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Same-Sex Marriage, Iona Nonsense and the Constitutional Convention

Thankfully, despite anything the Founder of the Iona Institute might think, it’s still possible in a democracy to say that a man is talking bollocks without fear of being sued.  And therefore, even though David Quinn has in the past threatened to sue various people including two student magazines, I feel safe in saying to you that this man, in his Irish Catholic article about the Constitutional Convention, is indeed articulating testicles.  Almost literally in this case.

David is discomfited by the convention’s decision to recommend a referendum on same-sex marriage, and in this article, he reveals a profound suspicion, not only of the government but also of the electorate.  After all, if the Irish people are to be trusted, why be afraid of a constitutional referendum?  But of course, that’s not the way of the Iona folk, who represent a sort of shabby intellectual elite: the kind that’s smarter than your average grunt in the street, but still stupid enough to think everyone else is a fool.  Touchingly, David also reveals a tender affection for the idea of keeping women in the home, although his recent tweets on symphisiotomy suggest that his concern is more about Society with a capital S than any overwhelming desire to protect women.

What is the Iona Institute, or Lolek Ltd, as it’s officially known?   Well, it’s a construct of David’s imagination, comprising a small group of mutually-reinforcing, unelected, unrepresentative right-wing Catholics who nevertheless have unlimited access to our publicly-funded broadcaster’s air time, for no obvious reason.  A pressure group, in other words, with an impressive-sounding name.

It’s not hard to come up with a resounding title, as any Batman villain will tell you.   Lolek Ltd recently made fools of themselves by promoting a puerile video rubbishing same-sex marriage on the grounds that every child deserves a mum and a dad.  (Aside: when I was growing up, kids had mammys, not mums.  How did that change?)  The logic of the video was so faulty that I seriously doubted it could have been produced by an organisation boasting Prof Vincent Twomey as one of its “patrons”.  Perhaps, I thought to myself, the good Professor simply held his nose to avoid the smell of bullshit, but then I remembered that the man is a professor of Moral Theology, or as it’s also known, Stuff We Made Up.  Twomey, incidentally, wrote the following ludicrous exam question for Hibernia College: atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed.  Answer Yes or No.

Health warning.  Here’s the Lolek Ltd video about same-sex marriage.  You don’t have to watch it.  Skip it if you like since it’s only fluff anyway, though it does offer an insight into the mindset you’re dealing with.  But if you do watch it, and if you happen to suffer from a cardiac problem, please don’t blame me if the outcome is bad.

Here it is.

In reply, the Lolek Ltd video was rapidly parodied by this.

Health warning.  If you have a medical condition that causes people to die laughing, do not watch this video either.

Senator David Norris recently accused Lolek Ltd in its submission to the Convention, of misrepresenting an American academic study,  by omitting to mention an extremely important caveat which occurs right at the start of the document.  (In passing I might mention that the Iona document is a surprisingly poor attempt, consisting largely of unsupported assertions, circular, self-referential internal logic and plain old-fashioned, bug-eyed nonsense.  I’ll be happy to write their next submission for them, if only to save the embarrassment of having to read such a poorly-contrived paper again.  You can read it at the end of the post, Appendix 1).

Here’s Norris.  Pity about the idiotic schoolkids in the background.  [Note: these are not members of the Iona Institute]

These are the questions Norris asks about the Iona Institute.

Who are these people?

How are they established?

What is their membership?

What is their constitution?

How are they funded?


In its submission to the convention, the private Iona club stated as follows:

The research demonstrates why a truly child-centred society will continue to give marriage between a man and a woman special status and will not see this as unfair and unjustified discrimination..

Subsequently  Child Trends, the research centre which authored the research brief, made the following submission to the convention (emphasis added):

7315 Wisconsin Avenue

Suite 1200W

Bethesda, MD 20814


240/200-1239 fax

April 4, 2013

The Honorable Art O’Leary


Constitutional Convention

16 Parnell Square East

Dublin, Ireland

Dear Sir:

Child Trends, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center focused on children and youth issues. It has come to our attention that our 2002 Research Brief, “Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How does Family Structure Affect Children, and What Can We do about It?” has been referenced in testimony submitted for the upcoming Convention on the subject of same-sex marriage.

We would like to submit to the Convention proceedings the following note about this research:

This Child Trends brief summarizes research conducted prior to 2002, when neither same-sex parents nor adopted parents were identified in large national surveys. Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the well-being of children raised by same-sex partners or adoptive parents.

Please note that the paragraph above precedes the brief on our website.

