European Parliament: worries over the state of democracy in Ireland

Yesterday evening, MEP Marek Jurek, a former President of the Polish Parliament, has intervened in the European Parliament’s plenary session to express his concern over the way in which the Irish electorate is being cajoled to vote in favour of re-defining marriage:

“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. Publicly funded political parties are threatening with exclusion all members who dare voice their opposition to the homosexual agenda. The publicly funded media, not to mention the private media, are dominated by only one party – the one that supports overturning the current law. 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?”

Given that his speaking time was limited to only one minute, Mr. Jurek’s intervention fails to represent the full gravity of the situation, which certainly would deserve the attention not only of the European Parliament, but also the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the Venice Commission. Here are just some examples of what is currently going on in Ireland, with no claim for completeness:

  • Every one of the publically-funded political parties in the Irish Parliament is actively campaigning for a Yes to same-sex marriage and have threatened their members with expulsion unless they follow the party line.
  • All of the media, both public and private, is strongly in favour and have even ignored a ruling of Ireland’s Supreme Court, ordering 50/50 allocation of space to groups on both sides of the debate. In addition, a number of senior media figures are actively campaigning on the Yes side. The Government makes no effort to ensure respect for the Supreme Court’s ruling.
  • American multinationals such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, with their headquarters in Ireland are telling their employees to vote Yes and to campaign for this on the social media. Considering that they employ thousands in Ireland during a difficult period for the Irish economy, the veiled threat is not hard to detect.
  • An American billionaire has channelled millions of dollars to the Yes side; illegal under Irish electoral law, but not reacted to by the Irish Government. Allegedly, the support from this single donor to the Yes campaign amounts to 25 million Dollar, which would be in itself sufficient to fund the entire campaign.
  • Most disturbing of all, the national Police force is actively supporting the Yes side, including through the use of state resources by allowing police stations to be used for photo opportunities. This is particularly sinister because it is the Police who in Ireland are charged with securing the integrity of the voting stations and the vote counting procedure. Even the former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman intervened to condemn this inappropriate action by the Police.

Even so the outcome of the referendum is far from certain. While the Irish Times writes that a “seismic shift” would be needed to make the No campaign prevail, “gay rights” campaigners privately express concern over the possibility of a “shock No”.

Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll

The latest opinion polls show the Yes side still far ahead, but they also indicate that support for it is rapidly declining. Moreover, given the current witch-hunt atmosphere in which everyone who dares expressing the opinion that marriage has the purpose of giving legal protection to the natural family (consisting of father, mother, and child) is accused of the vilest motives, it is unsurprising that people will hesitate to disclose their intention to vote No to a stranger calling them on the telephone. Some will remember the case of Brendan Eich in California, who lost his appointment as a CEO for Mozilla solely because he had donated 1.000 Dollar to the campaign for Prop 8, a constitutional amendment that would have clarified the meaning of “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman. The motion was supported by a majority of the Californian electorate – but subsequently invalidated through a rather spurious decision by a federal judge.

Ireland’s democracy is currently in a situation not dissimilar to that of Germany in 1932 or Czechoslovakia in 1947: the vote is still free, but the surrounding atmosphere is not. Let us hope that the Irish electorate will nevertheless find the courage to resist to the new totalitarianism.