Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Why do Irish social conservatives accept defeat so easily?

Posted by Jason O on Jan 22, 2015 in Irish Politics

It’s a political stereotype to paint conservatives as rugged and liberals as effete. The reality, at least in Ireland, is somewhat different. When Irish liberals lost the 1986 divorce referendum, they didn’t accept it as a settled matter, but came back again in 1995 and got what they wanted.

I sometimes wonder why Irish conservatives just accept that ratchet effect, that once another liberal victory is achieved they accept it and retreat? Take abortion. In 1992 conservatives fought against the right to information and the right to travel. They lost both, by margins similar to the liberal defeat in 1986. Why do they not put reversing the right to travel in particular on their agenda? Is it no longer what they claimed it was at the time? SPUC was amongst one of the most powerful and feared political movements in the country. What happened? Did they all become liberal? Or just die?

It’s the same with marriage equality. If there’s a No vote in May, I know that liberals won’t give up, but will come back and fight again. If there’s a Yes vote, will conservatives just accept another defeat and roll over? Probably.

I’m writing this as a liberal who is just plain curious as to why Irish conservatives give up so easy. Even the Irish conservatives I know would run screaming from a political grouping that advocated reopening the divorce or decriminalisation of homosexuality issues. Is it because they accept that a society can only go one way, that is, more liberal?

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