Child Trends has a 30-year history of providing credible research to the U.S. government, state governments, foundations and nonprofit organizations. We are guided only by the findings of our research, and not aligned on either end of the political spectrum. We trust any review of our 2002 report on Family Structure and Children will take into account the scope of the research and not be misconstrued to advance one side or another of the same-sex marriage issue.


Carol Emig


Child Trends

Kristin A. Moore, Ph.D.

Senior Scholar

Child Trends


Let’s put those two statements side by side.

Child Trends
The research demonstrates why a truly child-centred society will continue to give marriage between a man and a woman special status and will not see this as unfair and unjustified discrimination.  no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the well-being of children raised by same-sex partners or adoptive parents.


An article subsequently appeared on the Iona website in which David tries to argue two mutually incompatible positions at the same time.  You can read more in Appendix 2.

The Iona Six are Wombles for the 21st century.  Right-wing, Catholic ideologues who pop up in the most unexpected places.

I haven’t been able to establish how many members the self-styled Institute has, but, based on the number of people who can comfortably fit around the average suburban table for a bit of grub and a chat, I’m guessing six.  It might be eight or it might be 666, depending on the size of David Quinn’s Great Hall.  I don’t know, but six seems like a good fit.

Let’s have a look at what they say on their own website, and let’s quote them verbatim.



Professor Patricia Casey: Patricia Casey is a senior consultant psychiatrist at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, as well as a lecturer at University College, Dublin.

Breda O’Brien: Breda O’Brien is a teacher and a columnist with The Irish Times. She is best known for her commentary on religious and social affairs.

Dr James Sheehan: James Sheehan is founder of the Blackrock, Galway Clinics and Hermitage Clinics, private medical facilities which operate according to a Catholic ethos.

Vincent Twomey: Fr Twomey is a member of the Divine Word Missionaries. He was professor of moral theology at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, until 2006. He is one of Ireland’s foremost experts in Catholic moral theology.


Board of Directors

Secretary: Pat Kenny. Mr Kenny is a lecturer in marketing.

Other Members:

Sean Ascough is a self-employed Chartered Mechanical and Electrical Engineer and has almost twenty years experience of youth evangelisation and other religious initiatives.

Tom Ascough is a consultant engineer who has 15 years experience in youth evangelisation programmes.

Maeve Kelleher is married with six children. She is a stay-at-home mother. [But listed as a director of 13 companies].

Dr John Murray is a lecturer at Mater Dei Institute.

Dr Brendan Purcell is a former lecturer in philosophy at UCD and is a priest of the Dublin diocese.

John Reid is Managing Partner of law firm, O’Rourke Reid.


Damn.  That makes them the Iona Eleven, but wait a minute.  Iona’s Eleven.  Could we make a film about this, with George Clooney playing David Quinn?


George Clooney David Quinn


Stop, I say.  Stop with this.  We’ll have enough genuine  nonsense when we get to David’s article in the Irish Catholic.  Because the piece is such utter tosh, I felt that that the  only reasonable way to do it justice was to take it bit by bit.   Here we go.


David Quinn




The Convention on the Constitution last weekend voted heavily in favour of permitting same-sex marriage. The margin was 79 votes to 18.




Several weeks before the Convention meeting, I told a Convention member that the margin would be of this order.




This Convention is something for which there was no public demand whatever.


Spurious reasoning. There’s also no public demand for property tax .


It is essentially something cooked up by Labour so that they can prune the Constitution in their desired way, that is, remove the reference to women in the home, remove the section on blasphemy and redefine what marriage is.  This last item is really what the Convention was all about. 


Mud-slinging and mind-reading.

Speculation and smear.


I attended the Convention on Saturday. I took part in a panel discussion in the afternoon along with a gay man – Michael Dwyer – who is against gay marriage, and on the other side Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International and Conor O’Mahony of UCC Law Department.I told the delegates that there is nothing unequal about treating different situations in different ways. I said the union of a man and a woman is obviously distinct and different from the union of two men or two women.I said the two sexes are different and that men and women as fathers and mothers have complementary roles in the raising of children and therefore it makes perfect sense to have a special and distinct social institution that recognises all these important facts.


Spurious logic.

Same-sex couples can already legally raise children


But it was obvious that most of the delegates had their minds made up. There was no real preparedness to engage with the issues.


Says the man who threatens to sue people who disagree with him.


The Convention was dominated by emotions, by what one person in a different context has called the ‘operafication of emotions’. Therefore we had tears as gay delegates spoke of their love for their partners and their children and of their great longing to be married to the person they love.  There is no doubt about the genuine love they feel for each other, but this evades the question of what marriage actually is.


