Last week felt like ‘Same-Sex Marriage Week’. Monday evening saw the start of a new series on RTÉ 1, Claire Byrne Live. I thought it was rather bizarre to start the show with Colin Farrell making the case for same-sex marriage. He was obviously sincere, but ‘Hollywood star favours gay marriage’ sounds more like a dog bites man story. (It’s worth noting that a referendum in California resulted in a vote against same-sex marriage.)
This gave the show a pro-same-sex marriage thrust from the start and a much later segment with Dr Sharon James of the UK Coalition for Marriage wasn’t enough to redress the imbalance. However, she did make some essential points about the knock on effect of same-sex marriage in Britain, where she descried “a new intolerance” towards those who still regarded marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The panel discussion segment was balanced with blogger Keith Mills and Breda O’Brien opposing and John Lyons TD and journalist Una Mullally on the ‘yes’ side.
I thought the issue of children’s rights had a strong impact for the ‘no’ side and it was significant that there was strong disapproval when a woman in the audience accused Breda O’Brien of homophobia. I thought Claire Byrne could have done more to object to that.
The issue was also debated on Tonight with Vincent Browne that night (TV3) when Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames and Petra Conroy of Catholic Comment did well debating with Jerry Buttimer TD and Sandra Irwin-Gowran of GLEN. Martin Mansergh had some interesting points to make, finding faults in the arguments of both sides.
By Wednesday afternoon, the Government had published the proposed wording of the amendment. On that evening’s Drive Time, a soft interview with Minister Frances Fitzgerald was followed by a more tetchy and challenging one when Mary Wilson was quite cross with Senator Ronan Mullen, who rightly pointed out how biased media coverage had been over the last few years. He welcomed the opportunity, now that the referendum wording was out, for equality in the debate.
Last Thursday, Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1) returned to the issue with presenter Audrey Carville being particularly hostile, I thought, to Breda O’Brien. Dominic Hannigan TD got away much more lightly. At one stage Ms O’Brien had to ask to be allowed to finish a sentence.
Carville’s attitude was clear from the start when she asked Ms O’Brien (twice) if she objected to Mr Hannigan’s recent same-sex marriage in England, thus personalising the debate in a way that suits the ‘yes’ side. Thankfully, Ms O’Brien didn’t rise to that bait.
One of the best discussions of the week was on last Thursday night’s Late Debate (RTÉ Radio 1). Presenter Cormac Ó hEadhra was fair, and blogger Keith Mills (a gay man) was excellent in opposing same-sex marriage. He didn’t see why two very different types of relationships couldn’t be recognised differently in law. Journalist Alison O’Connor, pro-same-sex marriage, accepted that there was a fundamental difference between same-sex and gender-balanced relationships. Mills was critical of government spinning this as ‘marriage equality’ when we have equality already – the law on marriage currently makes no distinction between gay or straight adults when it comes to marriage.
On Friday morning’s Today with Sean O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1), Labour Senator Aideen Madden must have been rattled as she stooped to personal attack, accusing Senator Ronan Mullen of being “deliberately devious” and of regarding the word “equality” as “repulsive”.
She did accept that the referendum was intrinsically bound up with the rights of children. Journalist Niamh Lyons agreed that the “marriage equality” term was loaded, but thought the debate had already been skewed by the “heavy hand” of the Church being applied! What? Haven’t seen it!
On Marian Finucane (Sunday morning, RTÉ Radio 1), Ben Conroy did well debating the issue with Senator Averil Power who went on about the ‘no’ side “scaremongering” – such a tired old ploy for referendum debates.
On last Sunday night’s Marc Coleman Show (Newstalk) there were two unusual contributions.
Mr Coleman said he had got into trouble by writing in favour of same-sex marriage in The Irish Catholic a few years ago, while guest Dr Bill Tormey of Fine Gael said he was getting electronic abuse “on an industrial scale” for being against it, from the same people that thought he was a “great guy” for supporting civil partnership!
Pick of the Week
Catholic Lives: Kathy Sinnott
EWTN, Sat, Jan 31, 5pm
Kathy Sinnott is a former MEP and a long-time campaigner for people with disabilities in Ireland.
BBC Radio Ulster, Sun, Feb 1, 8.30am
Roisin McAuley and Audrey Carville explore the week's religious and ethical news.
Channel 4, Sun, Feb 1, 2.30pm
Flanders starts making ultra-violent Bible movies.