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Irish report
by Euro Reporter
2015-05-14 09:26:38
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Marriage referendum debated live

Representatives of both sides of the marriage referendum coin discussed the issues live on UTV Ireland on Monday in the first of a series of referendum debates this month. News anchor Alison Comyn explored both Yes and No vote arguments from representatives of Mothers and Fathers Matter, Yes Equality, Stand Up for Marriage and Labour LGBT from UTV Ireland’s Cork studios on Monday. On May 22, the electorate will be asked to vote on the proposal to add a new clause to Article 41 of the Constitution: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” Mothers and Fathers Matter spokesperson Margaret Hickey and Stand Up for Marriage chairman Barry Jones represented the No side on Monday’s debate. Ms Hickey said: “Marriage in Article 41 is described as the foundation on which the family is structured, so if you change the definition of marriage which you are doing in a very fundamental way by taking it from a gender-based instruction to a gender-less institution, you are going to obviously profoundly change the constitutional understanding of parenting and family.” Mr Jones added: “If it does go through, what will happen is that the definition of marriage will be changed and if that is changed, because of the way the Constitution is written, then family will be changed.

ireland_400_01“The definition of family, or what it means, will be changed and if it is changed that means the fundamental building block of society, society will change but if it changes artificially it has to give rise to trouble,” he added. Yes Equality’s Joe Noonan and Catherine Clancy from the Labour Party’s LGBT group were proposing a Yes vote. Mr Noonan said: “Civil partnership is something that is understood by family lawyers. Marriage is understood by everybody and everybody should be entitled to marry subject to the law and that is what we are voting on.” Ms Clancy added: “This referendum is a one liner and all you are being asked is do you agree that same sex couples can marry. In Ireland alone we have 220,000 gay or lesbian citizens - the population of cork is 120,000 people – so that is near double the population of Cork city.  “What we are saying is on May 22 to go out and give those 220,000 people, if they wish, the right to marry the same as you or me and anybody else and to have that recognition for their relationship.” Meanwhile, former Cork Hurler Conor Cusack said a Yes vote would send out an important message. “I just think that we had the decriminalisation of homosexuality some years ago and I think this referendum is another stepping stone on that long road to equality, because it is not about wanting to be treated as less than or more than anyone else. It is about wanting to be treated equally,” he said.

In recent years, both Conor and his brother Donal Óg came out as gay. “I know for people out there there is a load of fear and worry around this but ultimately what this comes down to is the things that bind us all as human beings. It is a desire to be loved and to be able to love,” Conor added. However, First Families First argue that a Yes vote will radically change the legal meaning of family and parenthood. Their concerns centre on the wording of the referendum. "Judges can only work with what they are being given and what they are being given is a complete change in the landscape of family law which is going to result with sadness. It is going to play out in a lot of tragedy for children and for their biological parents in the future,” said First Families First representative Kathy Sinnott. Two gay couples also told UTV Ireland about their differing views on the upcoming referendum. Paul Dalton, who entered into a civil partnership with his partner Des two years ago, said he is still unsure what to call his other half, which he says makes his relationship feel less important.

"For a lot of people, introducing him as my civil partner doesn't make any sense. That language doesn't translate. Not being able to introduce Des as my husband is very strange and very limiting. “Our relationship is different and inferior. My father said recently, ‘when this is passed will your civil partnership be upgraded?’ He is 78 years old. He didn't really knows what he was saying but I think it captures it,” explained Paul. However, Keith Mills who is about to celebrate a one year anniversary with his partner, has a completely different opinion on the referendum and will be voting no. “Ireland has transformed completely in the past number of years. We have gay ministers, business leaders, sportsmen, journalists, judges and it is terrific and we don't need gay marriage. “We have to think of the issue of surrogacy - giving same sex couples the right to marriage gives them the right to surrogacy. I look at the situation like Elton John and his partner bringing children into the world and excluding the mother and I'm very uncomfortable with that. “I hope that the referendum fails and I will then campaign to put civil partnerships on an equal standing with the constitution so we have that diversity recognised forever and ever,” said Keith. Monday's discussion will be followed by a live debates on the Age of Presidential Candidates Referendum in Dublin on 12 May and in Galway on 18 May.


Ireland urged to implement key economic reforms

European commissioner Pierre Moscovici has warned Ireland it must proceed with fiscal consolidation to tackle the State’s high public debt levels, following a discussion on Ireland’s latest post-bailout review yesterday in Brussels. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan updated his fellow euro area finance ministers on the latest troika mission to Ireland at yesterday’s eurogroup meeting. While commending Ireland on its progress, the EU economics chief said economic reforms should continue. “Ireland is experiencing a strong recovery which we are forecasting to continue this year and next year,” the commissioner said, though he warned that the effects of the crisis continue to be felt, particularly in the high level of public debts. “That’s why we would encourage Ireland to proceed with the implementation of key structural reforms and to make the most of the benign economic climate to proceed with fiscal consolidation and to keep public debt on a steady downward path.”

Ireland has an added layer of EU scrutiny compared with most other EU countries under the terms of its bailout, and will be subject to two post-programme visits by the troika each year until 75 per cent of Ireland’s bailout loans is repaid. This could take decades. While the Government won leeway from the European Commission on how a number of budget targets are calculated last month, the EU’s executive arm has consistently argued that Ireland should use the economic recovery to pay down debt rather than increase budget spending. Though the public debt is decreasing, Ireland still has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the European Union at about 107 per cent.

Mr Moscovici was speaking ahead of his visit to Dublin in a fortnight when he will address the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. The European Commission’s vice-president with responsibility for economic affairs, Jyrki Katainen, will visit the capital next week for two days of talks with officials and investors, when he is expected to promote the €300 billion Juncker investment plan. Meanwhile, the eurogroup of finance ministers made little progress on the stalled Greek bailout at yesterday’s meeting, with eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem saying a “comprehensive deal” must be agreed before bailout funds are released to Greece.


Fast internet 'key priority' for rural Ireland

The government have promised that fast internet will be available in every area of Ireland within five years, saying fast connections is a key priority for rural Ireland. Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Communications Alex White were in Mayo on Monday rolling out a new high-speed broadband network by Eircom. They said that fast connections is vital to provide a level-playing field for businesses and people across the country. "Every public representative gets the questions about the lack of broadband throughout rural Ireland,” said Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

“Well the map is published and the plan is there – it is now to implement it. The Minister expects that by the end of the year, there will be a contract awarded to a capable builder to roll that out right throughout the country,” he added. High-speed broadband has meant huge benefits for part-time farmer Conor Heaney from Belcarra, who can now check his stock from anywhere, at any time, without ever going near the farm. "It means that I can stay in the house all evening with my family or at night-time and I can monitor during the evening time from my telly or from my phone. During the day at work I can also access and view my cows,” said Mr Heaney.

The prize of fast broadband for all remains elusive for around a third of the country - with the government to award a contract next year to bring Ireland up to speed within five years. They say we have the technology to provide fast broadband for all.  "Right out at the margins, you know if you are living on the top of a mountain, getting fibre to the home to you, it may be too expensive but there will be other technologies which can be used in conjunction with it, such as mobile for example or fixed wireless where it will mean that everybody will get that access. That is the government's vision and that is our vision too,” said CEO of Eircom Richard Moat.


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