The conference was dominated by emotions, according to David, revealing a rare moment of empathy.

This emotional behaviour is in severe contrast to those in Iona who operate exclusively by logic, including the perfectly logical belief that a biscuit can turn into a man who rose from the dead.


The Convention delegates numbered 100 in all, comprised of 33 politicians, 66 members of the public and the chairman.  This automatically meant it was not like the general public.  Politicians don’t make up a third of the electorate. 

This automatically meant it was not like the general public.

Just like David’s Iona Institute, in other words.

But the non-politician delegates were also unlikely to have been representative of the general public.  They were recruited off the electoral register but only those members of the public most interested in the topics in question would have agreed to become delegates.  One delegate – Julie Corley – told me that she was recruited on her street in Galway. Someone working on behalf of the Convention was going from door-to-door on her street looking for people to join the Convention.  By this process a husband and wife ended up becoming delegates.  That is simply farcical. 

It would be very interesting to hear more from Julie Corley.

In particular, how did Julie and David happen to meet at the convention? Had they ever met before?

If the Convention couldn’t find a genuinely representative sample of the public then it shouldn’t have been held at all.


More spurious logic.

Should the judiciary be disbanded on the same grounds? Or the Iona Institute?

But even if a representative sample could somehow have been found, the highly artificial nature of Convention proceedings meant that the delegates would have ended up being steered in a particular direction anyway, especially on the same-sex marriage issue.For example, in my view the four experts appointed by the Convention last weekend to give advice to the delegates leaned in favour of same-sex marriage without actually saying so. 

Opinion, innuendo and smear

For example, one of the experts told the delegates about research purporting to show that children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as children raised by their own biological parents.  But he did not give anything like enough weight to the very serious criticisms of those studies. 

David offers this statement with a straight face, or perhaps a brass neck, given Iona’s selective quoting from the Child Trends research brief, which led that organisation to write directly to the convention in order to set the record straight.

Nor were the delegates properly informed about the huge number of very well-designed studies which confirm that, all things being equal, the best environment for a child is to be raised by their own married, biological parents. 

The word studies is a common weapon used by authoritarian groups to bolster failing arguments.

The Iona Institute has already been criticised by the authors of a research paper for selectively quoting their words and ignoring a very important caveat right at the start of the document.

The Iona Institute has shown itself to be biased, and therefore unqualified to comment on scientific studies. More specifically, since David has no mathematical qualifications beyond Leaving Cert,, he is unqualified to evaluate statistical results.

David makes no reference to the countless Irish people who were raised by a combination of mothers, aunts and grandmothers while their fathers left to work in England.  Perhaps the Iona Institute would commission a study to evaluate how damaged all those people are.

Nor was there any serious discussion by the experts of what marriage actually is or why it has special status in the first place.  The only time there was a discussion about what equality really is was when I raised it.  The handful of delegates who were opposed to same-sex marriage had a hard time making their feelings known.  I know this because some of them came up to me and told me.  At each table was one or more politicians and they were almost invariably in favour of same-sex marriage. Politicians are used to speaking in public, ordinary people are not.  The politicians at the various tables were obviously speaking out in favour of same-sex marriage and delegates with a different point of view were hard pressed to find the language that would enable them to deal with all the talk of ‘justice’ and ‘equality’ and ‘tolerance’, much less with the emotionalism on display.  It was as though most people were there to be publicly baptised in the cleansing waters of ‘tolerance’ to hallelujahs from the other true believers. 

Waffle, smear and bombast

One delegate, not a ‘true believer’, the aforementioned Julie Corley, described how she felt browbeaten at her table on the Sunday morning for daring to voice a strong, contrary opinion on the subject.  On the Sunday morning the matter of religious freedom came up. Senator Rónán Mullen manfully argued that if the Convention voted in favour of same-sex marriage it should also vote to protect the freedom of those with an opposing viewpoint so that Catholic schools, for example, would not be forced to teach a view of marriage at variance with Catholic teaching.  He was supported by a handful of other politicians including Terence Flanagan, Seamus Kirk and Darragh O’Brien, but his concerns were given short shrift overall.This raises the very serious worry that not alone will we have gay marriage some day, but we will also have laws banning religious organisations from teaching the traditional view of marriage.  That would be totalitarian.The Catholic bishops made a presentation on the Saturday, as did the Knights of St Columbanus and the Evangelical Alliance.  Their presentations were solid but dry and therefore did not counter the dominant emotionalism of the event anymore than my own input did. In fact, under the circumstances it is something of a miracle that 18 delegates held out and didn’t vote in favour of same-sex marriage. 

