On May 22 the Irish people will be invited to come forward and vote on a possible amendment to the constitution.
If a yes vote is achieved the following 17 words will then be inserted into the constitution ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’.
Nowhere does it mention anything about children in that sentence so why are they being dragged into this debate?
I cannot tell you as a single mother how grateful I am that James cannot read yet, especially when I see posters that read ‘Children deserve a mother and father’.
This does not reflect the reality for a lot of children in Ireland.
Over the past few weeks I have received many emails from concerned parents whose young children can read and are very upset. One mother told me how her 11-year-old son, who had only recently lost his father to cancer, burst into tears after reading a poster. He asked what he’d done wrong, what he’d done to deserve losing his dad.
How have we allowed this debate to hurt our children — the most vulnerable, impressionable and precious people in our society? Ireland is already very damaged through years of secrecy and clerical abuse. We will be cleaning up that mess for a long time to come.
As the parents of future generations surely it is our job to teach children about all the different types of families out there, encourage acceptance and practice kindness towards one another. Now that might sound all new age and frou-frou but the power it holds for the future well- being of our society is immense.
With bullying and mental health issues at an all-time high I believe such alienating messages do nothing but encourage young people to become judgemental of each other.
Another poster reads ‘She needs her mother for life, not just for nine months’. My heart goes out to the countless children who have lost their mothers in child- birth or children who are adopted or in foster care or from broken relationships when they see that.
I am going to keep this argument simple because, like so many things in life, we tend to make things very complicated when there’s really no need. I am single but if I did meet someone I have the option to marry them. However, if one of my gay friends — parent or not — meets the love of their life they don’t have that option. There are many things in this world that cause damage to our societies, cultures and indeed families but show me one example where true love has caused any real harm.
What is being asked for here is equality, dignity and respect for everyone in Ireland and this question should be discussed in a respectful way. We are all born equal. We all come into this world the same way and we will all leave the same way too.
I’m disappointed and angry that we couldn’t as a nation debate this issue without, however inadvertently, attacking those not in the traditional family set up.
I just hope we won’t be left reeling from this increasingly bad- tempered debate.
Keith Mills, the spokesman for the group Mothers and Fathers Matter recently stated: ‘not only will the referendum redefine marriage, it will redefine the family.’
I hope he’s right, I hope it does because families changed a long time ago Keith and we have all got to start playing catch up.
So I’m asking the widowers, my fellow single parents, same sex couples, unmarried couples, carers, foster parents, adoptive parents and traditional families to come together and show that we support each other and that we cherish all families and the children in them equally.