Ireland’s Prime Minister has been warned by some within his party that a referendum on equal marriage could be lost – simply because the Irish people are suffering from “referendum fatigue”.
It will be decided this week whether a referendum will go ahead. However, Enda Kenny is expected to agree to Labour’s demands for a vote to be held in the lifetime of the current government.
Despite opinion polls showing a three-to-one majority in favour of marriage equality, political commentators believe the final result could be a lot closer, especially if anti-equal marriage opponents successfully use the influential platform of Ireland’s Catholic Church to propel their message.
Several public votes on a range of constitutional matters took place last month. In the referendum to abolish Ireland’s Upper House in its Parliament (Seanad) and establish a new Court of Appeal turnout was just 39%.
An unnamed Fine Gael TD, (member of the Lower House of Parliament), told the Irish Sunday Independent: “I know of no young TD who is opposed to this referendum but this could easily be lost. We’ve had five referenda already. The voters are saying that’s enough, go off and do your job. If we come back with what looks like a sideshow, they could turn on it or not turn out.”
A Fine Gael minister noted the people had “given us a kick up the backside in two referendums, so we won’t be hurrying back for a third one”.
A Labour minister also expressed concern that “there is a possibility, even if the opinion polls say that 99% of the people support it, that a referendum will be lost; we have plenty of history there”.
The Chairman of the Constitutional Convention, Tom Arnold, called for greater public awareness of referendums in Ireland last month, following Mr Kenny’s remarks about the cabinet moving to make its decision.
Currently the Labour Party, the Green Party, the Socialist Party, Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Young Fine Gael all support same-sex marriage.