Mary McAleese has joined in with the marriage equality debate for the first time yesterday. The former Irish President and her husband Martin pledged their support to the same-sex marriage campaign while speaking on “The Right Hook” from Notre Dame University in Indiana, USA. Ms McAleese, who was president of Ireland from 1997 to 2011, said it was time to allow all people to express their love openly regardless of their sexual preferences.

In her first public comments on the issue, Mrs McAleese said the vote next month is “about Ireland’s children, gay children” and said passing the referendum would begin to deconstruct the “architecture of homophobia”.

Ms McAleese went on to say that gay children are owed this legislation and that adults should take the opportunity to make choices that impact their lives, choices that will allow their lives to grow organically, safely and give them the joy of being full citizens in their own country,” she said.

She told George Hook same-sex marriage is a “human rights issue”, and she and her husband, Martin, believe that everyone should be able to “love someone for life” and have that love recognised “at the highest level of Irish society”.

“It is a debate about children, people have been saying it’s about children – and we believe it to be about Ireland’s gay children and about their future and about the kind of future we want for Ireland. We want, in the words of the proclamation: ‘The children of a nation to be cherished equally’.

“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.

“I’m hoping very much, my husband and I are both hoping very much, that it will be passed,” she said.

“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,” she said.

Referring to her own near-40-year marriage, she called for “all of our children – whether they’re gay or heterosexual” to be free in Ireland to have their relationship recognised “at the highest level in Irish society”.