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The Dramatic Decline of the Catholic Influence on Morality Politics. The Legalization of Gay Marriage in Ireland

Citizenship
Democracy
Gender
Religion
Fabio Bolzonar
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Fabio Bolzonar
Université Libre de Bruxelles

Abstract

Even though the Republic of Ireland is still one of the most religious countries in Western Europe the overwhelming majority of Irish citizens voted in favour of the introduction of gay marriage in May 2015. This paper will study the debate on the introduction of gay marriage in Ireland and it seeks to understand why Catholic groups were unsuccessful in preventing the legalization of marriage rights for same-‐sex couples. The paper attributes this outcome to the process of dramatic deinstitutionalization of religious values in Irish politics and society that is becoming particularly evident when gender and morality politics are considered. The paper is composed of three sections. The first one investigates the inability of the Catholic Church to mobilize a strong opposition against gay marriage during the campaign for the national referendum on this question. Then, the second section discusses why the Fine Gael, the major Irish conservative party, backed the legalization of gay marriage even though its political platform bears a strong imprint of Christian democratic values. Finally, the third section explains the reasons that impeded to Catholic civil society organizations to aggregate significant consensus against gay marriage. The conclusion of the paper are based on a large variety of empirical material (e.g. interview, official documents, news report) that let to unfold the subtle process of deinstitutionalization of religious values in Irish society and politics and its impact on morality politics.