Gay Marriage: No support for Irish businesses from politicians supporting Yes Vote – – Our News, Your Views

Gay Marriage: No support for Irish businesses from politicians supporting Yes Vote


There is growing concern among back-bench Fine Gael TDs that they will lose support over the Government’s failure to provide support to business owners who may be threatened with “Ashers bakery” law suits.

One such TD told the Liberal: “I’m already hearing from businessmen and women who are furious that we haven’t said outright that we’re not going to allow that type of thing to happen here. They don’t like being told that they can’t run their businesses the way they want to.”

In the Ashers case, Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission and gay rights advocate Gareth Lee are taking an action against the bakery for refusing to bake a cake featuring an image of Bert and Ernie and bearing the message “Support Gay Marriage”.

While the case is being dealt with under the jurisdiction of the law of Northern Ireland, there are many who feel that the judgement will have implications for the upcoming marriage referendum.  In particular, concerns have been expressed over the failure of the Government to agree to a conscience clause which would allow businesses operating in the Republic to decline to fill an order where it would come into conflict with their religious beliefs.

Government TDs have been remarkably silent when it comes to the question of Ashers Bakery, a high-profile case which has featured prominently in the Irish media ever since it first broke in the news.  In an effort to determine exactly where they stand on the issue, the Liberal contacted each TD and asked them what they thought about the Ashers Case, and whether they would oppose a similar case if it was brought in the Republic.

Unfortunately, most politicians are unwilling to say exactly where they stand on this issue, but there are some who have provided a response.


Emmet Stagg told us “I do not support a conscience clause.”

If the referendum passes without a conscience clause, companies would not be entitled to refuse business to a gay activist if they are asked to provided a cake promoting a pro-same-sex marriage message.  (By the same token, the lack of a conscience clause also means that someone in favour of same-sex marriage who is asked to carry out work that promotes an anti-same-sex marriage campaign, would also not be allowed to refuse).


Mary-Lou McDonald’s representative replied to say that she was also “absolutely against” the inclusion of a conscience clause.  Similarly, Fine Gael back-bencher Marcella Corcoran Kennedy replied that she too is opposed to a conscience clause.


Ex-Labour TD Anne Ferris said that any form of discrimination could not be allowed on any grounds whatsoever. Speaking to the Liberal, she said: “Retailing is an invitation to the world at large to come and buy.  It’s not a licence to discriminate.”  When pressed further to commit to a position, she said that she would expect all businesses “not to discriminate on the basis of sexual identity when dealing with customers.”

This will likely come as cold comfort to those who fear that their religious beliefs will be described as “discrimination” if this referendum passes.  In that event, they could find themselves facing an Ashers-type lawsuit and it remains unclear whether they can rely on any support from their democratically elected representatives.


Senator David Norris appeared to recognise the unfairness of the Ashers Case in his response to the Liberal when he noted that it was strange to give your business to a company that was known to oppose gay marriage. He also replied that, in his opinion, it appears that this case “was deliberately engaged in by the man who took the case in order to highlight the situation.  I am not sure that  this was wise.”


Regardless of the ultimate finding in the Ashers Case, it appear that the only politicians in Ireland prepared to go on the record are those who oppose the inclusion of a conscience clause and this is something which is likely to cause more concern to potential Yes voters as polling day draws near.

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