USI will consider running a candidate against Senator Rónán Mullen
The Union of Students in Ireland has announced it will consider running a candidate against Senator Rónán Mullen during the next general election if he continues to advocate for what they described as “hateful views”, including his opposition to marriage equality and access to abortion.
The announcement came after Senator Mullen attempted to delay the passage of the Marriage Bill 2015 with a filibuster amendment, a tactic often used to prevent the passage of legislation in the United States, though it is impossible to do so in the Seanad, where the Standing Orders permit, at most, a delay of a couple of hours.
The bill legislates for the results of this year’s referendum on marriage equality. Senator Mullen is a member of the Seanad Panel representing the National University of Ireland, and is well-known for his vocal opposition to marriage equality and the legalisation of abortion.
He has also advocated for the Nordic model of decriminalising sex work and supports the development of more robust end-of-life care in Ireland, including the facilitation of palliative and hospice care.
His proposed amendment claimed to prevent the bill from requiring religious marriage ceremonies to use gender-neutral language, though Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald clarified the bill already did not require the use of gender-neutral language, and the amendment was not accepted.
Acknowledging that Senator Mullen is “no stranger to controversy”, the President of the Union of Students of Ireland, Kevin Donoghue, said in a statement that Senator Mullen is “not representing the people who elected him” and described his particularly strident views on hot-button issues such as access to abortion and the Children and Family Relationships Bill as “extremely damaging and hurtful to young people”.
The Union of Students in Ireland is the national representative body for the 354,000 students in third level education on the island of Ireland. The Students’ Union of NUI, Galway is a member of the Union, along with the Students’ Unions of most other universities on the island, North and South.
Mr Donoghue went on to say that his organisation and its members “do not want to be affiliated with hateful views” and that, as a consequence, USI “will consider running someone against Senator Mullen if he continues to represent hateful and outdated views”.
Graduates of the National University of Ireland elect three members of the Seanad at each general election. Senator Mullen was first elected in 2007 with the second-highest number of first-preference votes, and re-elected in 2011 with the highest number of first-preferences.
Later, he unsuccessfully contested the 2014 European Parliament elections for the Midlands–North-West constituency, finishing eighth after being eliminated in the fourth count.
Senator Mullen’s colleague from the National University of Ireland Seanad Panel, Senator Feargal Quinn, voted against the referendum bill in March and voted against the referendum itself in May, though he was absent from the Seanad during the vote on the Marriage Bill.
Speaking after the passage of the Marriage Bill on 22 October, Senator Mullen asked those who had supported the Yes side of the marriage equality referendum to show “magnanimity in victory” and those who supported the No side to show “magnanimity in defeat”.
Senator Mullen himself campaigned on the No side with members of the Iona Institute, an association that Mr Donoghue criticised, saying that Iona’s use of “invalid interpretations of data to back their claims” undermined Senator Mullen’s “credibility as a public representative”.
His proposed amendment came under fire from some of his Seanad colleagues, including Senator David Norris, who described it as “a mare’s nest” and “a complete virago of nonsense”, and Senator Cáit Keane, who said she thought that Pope Francis’s interpretation of the bill “would be much fairer” than Senator Mullen’s.
His only support in the chamber came from Senator Jim Walsh, who expressed concern that “well-funded gay ideological groups” would attempt to force churches to provide them with marriage services contrary to their beliefs.
If it follows through, this will be the first time the Union of Students in Ireland have actively sought to unseat a Senator from a university constituency since its founding in 1959.
At time of writing, no statement had been released by Senator Mullen.
By Dean Buckley