Ireland a beacon for the world as we vote Yes to gay marriage

NewsBy Nicola Tallant
Ireland a beacon for the world as we vote Yes to gay marriage

IRISH VOTERS shook the world and sparked a massive outpouring of joy by saying a historic ‘YES’ to gay marriage.

The massive Yes vote was hailed across the globe last night as Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same sex marriage by a vote from the people.

And it sparked the mother and father of all parties for Yes campaigners when the declaration came through at Dublin Castle yesterday shortly before 7pm.

Health minister Leo Varadkar, who came out as the country’s first gay cabinet minister ahead of the campaign, was clearly moved as he said Ireland was now a “beacon for the rest of the world”.

He said: “For me it wasn’t just a referendum, it was a social revolution. That makes it a really historic day for Ireland. Ireland is shining. That makes us a beacon to the rest of the world for liberty and equality.”

Voters, young and old and from all sides of the society, flocked to the polls on Friday to cast their ballots as thousands more travelled home from abroad to have their say. 

The 60 per cent plus turnout was greater than in previous referendums and even some general elections.

The immensity of the journey Ireland has taken was celebrated across the globe. The referendum was held just 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalised in Ireland. In 2010, civil partnership legislation was enacted which provided legal recognition for gay couples.

And yesterday the electorate fully embraced marriage equality for all as we voted to sweep away Ireland’s history as a conservative nation dominated by the Catholic Church.

The country voted by 63 percent to 37 percent to allow same-sex couples marry and enshrine their families in the constitution.  A total of 1,201,607 voted for, with 734,300 against.

The biggest Yes support came in Dublin, where it topped 70 per cent in many areas, with Dublin South East voting 75 percent Yes.

In Meath, Cork, Tipperary, Kildare, Galway City and Limerick, more than 60 per cent of voters backed the referendum proposal.

Only one constituency Roscommon/South Leitrim voted no, while the Yes vote in Donegal South West was just 50.1 per cent.

There was an outpouring of joy at count centres around the country – and several on-the-spot marriage proposals!

Minister Varadkar said that, while he had no plans to get married, he was proud that Ireland was leading the world.

“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and to do so by popular mandate. So it’s a very proud day, I think, for Irish people.”

And he said that something had been awakened in the Irish people to vote Yes.

“One thing I came across in this referendum was parents in their forties and fifties going out to vote – this is something really different and really special. It’s a very proud day to be Irish,” he said.

“People from the LGBT community are a minority but with so many friends and family and co-workers voting Yes, it’s a majority.”

Senator David Norris, who championed gay rights for four decades in Ireland, described the result “wonderful”.

“I believe that by the end of today, gay people will be equal in this country,” he said as he was applauded by thousands who gathered in Dublin Castle, where a large screen was erected to cater for all those who wanted to see history being made.

Labour party leader Joan Burton said Ireland was becoming a rainbow nation.

“This is a great moment for Ireland,” she said. “In a way we are becoming a rainbow nation where we have a huge amount of diversity.

“I think it’s a great vote for inclusion and equality.”

Senator Katherine Zappone celebrated by proposing live on TV to her partner Ann Louise Gilligan.

They were married in Canada, but their marriage was not recognised here. 

Senator Zappone said: “People are voting for a republic of love.”

Mary Cunningham, director of the National Youth Council of Ireland, praised young voters who turned out in droves for the first time.

“It represents a victory not only for the Yes side, but also for Irish society, Irish democracy and the young people of Ireland,” she said.

“This result sends a strong message to young people across Ireland that they are valued equally.”

Though some 20 other countries worldwide have already legalised gay marriage, Ireland is the first to do so through a referendum. 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the vote would carry out a message internationally of Ireland’s “pioneering leadership”.

Mr Kenny said the higher-than-average turnout showed the “palpable movement” of people who wanted to be involved in a campaign like this.

“I think from a young person’s perspective particularly, for those who travelled from wherever to wherever to put a simple mark on a paper, it shows the value of the issue and the importance of politics.”

He said 60,000 young people registered particularly for the referendum and made a real effort to express their vote.

Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald said the high Yes vote would not have been possible without the large numbers of young voters.

“Seeing Leaving Cert students, still in their uniforms and coming out of polling stations – that will always be a memory I will cherish,” she said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the result will be noted around the world.

“There is something in the DNA of Irish people that reacts to inequality,” he said. “This is a vote in favour of a more inclusive, equal society.”

“There were young people who were ardently campaigning for a Yes vote. We also saw elderly people going out to vote Yes because they had a daughter, a son, a niece, a nephew or a grandchild who was gay.”