.

TD: Yes, I actually agree.

X: Personally I just think it’s a little ridiculous that I can put up a poster that implies that single-parent families aren’t legitimate families, or that deliberately tries to mislead the electorate on an amendment to the constitution and nothing happens to me; but if I stub my toe against the wall getting down from putting that poster up and shout “Jesus Christ!” when I do I can be legally punished.

It obviously hadn’t been put to him this way before because at this point the TD actually started (justifiably) laughing. While presented as a joke, this situation is entirely factual, and it’s entirely laughable.

The TD also said that while he is in favour of a Yes for the Age of Presidential Candidates referendum tomorrow they (the Government, Fine Gael, or people like myself who are strongly in favour of passing the amendment – take your pick) are “going to be decimated”.

I’ve already mentioned that he would have liked the Blasphemy Law to be the second referendum tomorrow, but he hopes it’s the next one on the table.

When asked if there would be another referendum before next April (the latest date the current Government can remain in power until) he said he doesn’t see it happening.

Which is really too bad. I’ve been advocating a yes vote on both referenda since the beginning, but as unusual as it may be for a contributor to this site to agree with any member of the Government on anything, he has a valid point.

Regarding Marriage Equality, the strong Yes-s were always going to vote yes, and the strong No-s were always going to vote no. All the hate and vitriol you’re seeing posted up everywhere and the confusion and fear mongering you’re hearing on broadcast media, aren’t aimed at changing a yes to a no, it’s aimed and swinging the Undecided-s.

And a I don’t think I would be entirely incorrect to say that the vast majority of it is paid for by Conservative Christian Special Interest groups.

If the Blasphemy Law was the other issue tomorrow, then the Yes side would have most of the current strong Yes-s, anyone in favour of free speech, and anyone who wants the Catholic Church to loosen it’s grip on Ireland and Irish politics.

While the No side would have most of the current strong No-s, but would have to split their funding between saying that homosexuality is the work of the devil and saying that thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.

Picture the scene:

An undecided voter is approached on the street by a No campaigner.
Said campaigner goes to great lengths to confuse the voter, by talking about adoption, surrogacy, and any number of irrelevant things in an effort to convince our Undecided to vote against civil marriage equality.

After ten minutes or so our Undecided voter seems fairly convinced and the No campaigner leaves.

At this point a Yes campaigner approaches the voter and simply says “Y’know, that’s the same side that says you should be imprisoned, fined, or both, if you say ‘God damn it!’ after accidentally locking yourself out of the house. Do you really think they’re the people you should be listening to?”

That really seems like a landslide victory in both referenda to me.

Unfortunately that isn’t the case tomorrow, so for the last time on this site before polls open (from 7am to 10pm tomorrow), I once again urge you:

Please vote.

Please vote Yes.

Please do it twice.


¹. Neither of these conversations were recorded and are reproduced here from memory. To that extent I cannot claim them to be quotes but rather paraphrased to the utmost of my recollection.

No Moratoria apply to Blogs

Op-ed: The Presidential Referendum

I recognise this isn’t necessarily going to be the most popular viewpoint. In fact I recognise that this viewpoint might not even be shared with the other contributors to this blog.

I feel there’s a more obvious socially expected standpoint when it comes to the Marriage referendum than the Presidential one, it is after all the Same Sexier of the two debates.

I promise that was the last pun of this article.

Now that we’re closer to polling day, people seem to be finally paying attention to the fact that there are two referenda to be voted on.

While I’ve already mentioned my feelings on the subject, let me reiterate:

I think if you feel like a candidate is unsuitable, do what you do with every other candidate you feel is unsuitable and don’t vote for them.

A lot of people seem to be using the “a younger president wouldn’t be mature/experienced enough” line as a reason to vote No.

The fact is, younger candidacy doesn’t automatically equal a younger President. Currently you have to be 35 to run but our youngest presidents to take office were both 46 (Robinson and McAleese).

You’re entitled to feel a President should be older, and hence not vote for someone younger, but voting No in this referendum is vetoing any chance of a wider candidate field.

The other argument is the “boy band argument” where lowering the age of candidates will immediately transform a presidential election into a Pop Idol style popularity contest.

All credit to 1 Direction, I don’t think Niall Horan is poised to be the next President of Ireland.

More importantly, I don’t think the number of registered 1D fans outnumber the number of registered voters that wouldn’t vote for a member of a boy band.

That said, if the people of Ireland do want to vote a member of a boy band into the office of the President, then while I feel that’d be a sad day for the state of Irish politics, it would be a worse day for democracy if the people were denied the candidate they wanted despite their votes.

