by Eoin Molloy
Tensions spiralled out of control in NUIG today ahead of tomorrow’s referendum on whether or not the Student’s Union will support same-sex marriage.
Clashes between the Christian Society and varied members of the student body came to a head on the Concourse area of NUIG at around 2 pm today, when Gardai arrived at the scene to split up a dispute which concerned one of the society’s posters being torn down by protesters.
The poster allegedly equated homosexuality with pedophilia. It also stated that Ireland’s definition of a marriage as being between a man and a woman had been on the statute books ‘for centuries’, despite the fact that Ireland’s statute books have existed for less than a century. Awkward.
The Gardai advised the congregation of protesters and entertained spectators alike to disperse without making any arrests, and then left the scene. But the incident did not stop there, with members of the well-known Burke family (who are prominent in the Christian Society) deciding to take a stand against their poster being torn down.
The Burkes then began holding up their last remaining poster in a symbolic stance against the mass of pro-marriage equality students gathered around them. Members of their fourteen-strong family then showed up in solidarity to form a wall between the poster and the throng of students.
Current SU president Sean Kearns addressed the crowd, calling for calm and stating that a gathering like this was pointless, and that the real difference will be made at the ballot box tomorrow. He encouraged all students to vote, irrespective of their beliefs and personal convictions.
Members of GIGSOC (Gays in Galway) soon showed up with their own posters marked ‘Love Not Hate’, and formed a wall opposite the defiant Burkes. They then began their own symbolic sit-in protest, adjacent to the Burkes poster. According to eye-witnesses, the issue came to an end after five hours of protest, at which point the Burke family went home.
Enoch Burke, who is coincidentally running for Equality Officer in NUIG, remained by his family’s side throughout the event, stating that he ‘could not comment on the event’ as he was too ‘pre-occupied with the injustice’ that was unfolding before his eyes.
Whether the greatest injustice of the day was the fact that people wished to tear down the Christian Society poster, or the fact that there exists a society in NUIG committed to opposing marriage equality, it is impossible to say for sure. But one thing can be said in certainty: the issue will be decided tomorrow.