Strange to hear a true believer accusing others of true belief, but Julie’s feelings are neither here nor there.  Let’s hear more from her.

Religious freedom has nothing to do with civil marriage.  The passive-aggressive remarks attributed to Ronan Mullen are nonsense.  Schools are not required to teach any view of civil marriage.  He might as well claim that Catholic schools are being oppressed because divorce and contraception  are legal.

In a shabby scaremongering tactic, David expands his unfounded hypothesis to suggest that laws will emerge banning religious organisations from teaching  the “traditional” view of marriage.  There is no such possibility, other than in the imagination of the Iona Institute.  This technique of inventing non-existent threats has long been discredited.  Weasel words like traditional and totalitarian are a standard element of the technique, and in any case, there are many who would regard the Iona Institute’s views as totalitarian.

David doesn’t like the emotionalism he detected at the event.  He seems to believe that emotion has no part in a discussion about two people committing to each other for life out of love. Perhaps this reveals more about the Iona mindset than anything else he says.

I don’t know when we will have a referendum on the issue, but unless the Supreme Court short-circuits the whole process and interprets the Constitution in such a way as to permit gay marriage, we will have a referendum. 


How will it go? It will certainly be much closer than 79/18. A referendum will not be as artificial as the Convention even though there will be huge media bias in favour of same-sex marriage. 

Always blame media bias if you’re afraid a referendum will go against you.

You just have to hope that common sense will win out in the end and people will see that no-one is being deprived of any rights by recognising that it is perfectly legitimate to have a distinct social institution which recognises the real and important differences between the sexes and the complementary roles of men and women as mothers and fathers.It is strange that the gay marriage movement, dedicated to telling us to ‘celebrate difference’ refuses to recognise these essential differences. 

 David’s opinion. To which he’s entitled.

But still only an opinion.  Not a logical argument.


It doesn’t take much effort to dissect David Quinn’s pontificating, and when you do, you begin to realise that there’s much less to his position than meets the eye.  Macbeth  described life as full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, but he might just as easily have been talking about the ridiculous Iona Institute.   There was a time, not too many decades ago, a time that David’s writings seem to yearn for, when women knew their place, homosexuals hid in a closet and Irish people were impressed by huff,  puff and bombast,  but those days are gone, and that’s the trivial tragedy of the Iona Institute.  It’s David Quinn’s very own right-wing Catholic Airfix model.

 For a more grown-up, rational attitude to same-sex marriage, we have to traverse the globe and listen to New Zealand MP, Maurice Williamson who, with a mix of humour and common sense, deflates the self-important, immature, doom-laden nonsense we’ve been hearing from the likes of David’s little Iona Institute.  




Same-Sex Marriage



It’s probably worth repeating the questions Senator David Norris asked, just to remind ourselves what exactly we’re dealing with.


Who are these people?

How are they established?

What is their membership?

What is their constitution?

How are they funded?




Also on BTR: What exactly is the Iona Institute?


Skeptic Ink

Conor Farrell : The Iona Institute and Traditional Marriage

Peter Stafford on Iona’s low standards

 American Psychological Association: No scientific basis for prohibiting same-sex marriage

Geoff’s Shorts



Appendix  1


Iona Institute submission to the Constitutional Convention.

Download (PDF, 73KB)


Appendix 2

Iona retracts (but doesn’t really)


Following the fuss about the misleadingly-quoted  Child Trends document, David put up an extraordinary post on the Iona website.

Entitled “Who’s really jumping ahead of the evidence in the same-sex marriage debate?”, the article attempts to brazen it out.  It still cites the Child Trends paper in support of the Iona position, despite the request by the paper’s authors not to use it on either side of the argument.

But then, David falls into one of the most notorious logical fallacies, a tactic often employed by homeopathy quacks and the like.  Since there’s no evidence, we must be right.

Here’s what David says:

And to this day it remains the case that there are no large national surveys that allows us to draw reliable conclusions about the children of same-sex couples.

The question which then arises is why, back in 2005, the American Psychological Association was so quick to come to the conclusion that ‘the kids are alright’ given the lack of large national surveys examining how the children of same-sex couples actually fare?

Those trying to use the Child Trends quote against organisations like the Iona Institute need to be aware that they are well and truly hoist by their own petard because what the quote really does is expose the fact that those claiming ‘the kids are alright’ have jumped way ahead of the available evidence.

