What’s a red line issue to you? For me, in this election, it was the 8th Amendment. I didn’t give a preference to candidates who didn’t support repeal. For others before the last election, I imagine marriage equality was one.
If the 8th Amendment is repealed, I expect it to remain a red line issue for me. That means I will ‘reward’ the politicians who’ve worked hard to achieve it, with my vote. The way I see it, that’s part of my contract with them.
Nobody can do everything. No matter what’s on a politician’s manifesto, they will struggle to achieve even one of their aims if they are a backbencher, if the majority of their party isn’t with them on something, if the prevailing political winds are against them. That’s life.
Just think about the job interview that landed you where you are. You might have exaggerated your work experience just a tad. And you might – just might – have over-promised. Did you tell them you’d revitalise the organisation? Did you tell them you were a great team player, when in fact you hate most of the human race, and would prefer to work with vampire bats than Mary in Deliveries?
We all over-promise. Some of us deliver. That’s human nature. The people who deliver get rewarded. They get the promotion, the pay rise or the offer of a better job where they’ll be appreciated.
Back to the politicians, and red line issues. Maybe you work in sales, and your boss’s red line issue is your sales targets. Maybe you’re a shocking team player, your colleagues think you’re scum and your boss can’t bear to be in the room with you… but in client meetings you have the grace and charm of Marilyn Monroe and the genius of Steve Jobs… and you hit your figures every time. Maybe John in Accounts thinks you’re Satan because you never file your figures properly. But the boss is happy because you’re bringing in the money; it doesn’t matter what else you do.
Isn’t it the same for politicians?
This election saw three of the Dáil’s openly gay TDs losing their seats. Jerry Buttimer, John Lyons and Dominic Hannigan, all vocal supporters of the marriage referendum, have been given the boot by unhappy voters. (I have seen people point out that Katherine Zappone got elected, and is now the first openly gay female deputy – but she wasn’t considered “a politician” before being elected. Things change the minute you become a TD).
In an anti-government tide like we saw at the weekend, of course there were going to be casualties. But I have a strong feeling that this wasn’t a coincidence. Leo Varadkar is the only gay TD who proactively campaigned for the marriage referendum, to retain his seat.
My view on this is probably coloured by the abuse I saw and heard Jerry Buttimer receive from (mainly older) listeners to our show for being so outspoken about his personal circumstances and the campaign. Older listeners, don’t forget, are the ones that vote. Except in the marriage referendum, when younger people came out in droves to support equality.
While I have never been a cheerleader for the Fine Gael / Labour Government – and as I’ve written numerous times, I feel many of their social policies left the poor and vulnerable to fend for themselves – I believe (particularly given the party’s total lack of courage on the 8th Amendment) that a Fianna Fáil Government would not have achieved Marriage Equality.
What people forget is that, no matter how strong a grassroots campaign is, you need people inside the tent working to achieve change. Otherwise no change will happen. It took years of Chuck Feeney money, campaign groups and pressure groups to get things into position for the referendum, but it took personal courage and campaigning from those people it most affected, who were also in a position to do something about it within Government, to get it to the point where we got the referendum we wanted.
But back to job interviews, contracts, and red line issues. Was marriage equality a red line issue for you? Would the Government failing to hold a referendum on marriage equality have prevented you voting for them? And if so, would you not feel the opposite is also true? If you asked that question on the doorsteps, wrote letters and signed petitions, did you not also feel obliged to those who made it happen to ‘reward’ them with your vote, for keeping their promise? And where were all the pro-equality younger voters, who took that amazing opportunity to help make history last year?