Irish heads of state clash over priorities

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Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny is facing questions from all sides regarding his views on marriage equality and related political plans in 2014.

He and Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Eamon Gilmore are currently in the media spotlight for their disagreement about the importance of the issue. Kenny has stated that while he will campaign for everyone’s right to marry, his main focus is on job creation.

Gilmore, in contrast, has described marriage equality as “the civil rights issue of our generation.”

The disagreement between the two is their most public to date. Kenny has made his feelings on the issue clear; according to the Irish news site Herald.ie, he has said outright, “I wouldn’t have the same opinion as the Tanaiste.” Still, he added, “Don’t get me wrong—I support [marriage equality]and I will canvass for it.”

Polls to date have shown that the vast majority of Irish citizens support enacting same-sex marriage; Herald.ie reported that according to a November 2013 poll, less than one-fifth of voters were against the idea, while a full 76 percent were strongly in favor.

Still, Kenny has acknowledged that even within his own political party, the center-right Fine Gael, there will be some issues. The party’s national reputation was damaged during the debates over the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, passed in July 2013, and the marriage equality referendum, still polarizing among conservatives, is likely to come up relatively soon in 2015.

How the issue is voted on is something Kenny has yet to decide; the Labour party wants to consolidate the matter into a single referendum, but Fine Gael is likely to push for a series of them, though all on the same ballot.

One of Kenny’s many tasks in the upcoming year will be to pacify the more conservative members of Fine Gael, while also patching things up with liberal allies who disagree with his priorities.

429Magazine

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