The people intending to vote No in this referendum, whether they realise it or not, are in my opinion using democracy to veto democracy.

Your vote is as powerful as anyone else’s. Just as a younger registered voter’s is as powerful as yours.

If you’re that worried about a younger candidate then canvass and vote against them, involve yourself in the process, don’t veto their chance to involve themselves.

A lot of us, myself included have been urging younger voters to get involved with the democratic process on the 22nd in order to show that we feel people shouldn’t be denied rights because of their sexuality.

Let’s not turn around to those same young voters two minutes later and tell them they should be denied the same rights as the rest of the electorate because of their age.


Op-ed: The Presidential Referendum

Two Referenda

Ok, so I’ll say it right out, you’re used to a better class of rant from this website; but as I’m the one drinking the leftover rum tonight I felt it fell to me.

If you’re reading this, you know that on May 22nd, there will be a referendum in Ireland on whether or not we should extend equal civil rights to all of our citizens.

-Checks calendar-
Hmm… it actually is the 21st century? And there are people living in a democratic republic who are not only unsure, but are actively campaigning against equal rights for all citizens ? Amazing.

I’ll admit, that was slightly on the nose.
I’ll also admit I don’t care.

I’m not the first one to say this, in fact I’m pretty sure I heard it first from our resident Blumpkine-in-Chief (but I don’t want to falsely attribute it to himself):

If anyone can provide me with a single, valid, well reasoned argument, as to why we should not extend the same civil rights to our LGBT etc. citizens as we do to our straight ones, I myself will vote no.

Points to bear in mind:

1. “Because we’re Catholics” is not a valid reason. You can be a Catholic all you want and that’s your right, just as it’s someone else’s right not to be.
The rules of your club don’t get to affect those who choose not to join though. Same sex couples can’t get married in a Catholic church with a Catholic ceremony? Fine. It’s against the rules of the club.
Same sex couples can’t have a civil marriage, anywhere else in the country because the Catholics don’t like it? Nope. That’s not on.
The “Catholics of Ireland club” and the “Citizens of Ireland club” may have an overlap, but they’re not the same thing.

2. “Won’t somebody think of the children?!?” is also not a valid argument. This referendum is specifically regarding the rights of same sex couples to get married. Children are not involved. This has nothing to do with adoption laws. This has nothing to do with parental rights. This has nothing to do with surrogacy. Children are not involved.

If you can’t think of said single, valid, well reasoned argument, I’ll be voting yes.
And you should too.
Because you’ve just shown there is no reason to vote otherwise.

Now, remember I said there was going to be another referendum?

The number of people that genuinely didn’t know about the second referendum shocked me a little, but I can sort of understand it.

The same sex marriage referendum has been getting so much of the headlines and airtime that it’s completely overshadowed the fact that there will be a second referendum on the day; this one to lower the age at which you can run for president to 21.

Ever since I was about sixteen and I started to pay attention in any way at all, I’ve maintained that as soon as you’re eligible to vote you should be eligible to run. Whether it’s for a General or a Presidential election.

Literally the only argument I’ve heard against this in the last decade and a half is “Someone that young wouldn’t possibly have the experience needed to do the job”.

My response? If you don’t think they’re qualified, don’t feckin’ vote for them! Don’t ban them from giving it a shot. Honestly if we were to take all of the people who’ve made it blatantly obvious that they shouldn’t be in government and banned them from taking part in the next election, then I’m fairly certain you’d be handed a completely blank piece of paper as a ballot on the next polling day.

Unfortunately, passing this referendum will only lower the running age of a Presidential election to 21. Not to 18.
It will bring the running age in line with that of Dáil Éireann though, so it’s a start.
Lowering both of them to a point where anyone allowed to vote is allowed to run is another fight for another day.

In summation, on May 22nd 2015 there will be two referenda held in Ireland:
One on whether or not same sex marriage should be legalised.
The other on whether or not the age you are eligible to run for president should be lowered to 21.
And if you believe in living in a democracy where all citizens have equal rights you should vote yes to both.

Now this bit is important:
Every poll I’ve heard of shows that the young people of Ireland are far more likely to vote in favour of the same rights for all of our citizens, and treating each other equally.

Unfortunately, it is these same young people who are less likely to vote based on past election and referenda voter turn out.
I think it’s fair to say that most people reading this particular blog are probably registered to vote, but if you’re not sure, or if you know someone who isn’t sure, you can check on:

If you’re not registered and you’re not certain how to go about it, there’s still time.
Go here to find out how:

Please register.
Please vote.
And please vote yes.

Two Referenda