This year will see Ireland holding a referendum on the issue of same-sex marriage. We’ve already seen some heated exchanges in the Irish media and this is surely set to escalate as the referendum draws near. In the Name of Love is an oral history of the story so far.
Una Mullally has gathered a huge number of key figures to tell the story of how Ireland has reached the stage of calling a referendum. It sees politicians, journalists, activists and many others giving their account of the main events and their personal stories. I found many of these stories very moving, including those of people who lost their partners to AIDS seeing estranged family members come in and take over the funeral arrangements. They had no rights as homosexuality hadn’t been decriminalised at that stage and there was a sense that something needed to be done. The heartbreaking chapter on Margaret Gill really highlights the issues involved with not having relationships recognised and a mother’s pure love for her daughter. There’s also the story of Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, one that touched the hearts of many and brought the issue onto outlets like The Late Late Show.
The book highlights the divisions over the direction of campaigns, whether they should push for marriage equality or civil partnership and whether gay parents should be shown in campaigns. A copy of the Civil Partnership Bill is ripped up in public to cheers from some but others are intimated as they’re not used to division like this, with gatherings usually being very much united.
The importance of mobilising people, advocacy, lobbying and having good legal understanding is raised by many and the book really shows the sheer amount of unglamorous work that went into bringing things forward. Some politicians are keen to get things over the line but other people have stories of being shunned by politicians they’d previously been on good terms with. In the end though, there’s minimal opposition from government.
Panti’s ‘No More Mr Nice Gay’ blog post is printed here, a call for people to get involved in protests, for righteous anger. There’s a sense from some that people needed to get out on the streets for the voices to really heard. The incredible speech at the Abbey Theatre is also printed, the words from which have gone to a far wider audience than could ever have been imagined.
Some feel a referendum is unnecessary, that it will stir up uncomfortable debate and that legislation would be preferable. There are some big issues with mainstream media in their presentation of the debate as they try to achieve ‘balance’. Many wonder what impact these strong views across the media will have on young gay people up and down the country that.
Una’s books is an absolutely invaluable document. I wasn’t aware of many of the stories contained within and I think it was a wise decision to do it as an oral history. It’s fascinating reading as we see the debate happen in front of our eyes as various people outline the issues and give us their accounts of how things played out. This could’ve been a fairly dry book if it was done as a standard history text but Una has presented an absolutely enthralling read that I hope will be picked up by many in the months and years ahead.