I graduated from DCU more years ago than I dare remember. The march of time was borne home last month when I attended a campus debate on marriage equality. I found several new buildings and a student bar that looked liked it enjoyed a regular clean. My old computer labs were peopled by socially well adjusted students possessing impeccable personal hygiene. I hardly recognised the place.
Arriving as I did dressed in work attire I was initially greeted by the students as a no voter. The reception was warm enough, and as I received directions round the campus on which I'd spent four years of my life I took a moment to clarify my side. I received a free yes badge and did my best to remember my way through a maze of new structures to find Senators Zappone and Mullen, partnered respectively with John Lyons TD and Keith Mills of Mothers and Fathers Matter.
I enjoy a planned speech as much as the next mid thirties chap surrounded by a sea of youth, but for me the joy of a debate is the unrehearsed to and fro of the questions and answers section. The students of my former university did not disappoint and the auditorium strained capacity with articulate and well researched challenges to the no side's unique and strained interpretation of facts, studies, and the very fabric of reality.
Of particular focus was the no side's claim that children of same sex couples fare worse than the offspring of opposite sex married couples. Dwelling on this unevidenced claim is appropriate - it's damaging nonsense. In addition to a strong showing from the student body a sociology professor spoke eloquently about how the crushing weight of reality shattered the assertions of Mullen and Mills. Reputable studies supporting same sex parents were listed, the absence of opposing studies noted. It fell to Mills to mount a defence.
Mills, it seems, does not much favour the available sociological data. He noted that much of it was gleaned from study participants in the United States of America, a land he views as blighted by divorce, young marriage rates, and failed marriages. Ireland, it seems, does marriage better.
But here Mothers and Fathers Matter face an unpalatable conclusion. Mills has identified a sociological group who he deems less suitable for marriage. A group that marries, to his mind, too young. A group he sees as having a higher divorce rate, something likely to - what are his words? - deprive a child of a mother and father.
So why not bar Americans from matrimony?
We could introduce legislation to inform American visitors that their marriages are not recognised on Irish soil. Perhaps we could offer a separate-but-equal track called American unions, allowing some legal protections, but leaving the institution of Irish marriage unsullied. We could poster the streets with false claims about their children and claim we act with their best interests at heart.
You may find this daft. You may wonder why anyone would seek to bar a section of society from the support and stability marriage brings to couples. In fact I rather hope you do. All I ask is that you hold that feeling close when you next hear Mothers And Fathers Matter.