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

Molly Bloom

They’ll say they’re worried about the children.

They won’t say they’re worried about the children of single parents. They won’t say they’re worried about the adopted kids. They won’t say they’re worried about the kids being raised by their grandparents,or an aunt or uncle, or an older sibling. They won’t say they’re worried about the kids in foster care. They won’t say they’re worried about the kids already being raised by loving gay parents. Because they’d prefer you forget any of those kids exist. Those kids do exist, and they’re doing fine.

They’ll say their institution is being threatened.

They won’t say their institution isn’t the one being voted on. They won’t say our institution has nothing to do with theirs. They won’t dare mention the difference between their church and our state, because they genuinely believe there shouldn’t be a difference.

They’ll say we’re oppressing them.

They won’t say that they’re fine with others being oppressed. They won’t say that they’re asking the republic to collectively tell a portion of its sons and daughters that we don’t want them to be a part. They won’t say that they’re happy for a percentage of our neighbours, coworkers, friends and family to remain second-class citizens in their own homes. They won’t say that they want every gay person in Ireland to walk down the street facing public rejection of their love for each other for the rest of their lives.

They’ll say they’re being victimised.

They won’t say that they’ve corrupted our courts and our media to the degree that nobody can be accused of homophobia – under any circumstances – lest the power of the courts lay its gaze on the accuser. They won’t remind you that it’s still legal for educators to be dismissed for their beliefs, or who they are.

They’ll say that civil partnership is “enough”. 

They won’t remind you that they fought just as hard against civil partnership. They won’t openly say that they get to be the ones that decide how much equality is enough for people that aren’t like them. They won’t say that it’s their decision how much of anyone else’s life gets to be lived out in the open. They won’t say that this is another terrifying step in the direction they don’t want the country to move in, the one called “progress”.

They’ll say they’re not homophobes.

They won’t say that this is how they remind us that for all our flirtation with an Ireland no longer reliant on parochial authority figures to tell us what to do, how to think and who to be, they still see themselves as being more important than everyone else. They won’t tell you that homosexuals are just the latest in a long, long line of sections of society that the Church has needed to make feel small just so everyone knows how big they are. They won’t say that this is about the chosen people being more important than anyone that reads a bit too much new testament and not enough Leviticus. 

They’ll say no. 

And we’ll scream “yes”.

Molly Bloom

Charity Regulator Reply to yesterday’s mass complaint


Yesterday in our hundreds we made our feelings clear on the Lolek Ltd. tax-free charity status. As many of you will now have seen from the copy-paste reply email, the regulator doesn’t seem particularly interested in ending this scam. Here’s the reply that was sent to me today:

Dear Jimi,

I refer to your recent complaint regarding Lolek Ltd (Iona Institute).

Please note that the Charities Regulatory Authority is not currently
resourced to undertake investigations; the current focus of the Authority
is on the development of the Register of Charities.  Part 4 of the
Charities Act 2009, which provides for the investigation of the affairs of
charitable organisations, has not yet been commenced.

Campaigning and lobbying activities are an important part of the work of
many charities. However, it is important that charities are aware of the
restrictions that charity law places on this aspect of their work. It is
acceptable for charities to carry out campaigning and lobbying activities
where these activities are directly related to the advancement of the
charitable purpose or purposes of the charity. Charity trustees should have
regard to this when they are making decisions about how and when the
charity for which they have responsibility might carry out campaigning and

Best regards,

Brenda R. Ryan
Charities Regulatory Authority

Disappointingly, this seems to state in simplest terms that the CRA is not bothered with performing all of its functions right now, focusing entirely on a single one that’s been 6 years in the making. I’ll be asking why the rest of the 2009 act isn’t in place yet and who has the power to actually perform any sort of oversight on “charities” in Ireland if not the regulator.

What’s even more worrying is this passage :

However, it is important that charities are aware of the
restrictions that charity law places on this aspect of their work. It is
acceptable for charities to carry out campaigning and lobbying activities
where these activities are directly related to the advancement of the
charitable purpose or purposes of the charity. Charity trustees should have
regard to this when they are making decisions about how and when the
charity for which they have responsibility might carry out campaigning and

Having never dealt with Breda before I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that she thinks I’m stupid as opposed to just sending a veiled “PFO”, as the above translates as “yes, charities should behave themselves, and i’m sure someone should make them”. In other words hand-washing of the highest order.

Frankly I don’t really need to be told there’s a problem with Lolek. Lolek do. And from the above, it’s fairly clear that the regulator wants to do everything apart from actually regulate.

More to be posted as replies are forthcoming.


Charity Regulator Reply to yesterday’s mass complaint

Concerned that Lolek Ltd. is an illegally subsidised political group as opposed to a charity?

For anyone who – like myself – is tired of the Iona Institute using their charity status as a pretext to avoid tax on their political activities, here’s a quick 3-step process that will allow you to voice your concern.

