Saturday 17 August 2019

Farrell's best man news shines light back on same sex marriage issue

News this week that movie star Colin Farrell is to be best man at his brother's wedding has shone the spotlight back on the gay marriage issue.

Farrell's brother, Eamon, was forced to travel to Vancouver in 2009 in order to marry long-term partner Stephen Mannion but the couple now intend to marry in Ireland next year following the ground breaking Marriage Equality Referendum result on May 22.

However, like thousands of other same sex couples across Ireland, the couple must wait the outcome of two legal challenges to the referendum which have put all celebrations on ice.

The government had intended to fast track the legislation before the Dáil rose earlier this month and the first legal same-sex marriage ceremonies had been expected later this summer - legal challenges, though, mean that it will now be early 2016 before any ceremonies are performed.

That is pending the outcome of hearings before three judges in the Court of Appeal, led by President Mr Justice Sean Ryan, this Thursday and there are fears that the situation could extend beyond the next election.

The appeals are lodged by Gerry Walshe, an electrician from Lisdeen Road, County Clare and Maurice Lyons, a gardener with an address at Callan, County Kilkenny. They claim that there was a bias by the State in funds used to promote the referendum in favour of a yes vote and that the vote was also compromised by the presence of CCTV at polling stations.

Both appeals have already been dismissed by High Court President Nicholas Kearns and Thursday's ruling is widely expected to be a similar verdict. That's because two previous challenges to referenda results - against the Divorce Referendum and the Children's Referendum - were both thrown out despite strong claims that the governments of the time had spent State funds promoting a certain outcome.

The evidence presented this time around is not believed to be as strong and therefore Thursday's verdict is widely expected to be a formality.

The two appeals are for permission for leave to lodge a petition against the referendum result and if Mr Justice Sean Ryan says there are no grounds there remains the possiblity of Supreme Court Action. Meanwhile the Oireachtas remains powerless on the matter while the legal challenges prevail.

Such legal actions are stalling the wishes of 1.2 million people who voted yes on May 22 but we live in a democracy with a full separation of powers. It is therefore only right that there is room to challenge a decision on the grounds that the result may have been materially affected by an irregularity, particularly as one third of the electorate voted no.

If, as is expected, the appeals are rejected, then thousands of same sex couples can begin to plan their married lives together in legal ceremonies watched on by friends and families. And this will include Colin Farrell who is fast becoming an ambassador for modern Ireland.

Wexford People