Former Irish president Mary McAleese has accused the Catholic Church of hypocrisy in their stance to the same-sex marriage referendum.
McAleese was speaking at an event hosted by the BeLonG To organisation, which offers help and support to young gay people.
She claimed that the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage was not relevant, because should the vote be passed then same sex marriages would take place in civil ceremonies, which the Catholic Church doesn’t recognise as valid anyway.
McAleese said: “There is a huge irony here in the defence of heterosexual civil registry office marriage being mounted by the Catholic Church since the Catholic Church does not recognise as valid any such marriage that involves Catholics.”
She then made reference to her own son Justin, who is gay, and admitted she wished that he could have grown up in a more tolerant and accepting environment.
“A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything. Why? Because differential treatment of homosexual citizens, by excluding them from secular civil marriage, undermines civic equality and permanently locks in inequality.
“I am grateful that my gay son grew up in a gay-friendly household.
“But we were not able to protect him from hostility outside our home and, like so many parents of gay children, we were worried sick about the manmade barriers we knew he would encounter, including the Constitutional barrier that would never let him marry the person he loved.
“No parent brings a child into the world to be a second-class citizen.”
McAleese served as President of Ireland from 1997 until 2011. She went on explain that she first advocated gay marriage in the 1970s, and that the family dynamic is constantly evolving and the country needs to change with it.
“The truth is that marriage is already one of the most rapidly evolving social institutions. Not so long ago, for example, married women could not legally own their own property, they had to give up work on marriage, and they could be legally physically chastised or raped by their spouses.
“It is only in recent years that anything like true equality between spouses in heterosexual marriage has been established. Gay marriage will strengthen that equality between the spouses just as it will strengthen equality between citizens.”
McAleese’s comments will certainly prompt some interesting debates across Ireland. She is not the first high profile figure to speak publicly about her stance on the upcoming referendum. Comedy stars Ardal O’Hanlon and Mrs Brown (played by Brendan O’Carroll) have recently been in the news to express their own views on the issue.