Got that?   There are no large national surveys that allows us to draw reliable conclusions about the children of same-sex couples.  And yet, the Iona Institute continues to draw conclusions about the children of same-sex couples.  Clearly, facts are not a priority for a lobby group that deals mainly in spin.

Here’s something even more disturbing: there are many well-conducted scientific studies  showing that the children of same-sex couples are at no disadvantage.  David even heard some of those children speaking at the convention, but acknowledging such research wouldn’t fit with the Iona objective, as as we’ve seen over and over, facts mean whatever the pressure-group says they mean.

If David really was looking for reputable studies, he could have done a lot better than quoting a charlatan like Loren Marks, ably dissected here.  However, rigorous thinking has never been the forte of Iona spin-merchants.  Selective quoting of the ubiquitous studies is much more their style, sometimes leading them into deep embarrassment.  Five years ago, Professor Patricia Casey, one of the self-styled Institute’s “patrons, was foolish enough to send a letter to the Irish Times, purporting to quote Swedish research in support of her contention that children do best when raised by their biological parents – a statement that contains yet another logical fallacy, but we don’t have time for all the nonsense Ionanists produce.

Here’s a paragraph from Prof Casey’s letter:

In addition, the University of Uppsala in Sweden has issued a report confirming the importance of fathers and father figures for child development.(Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Sarkadi et al. Acta Paediatrica, 97.2, pp 153-158. February 2008).


The author of the Swedish study promptly replied, saying

Please note that no comparisons were made with gay or lesbian family constellations in the studies included in the review. Therefore, there is nothing whatsoever in our review that would justify the conclusion that same-sex parents cannot raise healthy children who do well.


Ouch!!  So much for academic detachment.   (You can read both letters here).

It never ends.  These people seem to be thoroughly unaware of their own considerable limitations, as fellow “patron”  Breda O’Brien embarrassingly demonstrated on radio last weekend, when lecturing a senior obstetrician on medicine and medical law.

By the way, David has no need to go as far back as 2005 to see what the American Psychological Association thinks.   On 1st March this year, they filed a legal brief with the US supreme court stating that there is no valid scientific basis for denying same-sex couples the right to legal marriage.

According to the APA president, The research shows that same-sex couples are similar to heterosexual couples in essential ways and that they are as likely as opposite-sex couples to raise mentally healthy, well-adjusted children.

But hey, what would he know?  He’s just an expert.

Strangely, despite their usual fawning, insecure admiration of “international” experts, the Iona Six aren’t falling over themselves to quote from any of the studies advanced by the American Psychological Association,


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Constitutional Convention Votes for Same-Sex Marriage

As the Constitutional Convention today voted for same-sex marriage, the National Bigot Helpline is reporting a huge spike in calls.

Fanatics nationwide are reporting palpitations,  flutters, grinding teeth and That Feeling You Get When You Imagine What Queers Do.

Ventriloquist dummy Ronan Mullen_2Speaking from his ventriloquist’s lap, Senator Ronan Mullen condemned the decision, blaming the participants in the convention, the government, the people of Ireland, homosexuals, non-Catholics, people who aren’t from Galway, young people, old people, everyone who disagrees with him and liberal priests.

It’s a conspiracy, he said, in a brief statement.  A coalition of unCatholic, unIrish conspirators. It’s a fix, just like the Voice of Ireland, so it is.

It certainly is, agreed David Quinn, director of  the Iona Institute, which has promised to mobilise all six of its members to hand out holy-water rehydration kits live on air.  Its director has temporarily suspended his symphisiotomy appreciation seminars to provide spiritual guidance to confused Irish people.

People are confused, he explained.  But the six of us will put them straight, with the help of RTE.  After all, between the six of us, we have a combined IQ of, oh, about a million, unlike you and all the other Irish gobshites.  You didn’t record that bit, did you?

We put it to a keen observer of  the Iona Institute  that, by taking his eye off the ball, Quinn was increasing teenage pregnancies, and he agreed.   It’s true, he said.  While Dave isn’t watching them, they’ll be riding and smoking communion hosts.  It’s a tough choice for Dave, he said, but life is all about choices.  They have to stem the homo horde before they sort out the whores.

So what will this decision lead to? we wanted to know.

Senator Mullen was in no doubt.  It will lead to  non-Catholic babies being born from no biological parents at all.  If the queers get their way, nobody will be shagging.  Eh, I mean, everyone will be shagging.  Eh, I mean, what was the question again? 



Iona Nonsense