TOWN councillors in Athy are set to face protests from anti same sex marriage lobbyists at their meeting tomorrow night (Wednesday).
Labour Party Cllr Thomas Redmond has tabled a motion on the issue calling on the council to support equal access to civil marraige for all citizens.
But the move has angered some local people who have mounted a campaign to have the motion removed from the agenda or, failing that, have urged councillors to vote against it. Councillors have been told that a protect is being planned for Wednesday’s meeting.
Athy based Anthony Murphy who, along with his wife Kim, produce The Catholic Voicenewspaper have sent text messages to people in the Athy area urging Catholics “to strongly oppose the reckless attempt to undermine the sanctity of marriage”.
Mr Murphy told the Kildare Nationalist that Cllr Redmond should have made the issue of gay marriage part of his election manifesto if he was going to campaign on the issue as a councillor.
“We have spoken with a number of people in the town who, like us, want to protect the sanctity of marriage. In the past we opposed the Civil Partnership Bill. The term marriage equality is a wrong term to use because marriage, as defined by nature and morally, is between a man and a woman. We are against any kind of legal recognition of any moral evil.
“This is a smokescreen and people should be honest about what this is about. It’s about redefining marriage so that same sex couples can adopt children.” Mr Murphy castigated councillors for not being allowed to address members of the council ahead of the issue being discussed.
The Chairwoman of Sunrise LGBT Athy, Shauna Byrne welcomed Cllr Redmond’s motion and said that she and her colleagues were looking for equal rights.
“We are all equal and we should all have the same rights. Civil partnership doesn’t give us the same rights and protections as marriage. As a gay woman I would like to have the same rights as a heterosexual person, such as the right to marry and the right to adopt children if I wish to do so.” Ms Byrne confirmed that members of the LGBT community from around the county are intending to travel to Athy on Wednesday night for the meeting.
A vote by Athy Town Council against Cllr Redmond’s motion would be regrettable according to local man Vivian Cummins. Mr Cummins, who, along with his partner Erney Breytenbach, are foster parents for several years, is featured in a programme to be broadcast on RTÉ tonight about gay couples who want to have children.
He said the issue is about equality. “I have heard that there is a message going around saying that this isn’t an issue for local councillors to be concerning themselves with. I don’t agree with that, it’s a really important issue and it’s important that local councillors have a voice. “
The motion is about equality, either you have it or you don’t. Opinion polls consistently indicate that almost 75% of the population are in favour of marriage equality and I expect that this will be reflected by the votes of councillors. I doubt if the 25% who are against marriage equality are living in Athy.”
Ahead of the meeting most councillors were keeping their counsel as to how they will vote on the issue if a debate is allowed but all have confirmed that they have extensively lobbied by parties on both sides of the debate. The only councillor to come out and state her unequivocal support for Cllr Redmond’s motion was his Labour party colleage Cllr Aoife Breslin.
“I am a member of the Labour Party and it is Labour Party policy to support marriage equality. It is also my personal opinion that gay people should be allowed the right to marry and for this reason I will be voting for Cllr Redmond’s motion,” she said.
Her Labour colleague Mark Wall who is also cathaoirleach of the council said; “I am not going to give my opinions on this issue ahead of the meeting due to my position as cathaoirleach.” The remaining Labour Party member of the council Cllr James Mahon is out of the country and the Kildare Nationalist understands that he is not due back until after the meeting.
Fianna Fail Cllr Mark Dalton said he would be looking to have the motion ruled out of order. “This issue has nothing got to do with us as town councillors. I am surprised the chairman didn’t rule it out of order and I will be looking to have it withdrawn.” Cllr John Lawlor said he too would be looking to have the motion withdrawn. “This is ultimately a matter for the state legislature and whatever we do on Wednesday night will make no difference whatsoever. As I understand it the issue is in the programme for government and if the government has the courage to have a referendum on this issue I will make my views known in the privacy of the ballot box.”
Fine Gael Cllr Richard Daly said he has not made up his mind on how he will vote . “The more I have researched this issue the more I am finding out that this issue isn’t as black and white as those on both sides like to portray it as being.”
His party colleague Cllr Mary O’Sullivan said she was going to keep her opinions on the matter to herself until the meeting.
Sinn Féin Cllr Mick Dunne said he was going to listen to the views put forward and make up his mind accordingly.“The Irish Timesdid an opinion poll in the last few months and it found 73% are in favour of gay marriage. I can’t see why there can’t be gay marriage if people decide that is what they want but I will listen to the arguments put forward by both sides.”