Ireland should become international advocate for gay rights: Gilmore

NewsBy Karl Doyle
Eamon Gilmore
Eamon Gilmore

Ireland should become the international advocate for gay rights, former Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore has said.

Gilmore, who pushed the government to hold the historic referendum, said the landmark ballot puts an onus on Ireland to fight oppression on the global stage.

"I think we do need to take this result and advance it but to advance it internationally rather than domestically," he said.

"If you look at many parts of the world it is not just gay marriage is not available to gay people it is that homosexual people in many parts of the world are persecuted, are criminalised and really are second class citizens."

On the back of the resounding yes for gay marriage - 1.2 million voters backed it - attention is now turning to when the first ceremonies will take place.

New laws are expected to be passed by the Dail before the summer recess, with couples obliged to give a registrar the standard three month notification of a wedding day.

While there are likely to be exceptions to the wait, in circumstances such as serious illness, the first ceremonies are not expected until late autumn.

Within hours of the victory for gay rights campaigners, the reform was being billed as a massive boost for Ireland’s reputation on the international stage, sentiments backed by former foreign affairs chief Gilmore.

"Around the world today there are countries that have people who are looking at Ireland and looking at it favourably, want to visit, want to be part of it, and see it in an entirely new light," he said.

"I think we also have an obligation to take that decision, to take that mandate, to take the moral authority from that vote and to become international advocates for the rights of LGBT people who are being oppressed.

"It gives Ireland an opportunity to take on a role that fits very well with the human rights role that we have always pursued - to become the international advocates, to use the authority of that ballot box on Friday to make the world a better place for the LGBT community."

It is only 22 years since homosexuality was decriminalised here.

Passed by 62 per cent of voters, the referendum heralded a dramatic shift in social values.

It also saw Irish voters write the country into history books as it became the first time gay marriage has been backed by a popular vote.

Government officials will now set about enshrining a new section in the 1937 Constitution stating that: "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex."

Elsewhere, the result sparked some soul searching in one of Ireland’s leading Catholic clerics.

Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, declared the groundswell of support for same-sex couples a social revolution and warned that it did not happen in the day before polling.

"I think really the Church needs to do a reality check," the cleric said.

The huge majority for gay marriage also raised questions about if or when a similar referendum or reform would be introduced in Northern Ireland - the only region of the UK not to adopt similar laws.