Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese called for a “Yes” vote in the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum, saying yesterday that “Everyone should be able to express their love fully.”

Speaking with George Hook on his Newstalk radio show, the Right Hook, McAleese asked the Irish voters to concentrate on what the result of this referendum will mean for the children of Ireland.

“People have been saying [this referendum] is about children… [and] it is,” she said. “It is a debate about Ireland’s gay children and about their future. In the words of the Proclamation, don't we want ‘the children of a nation to be cherished equally?'”

“I think that we owe those children a huge debt as adults who have opportunities to make choices that impact their lives, to make the right choices – choices that will allow their lives to grow organically, safely and to give them the joy of being full citizens in their own country,” she continued.

According to the former president, the referendum is a human rights concern that highlights that everybody has the right for their love “to be recognized at the highest level of Irish society.” The decision made will have a “huge impact” on Ireland’s gay children, she said.

“The adult children, the children yet unborn, the gay children yet unborn – we want them to be born into a world where if they fall in love with someone they can express that love fully,” she added.

Currently a visiting scholar at Notre Dame University in South Bend to complete a doctorate in canon law, McAleese has been closely following the heightening debate leading up to polling day. She referenced her own 40-year marriage to Martin McAleese, saying “I’m hoping very much, my husband and I are both hoping very much, that it will be passed.”

“We believe it to be a human rights issue. We’ve been watching with great interest the debate as it’s been evolving in Ireland and the concerns that people have in and around it.”

McAleese was questioned by Hook as to her whether she believed that the church in Ireland would ever change its teachings and stance on homosexuality. She answered that, “given time”, she believed they would be forced to alter their teachings, saying it was “rather regrettable” that Pope Benedict called homosexuality “intrinsically disordered”.

“They’ve already changed elsewhere and we’ve seen many, many countries now embracing the idea that homosexuality is a perfectly normal human sexual expression and that it is, as it has been thought in the past, a skewed, or in the words of the church, the rather regrettable words of the church – when I think back to what Benedict has written about it when he described it as ‘intrinsically disordered’."

“Many of us do not believe it to be ‘intrinsically disordered’ but believe it to be a perfectly normal human adaptation,” she added.

The Irish public will vote on the issue of same-sex marriage in May of this year. The proposal to be put to Irish voters on May 22 will be: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

McAleese joins a list of high-profile Irish politicians who have spoken about their support for same-sex marriage and a “Yes” vote, among them, Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Enda Kenny. Announcing the date set for the referendum last February, Kenny said he hoped that support for same-sex marriage would come through on the polls and that he believed that the majority of the members of the Dáil and Seanad (the two houses of parliament) supported the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“It is about understanding and respect and understanding and sensitivity,” Kenny added.

You can hear the original interview with Mary McAleese here