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Same sex marriage referendum: Four Northern Ireland clerics back 'No' vote in Republic


No and Yes campaigners in the Republic’s same-sex marriage referendum making their case to voters in Dublin

No and Yes campaigners in the Republic’s same-sex marriage referendum making their case to voters in Dublin


No and Yes campaigners in the Republic’s same-sex marriage referendum making their case to voters in Dublin

Four Northern Ireland clerics have urged voters in the Republic to reject the extension of marriage rights to gay people.

In an open letter, the Church of Ireland (CoI) ministers said people should remain mindful of what the Bible teaches.

It comes as the Republic decides on whether same-sex couples should be granted equal status under the constitution.

Around 3.2 million will head to polling stations today with counting getting under way at 9am tomorrow. The outcome should be known around lunchtime.

Yesterday, on the eve of the vote, four CoI ministers came out in support of the no side.

All are from Northern Ireland but are part of groups which represent members of the churches throughout Ireland.

They are Rev Joanne Megarrell, rector of Moira Parish, from the CoI Evangelical Fellowship; Archdeacon of Down David McClay from Willowfield Parish Church in east Belfast, who is from New Wine Ireland; Rev Tim Anderson of Reform Ireland and rector of St Elizabeth's, Dundonald; and Rev William Press of the Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy, who is rector of Knockbreda Parish.

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They wrote: "We would ask that church members remain mindful of the biblical teaching about marriage as the Church of Ireland has received it, and continues to express it in the Book of Common Prayer and in canon 31."

The letter refers to the Bible's instruction that marriage is the permanent union of one man with one woman.

Archdeacon McClay, who grew up in the Republic, said a yes vote would change the fundamental understanding of marriage.

"I am somebody who wants to make sure the church is very openly welcoming of gay and lesbian people," he said.

"The Bible's teaching on marriage is very explicit. It's very clear that marriage is something that is lifelong and between one man and one woman." He said the recent debate around marriage had been healthy, but believes most CoI members will reject gay marriage.

Yesterday Tanaiste Joan Burton said a yes vote would prove equality was the cornerstone of the Republic.

Ms Burton, the leader of the Labour Party which pushed for the right to gay marriage, said: "It is about acceptance in your own country.

"It is about being accepted as equal citizens in your own country. It is about making a statement about the country we want to live in, the country we want to create."

While Ireland is by no means the first country to consider extending marriage rights to gay people, it is the first time the subject has gone to a popular vote.

If passed it will be the 34th constitutional amendment.

The Yes campaign has been backed by all the main political parties but a small number of backbenchers are to vote no.

But commentators believe there is a growing "silent" No vote.

Opinion polls put the Yes side well in front up until a week ago, but around a quarter of those polled declined to declare their intentions.

The Catholic Church is against the proposal.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin appealed for voters to consider the ramifications.

"Marriage is about a man and woman coming together, becoming father and mother, and there is something in that. Changing that will leave people uncertain. I can't promise what happens after the referendum," he said.

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