Count me out this time

Strange as it may seem, I voted in Canada before I voted in Ireland. My first time to cast a ballot was for my brother in the Thompson City Hall elections, where he was successful at his first attempt. (Unlike me with Westmeath County Council elections!)

Since 1973, I don’t think I have missed voting in any of our local or national elections. I have come home from abroad just to vote, because I believe so strongly that every citizen should exercise that right; and thank God that we live in a country where the democratic vote is sacrosanct.

I have voted in every referendum during my lifetime – even when I wasn’t too pushed either way. It is therefore with very mixed emotions that I have come to the decision that I shall not bother to vote in the referendum on the ‘family’, or ‘care’ on 8 March. In a nutshell, I just don’t care – and I care so little about this useless exercise that I won’t even attempt to tax my brain whether a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is the right choice.

The real right choice lay with the government, when instead of spending up to €25 million playing with words, would it not have been better to distribute the money to under-funded children’s services? Children are children – no matter what genre of family they come from.

One of the two questions we are being asked is if we approve a change to the constitution to define the new ‘family’ in Ireland. These are just words – words that are more to do with making the government look more modern, more caring and more progressive. The family does not require this referendum or this legislation. The family unit and the role of adults within that family change and evolve. Let me give you a small example.

My father never made a cup of tea for himself, except in an emergency. I improved a little on that by taking tea and toast to my wife in bed every morning – but that’s all the ‘cooking’ I do. Moving to the next generation, and my son does nearly all the cooking in his house, for his wife and three children. No referendum needed!

The ‘Irish Mammy’ will be no more. ‘Mammy’ was the mainstay of the family for hundreds of years. The matriarch was the strong one, even when she was the only one who knew it. Granted, some were oppressed, but most ruled the roost and reared the children. As far as I can see, the word ‘mother’ is nowhere to be seen in the proposed amendments… not mentioned even once.

Down through the years, children often moved to live with the granny and were reared with great love in that home. Will such an arrangement constitute a ‘family’ in our bright, progressive future? When the children grew up, they in turn cared for their parents or grandparents. That is the natural order of how a family works. I don’t see it in the wording I glanced over. Will a single parent be known as a ‘family’? Or do I find any reference to a family consisting of a husband, wife and children? Perhaps such a union may require a dispensation?

You see, dear readers, I’m told the family of the future has to be ‘gender neutral’. The words ‘durable relationship’ are in there – and quite possibly there are real people jumping up and down with joy over that. It makes no difference, because each family, irrespective of its makeup, will devise its own role and rules.

I would also imagine that there are old laws or parts of our constitution where the outdated wording needs changing ahead of this one.

Looking back – and before everything had to be ‘worded’ – the conventional marriage was never the only ‘durable relationship’ in town. Marriages broke up (rare as it was) and second relationship were formed, sometimes on the QT, but everybody knew and accepted the arrangement. The people made do and got on with their private lives. When homosexuality was a crime, the good people of Ireland were far ahead of the legislators. The locals knew the few lads who were ‘different’ and no wording was required as long as nobody interfered with anybody else.

And thus shall life carry on. The mother might not have got a word in the new wording, but she will still continue to be the number one carer in the country and the glue that holds the family together. Home will still mostly be wherever the mammy is.

I don’t ever remember when I couldn’t care less about the result of a ballot. I won’t be staying up late for the count on this one; and no more than reducing the speed limit without enforcing the existing speeds on the open road, it won’t make a blind bit of difference to the way things are. And one more thing; a government should not instruct the people how to vote in any referendum.

Don’t Forget

Family trees seem to produce a variety of nuts.