1. Head over to

2. Enter the Iona Institute’s charity number, 17347 (with thanks to Bock the Robber, to clarify this is their CHY number. Their charity reg number is 20064365)

3. Let the charity regulator know how you feel about a political lobbying group enjoying charity status. Here’s what I wrote, feel free to copy and paste or write your own:

“To whom it may concern,

I would like to formally request an investigation of the current charity status of Lolek Ltd, more commonly known as the Iona Institute. Lolek’s charity status is based on their supposed “furthering of a religion”, however on an almost daily basis their employees are campaigning for a no vote in the upcoming referendum on an entirely legal matter. The interference in politics is outside the terms of their memorandum and articles of association, which state their aims as

“The advancement and promotion of the Christian religion, its social and moral values, and the doing of all such other things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of that object.”

I am concerned that their actual activities as a political lobbying group mean that they are illegally using their charity status to avoid paying tax, effectively meaning that their political lobbying is being subsidised by the tax payer.

I look forward to your response.

Jimi Kavanagh”

Concerned that Lolek Ltd. is an illegally subsidised political group as opposed to a charity?

The institutions of marriage

In the next couple of months or so, citizens of Ireland will be asked to decide on whether to permit all citizens to exercise their legal right to marry, regardless of gender. Support for this move is almost overwhelmingly in favour, and while all opinion polls on the issue indicate that Ireland is in favour of marriage equality, there are still those that believe it should remain illegal.

Loudest among the detractors in terms of both media exposure and fervent ideological opposition are the Iona Institute, or to give them their actual name, Lolek Ltd. They’ve presented many spurious reasons that equality for all citizens is a bad idea. First we were to believe that the referendum was about parental rights, even though this is an entirely different issue. To say that parenting is somehow connected to the legal technicalities of civil marriage is to pretend (or worse, deny) the simple fact that plenty of children in Ireland are already raised not as the video claims by “a mum and a dad”, but by two mums, two dads, just mum, just dad, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle….the variations of loving family configurations in Ireland are endless, and have nothing to do with sexual preference and less to do with marriage. When this approach failed, Lolek stalwart Breda O Brien tried to scare us all with an imagined risk of incest, claiming that SSM will allow mothers to marry their daughters. Strangely she overlooked that this is no more possible or likely than mothers marrying their sons under current legislation, but why let logic or facts get in the way of wild scaremongering?

The most consistently trotted-out fabrication by Lolek and their ilk is that SSM somehow compromises the existing institution of marriage. This idea has, through silencing of critics and litigious media tactics, been allowed to propagate far beyond the reach of a few ultra-conservatives. It’s one that strikes at the concerns of thousands of Irish voters, the vast majority of whom either belong to or one day wish to be part of the institution of marriage. Who wouldn’t be worried that a law was somehow going to affect their family life? Here’s the thing though : it’s also utterly untrue, and overlooks one absolutely crucial fact.

There are two institutions of marriage. 

This referendum has absolutely nothing to do with the institution of marriage in the Catholic church or any other religious group. Nothing. Not a thing. Zero. Marriage in a church is a union between two people in the eyes of their god. The marriage we’re all voting on in 8 weeks time is state (or civil) marriage. State marriage joins two people in the eyes of the Republic, not God nor Allah nor Jahweh. Neither is more or less based on love, neither is more or less valuable to participants, but there’s a crucial difference between the two. Catholics get married under Catholic law in the eyes of the Catholic church, and how they choose to do so is determined by the Vatican. Irish citizens get married under Irish law, and when the people of Ireland decide it’s time for a change in the law, we get to vote on the issue. We don’t get to tell the Church how to conduct its business. If the Catholic church decides to keep its version of marriage exclusively for heterosexual couples, then sadly there’s nothing anyone outside the Pope can do about it because – for reasons that I won’t dwell on right now – religious organisations are exempt from existing equality legislation.

And that’s ok. Because the people of Ireland aren’t telling the Catholic church how to conduct its affairs. On the other hand, Lolek and co. are attempting to frame themselves as somehow representative of all Catholics in Ireland (most of whom are, like everyone else, in favour of a better life for all Irish people) in this debate. At the same time, they’re trying to frame the debate in terms of religious institutions, when in fact the vote is about a civil institution. It’s a massive game of misinformation and misdirection that’s being played, and sadly too many people seem to be buying what’s being sold.

What follows below is a short list of simple facts. They’re not based on spurious “scientific” studies funded outside the country by special interest groups. They’re not designed to push any kind of religious or political agenda. They’re just simple, hard-boiled statements with the added merit of being true.

  • This referendum will have no impact on any practice or custom of the Catholic church.
  • Church weddings will still have no relationship to civil wedding in the eyes of the laws of State or God.
  • This referendum has zero impact on adoptive or reproductive rights.
  • This referendum doesn’t have any impact on any existing marriage in any way shape or form.
  • If you’re a heterosexual, your rights are not altered in any way, shape or form.

There are now just over 9 weeks left in this debate. When you next see someone try to distract from or deny any of the above, call them out on it. If not for basic decency, then for the sheer joy of holding people in the public eye accountable.

The institutions of marriage