Dinner table discussions are one of the best things about family life.. and like good wine they get better as the kids get older. I had the rare experience of gathering my three daughters and my husband around a big roast dinner last night in advance of my eldest’s journey back to Perth after a short visit home.
The last day with her is always awful. Emotions are raw and all just below the surface. We are all walking on eggshells like Basil Fawlty in that famous episode of Fawlty Towers afraid to ‘mention the war’ or in our case ‘the parting’. We usually make lots of nonsense small talk to avoid opening the floodgates of tears.
But last night was different as the talk turned very quickly to the Marriage Equality referendum. My emigrant daughter found it hard to believe that there was a concerted campaign for a No vote. However it was my other two daughters, aged 16 and 14 who were most vocal on the issue.
They had both recently discovered a number of families known to them who are voting no. This stunned them.
But what upset them most, was that in the majority of cases, the off spring in these families are very angry at their parent’s stance on this issue. Living, in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown in supposedly one of the most liberal constituencies in the country, I was also stunned at this revelation. One of my daughters told us of her friend who is gay and his parents are also voting no.
Conversation continued as I recounted my rather surreal experience of debating the issue on air on East Coast Radio earlier in the day. I talked about the misinformation and fear being spread by the No side which is very difficult to counter. Then my youngest who is 14 exploded.
“In this referendum we should be allowed to vote. This is an issue that will affect our lives and the lives of our friends. It will have no affect whatsoever on these parents who are straight and already married. They also grew up in an era when homosexuality was illegal and under the radar. It was OK to look down and judge gay people. And now they might be the ones who may get to decide on this very issue. It is not fair that we cannot have our say. That our voices will not be heard.”
And she is right. Once again we in this bloody country are doing a disservice to our young people. Not only can they not vote on this issue but we are not even hearing their views.
We finished our meal almost more depressed than if we had visited the issue of saying goodbye to the eldest.
However on a more positive note, the girls also told us that their school, which is a former convent school with a very Catholic ethos, is festooned with Yes stickers and they are not being removed by the staff. This cheered me somewhat until I realised that only a small minority of the school population will have a vote!
The clarity with which our teenagers view this referendum, seeing it clearly as an issue of equality and not one of parenting is also making me rethink my stance on the other issue we vote on on May 22nd. Maybe a young President is what this bloody country needs?