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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 17 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 42
Irish marriage referendum: polls predict likely landslide
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Irish marriage referendum: polls predict likely landslide

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

New polls suggest that when the Irish vote on new marriage laws next year, equality will win in a landslide.

The referendum on a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize same-sex marriage is scheduled for an as-yet-undetermined day in May 2015. Putting the amendment on the ballot came as a result of a long process of consultations that started in 2011.

An Irish Times/IPSOS poll released October 13 shows that 67% of the respondents favor marriage equality, with only 20% opposed. Nine percent said they had no opinion one way or the other and 3% refused to respond.

'When undecided voters, or those who refused to respond, are excluded from the poll, the Yes figure rises to 77 per cent with 23 per cent on the No side,' the Irish Times reported.

An April poll showed more or less the same results, indicating that Irish public opinion has settled on equality. A poll taken on November 2012 showed 64% for equality and 36% against.

The latest poll showed that age and party affiliation were the strongest indicators of support for marriage equality.

Among Irish voters between 18 and 49, nearly 80% said they will vote to legalize same-sex marriage. The number drops to 61% among voters 50 to 64.

On the other hand, voters over 65 oppose same-sex marriage. Only 38% of that age group say they will vote Yes, while 46% say they will vote No.

Supporters of Sinn Féin, a left-wing nationalist party that calls for reunification of British-controlled Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland, is solidly pro-equality, as are followers of the socialist Labor Party. Those who identify as 'independents' are also overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage.

On the other hand, the two old guard Irish parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil 'are significantly less enthusiastic' the Irish Times says.

After initially resisting the idea, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenney of the Fine Gael party announced his support for same-sex marriages in November last year. His deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore of the Labor Party, has called marriage equality 'the civil rights issue of our generation.'

In class terms, there is almost equal support for same-sex marriage across the board. Farmers are reportedly the only group where support for the measure is significantly lower than the average.

There is also a marked difference between male and female voters, with women more likely than men to say they will vote Yes.

Ireland has allowed civil partnerships for both same- and opposite-sex couples since 2011. A 2011 Irish census report indicated there were 143,600 cohabiting but unmarried couples, of which 4,042 were same-sex couples. The number of same-sex couples reported in the 2002 census was 1,300. Ireland has a total population of about four and a half million.

While more than 84% of the Irish people identify as Roman Catholics, there has been an increasing trend towards secularization of Irish civil society. Weekly church attendance among Catholics has fallen to only 30% in 2011, from more than 90% in 1973.

The parliament of Northern Ireland, an internally self-governing part of the United Kingdom, has repeatedly rejected marriage equality bills. In the North, Sein Féin is also the main supporter of equality, with the Unionist, or pro-British, parties generally opposed.

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