The Garda Representative Association is committed to equality for all members, and for the public that we serve. The Association supports the rights of all members of the LGBT community, and as a staff representative body we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind in the workplace, which naturally extends to the wider society and community.
The forthcoming marriage equality referendum will be a litmus test for how far Ireland has come towards the ideals held within the Proclamation of Independence:
“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts…”
In a real Republic all citizens would have equal rights to the institutions of State; marriage is one of these. Same sex couples have long been discriminated against both in law and social mores. Indeed, they have long been denied the rights to equality based on the opinions and emotions of others. Slowly and incrementally many discriminatory laws have been reformed, and attitudes changed. No longer are members of our LGBT community exiled or driven underground, but we have a thriving and open community in Dublin that is extending nationwide. We have seen the opinion polls too; that all suggest that a ‘Yes’ vote at the referendum is likely to be an overwhelming majority. But it would be complacent for us to ignore the possibility that a ‘No’ vote could deny a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redress the rights that have been denied to those in same-sex couples.
Some citizens are simply reluctant to embrace change for many diverse reasons. Ireland has been progressive in its legislative process. Few could imagine the smoking ban taking effect when it was first mooted; yet those same people could understand the unfairness of expecting workers to spend their days contained within rooms and subjected to the passive smoking of others – with more than a whiff of ‘doublethink’; where opposing ideas could be simultaneously held in the same thought. Public indoor spaces are now smoke-free and it has become normalised.
We also know that some bigotry remains, and has been fuelled with ammunition to fuel primal emotions rather than enlightened thinking. For some, they don’t understand why same-sex couples have the need for marriage or think marriage is the cementing of a coupling based on biological reproduction. Neither argument is representative of equality of rights.
This Association has voiced the opinion that the sexual orientation or gender of members is a matter of personal integrity and should not be subject to the prejudices or projection of others. Put simply, other people’s hierarchy of needs also require security, love and companionship that should not be legislated against. Equally, civil partnership is not just about tax allowances or pension benefits although these are a part of the narrative. This Association is non-discriminatory in all of our member schemes; but the lack of equality does deprive some members of their rights and privileges paid for and earned.
Trade unions (and staff associations) were defined in 1920 as continuous association of wage earners – for the purposes of maintaining or improving the conditions of their working lives. Civil marriage is an extension of these values. There are many members within An Garda Síochána who have family members and friends who are gay or lesbian; and are already committed to campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in the forthcoming referendum, and we wish to remind all members that they have our full support.
We have long campaigned for equality for issues of disability, race, gender and sexual orientation within our organisation. The marriage equality referendum is the first time that many of our members will have the opportunity to directly support such equality in the legislative process. Your vote is your voice; together we can make a positive difference.
“The marriage equality referendum is the first time for this Association to recommend a stance on elections or referenda; but this is the first time we have had the opportunity to recommend equality of our members as constitutional reform. It’s a ‘Yes’ to equality.”
For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.