How free and fair is Ireland’s marriage referendum?

On the 22th of May, Irish citizens will vote in a referendum aimed at amending the Irish Constitution in order to redefine marriage as being between any two persons, regardless of their sex. The ECPM has been informed by several organisations who shared their doubts on to what extent this referendum is really “free and fair”.

As any political entity, the EU should be governed by the Rule of Law. Therefore it is of great importance that during a campaign rules and procedures are being followed. This would ensure that every person, in this case, every Irish citizen is free to make his or her choice and whatever they chose should have no personal (negative) consequences.

Polish MEP Marek Jurek (photo) clearly voiced the concerns of many ECPM members during the plenary session of the European Parliament:

Mr President! Free elections are not only fair counting of votes. Free elections first and foremost means that election campaigns must be fair. The same is true – perhaps even more so – for a referendum. And that’s why it is necessary to comment on the disturbing information that is reaching us three days before the Irish referendum, and which raises questions concerning the fairness of that referendum. Contrary to Irish law, in particular the judgements of the Supreme Court, parties get no equal representation in the referendum debate. (…) There have been very serious cases of intimidation and bullying by employers who tell their employees that they must vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum. What does all this have to do with democracy?”

Concerning the referendum in Ireland ECPM has taken notice of the following information.

  • The national police force seems to be actively supporting the yes side. This is strange as the Irish police are charged with upholding the integrity of the voting stations and the vote counting procedure. The national police force should therefore not promote any view on this matter.
  • All of the publically-funded political parties in the Irish Parliament are actively campaigning for a Yes to same-sex marriage and have threatened their members with expulsion unless they follow the party line.
  • American multinationals with their headquarters in Ireland , such as Facebook and Google, are telling their employees to vote Yes and to campaign for this on the social media.
  • A large majority of the media, both public and private, is strongly in favour and appear to have ignored a ruling of Ireland’s Supreme Court, ordering 50/50 allocation of space to groups on both sides of the debate.

Besides these points there is also the issue of possible foreign interference. The following article placed by CitizenGo is clearly proving either direct or indirect influencing of the Irish government by a foreign (American) organisation named Atlantic Philanthropies.

For a compelling overview on this matter, please read the article from Breda O’Brien (Iona Institute) in the Irish Times or check the blog of our Director for European Affairs, Leo van Doesburg

As ECPM we fully respect any choice of the Irish citizens, however we do question certain methods and campaigns that are supported by publicly funded entities or foreign entities that pro-actively aim to influence the choice of the Irish citizen.

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