Newstalk Breakfast’s Chris Donoghue interviewed Iona Institute patron Breda O’Brien on Tuesday morning and social media went mental. From start to end it was a fascinating interview, not least because Breda O’Brien makes for captivating listening, and not always for good reasons. Responding to Mary McAleese’s earlier interview with George Hook when the former president said that the Marriage Equality referendum was a human right’s issue for Ireland’s gay children, O’Brien denied that this was a human right’s issue for LGBT people on the grounds that article 12 the European Convention on Human Rights enshrines the right to marriage in the ‘traditional’ sense of marriage between a man and a woman. In short she denies that equality in marriage is a fundamental human right. What she fails to understand here are two important points on rights; all law and all rights are what we say they are, and that laws and rights change or develop over time to meet the needs of changing human societies. That something is not recognised as a right today does not and cannot guarantee that it cannot or should not be a right tomorrow. What Breda is arguing for, in essence, is a deadly stasis in the development of law and society.

It was ironic and almost amusing that, as she was being out manoeuvred in the debate, she claimed Chris kept shifting ground, when this is all that the Iona Institute and its spokespeople have ever done in this discussion. O’Brien herself came into the discussion willing to run with a deliberate misquotation of former president McAleese. Had she not been pulled up on this point it is likely that, considering the Iona Institutes record, the talk would have continued down the manipulative vein of the religious right being the real victims. Where things did get interesting was in her insistence that this referendum was about children, surrogacy, and adoption. Donoghue, I think, was wrong to insist that this was not the case. While the question itself may not be about children, the positive answer to this referendum will have an impact on children. Perhaps a better route to take would have been to give her this point and so force her to answer whether or not it would be wrong for same-sex couples to have the right to a family. Yes, we know what her answer would be, but this line of reasoning would have exposed her to the findings of social and scientific research to the contrary – and present social reality.

Ùr-Fhàsaidh is a Christian social justice blogger who is committed to a Yes vote in the upcoming Marriage Equality referendum, and to helping other Christians see the good sense in a Yes vote. Please take the time to sign up to his social media feeds and share his work.




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