An Irish father and retail worker has started the Whyona Institute in an attempt to counter the conservative Iona Institute. Jimi Kavanagh from Limerick is looking for support through crowdfunding campaign which will let the public know more about Iona, its funders, who’s involved with it and counter its conservative output. Colm Quinn grabbed him for a chat.
Jimi said that the main aim is really to share ideas that move Ireland forward, “I’d love to see a group of well-minded people with a real commitment to improving our country through change coming together, exchanging ideas, and attempting to bridge the gap between the views being represented by the Iona institute and the ideals of an egalitarian, forward-thinking society.” He said Whyona would launch counter advertising and work through social media to, “Counter some of the more ridiculous claims and misdirections that I’ve seen put forward in the past few months and years.”
Kavanagh said he’d like to refer to Iona by their actual name – Lolek Ltd. Lolek enjoy tax-exempt charity status. “It’s actually a strange side-effect of Ireland’s lack of a strong ombudsman for charity that we have so many registered charities that are – to say the least – more than a little bit questionable. Did you know the HSE is registered as a charity as well?”
The justification used by Lolek for their charity status is that they work towards, “The advancement and promotion of the Christian religion, its social and moral values, and the doing of all such other things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of that object.”
But people argue with this. Blogger Bock the Robber wrote, “For instance, when they opposed civil partnerships, it had nothing to do with advancing religion. And when they oppose same-sex marriage it has nothing to do with advancing religion. When they try to prevent people conceiving via IVF, it has not the slightest thing to do with advancing religion.”
Kavanagh said they are working to maintain the notion that, “The majority of Irish Catholics are somehow ultra-conservative as well, when in fact social equality issues have been met with overwhelming and increasing support in our country for the past decade.”
He also feels that while there are plenty of good people working on the left in society there doesn’t seem to be any counter think-tanks to the conservative ones in Ireland.
“Ideally I’d like the Whyona institute to exist as a place of welcome, where people come together to help promote inclusion and social progress, in direct opposition to an exclusive group that exists only to prevent change and exclude minority representation and equal rights.”
He added, “It’s not as simple as just not liking Lolek. I mean I certainly don’t agree with most of their ideas, but a society in which we dislike people for disagreeing with us can never progress. My issues with Lolek lie in the tactics they’ve been taking throughout the SSM debate. Firstly their insistence (and baffling success) in being included in all media debates despite representing the tiny, regressive, ultra-conservative viewpoint.”
He went on to talk more about this, “Shortly before Christmas all polls had the Yes campaign in the high 80s percentage-wise. So how did a permanent representation of less than 1 in 5 necessitate 50% of all debate? Why would discussion of a new book launch by Una Mullally require a Lolek employee present ‘for balance’? For the last few months David Quinn and Breda O Brien have been virtually omnipresent in both new and old media, even though the Ireland they’re striving to return to is long gone, and overwhelmingly for the better.”
He spoke about Lolek’s tactic of trying to turn the same sex marriage debate into something about children, “Which is an absolute diversionary tactic and utterly irrelevant. Gay couples already raise children in Ireland, and nobody can say they’re worse or better parents than anyone else simply by merit of their sexual preference.”
The president of the Psychological Society of Ireland Dr Paul D’Alton last week said to the Irish Times that the world’s major psychological bodies had, “concluded that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation.”
Dr D’Alton insisted that, “Empirical studies have failed to find reliable differences between the children of same-sex and heterosexual couples with regard to their gender identity, gender role behaviour, sexual orientation, mental health or psychological and social adjustment.”
Kavanagh said, “Nobody is asking the Catholic Church to involve themselves in SSM in the slightest. Their institution of religious marriage and the state’s institution of legal marriage always were and will remain entirely separate things.”
He argues that Lolek consistently and repeatedly make claims they don’t back up with verifiable research. He continues, “Even the assumed name “institute” is designed to conjure images of academia and ivy-covered buildings, when in fact they seem to be merely a PR and spin machine for conservatism whose reach has been allowed to far exceed either their relevance or support.”