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The Gayest Day in Irish History

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I went to bed at 1am last night. After a joyous evening of Eurovision and Twitter celebration. Seeing images of the rainbow-coloured flags flying over Dublin Castle. The rainbow-coloured balloons on the #HomeToVote trains from London.

ref5My husband rolled over and said – “You OK?”

“I’m so happy.” I said. And went to sleep smiling.

I woke up again. And smiled again.

As the Women’s Council of Ireland said this morning: “Pinch yourself. It really happened. #WeMadeHistory.”… and it really feels like it. Like a massive shift.

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Ireland is the first country in the world to democratically approve marriage irrespective of gender. It has been a populist mass-movement. The Irish Spring. The Rainbow Spring… It has been discussed and debated on Twitter and Facebook. In living rooms and long-distance calls.

We all knew just how much it mattered.

So often Ireland can feel like a very conservative, blinkered country. Especially when it comes to the family. And sexuality. Our family feels so out of step with the Catholic majority on so many issues. Or rather with the Church. But not with the people. Yesterday it was clear just how far out of step with the people the Church has become.

Oh, people of Ireland, how you fill my heart with such hope. So many stories I have heard – the local priest who refused to read out the Bishop’s letter from the pulpit, and instead told people to follow their hearts. Our former President who told of her gay son, a well-known journalist in her middle years who came out publicly…

The covers of the Sunday papers are covered with images of rainbow-coloured flags. Men kissing men. Women embracing women.

Love is literally the headline.

On the front pages of the mainstream press.

ref6And yet, astonishingly, homosexuality was only legalised here in 1993. What a powerful transition.

Young people voted. In their tens of thousands. With joy and gusto.

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They travelled in their thousands back to their homeland – from Boston and Bangkok, Berlin and Brixton. Home to a country that cannot give them a job. To vote for their fellow country people. To say YES. 50,000 people.

ref3They bucked the beliefs that young people are politically disengaged. The people of Ireland thumbed their noses at the dominant doctrine that people only vote for what is in their own self-interest.

People voted YES, so that OTHER PEOPLE could be happy and free.

In the moving words of Fintan O’Toole:

The resounding Yes is a statement that Ireland has left tolerance far behind. It’s saying that there’s no “them” anymore. LGBT people are us — our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, neighbours and friends. We were given the chance to say that. We were asked to replace tolerance with the equality of citizenship. And we took it in both arms and hugged it close.

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On a basic level it was a triumph of love. Love over fear. Fear of difference, fear of the unknown, fearmongering by the No campaign.

It was a full embrace of diversity and equality. Of the fact that people come in all different ways… and we’re happy about that.

People were told by the No campaign to vote for freedom of conscience… and they did. They voted for love.

As did god…

ref4After many dark years in this country – years of austerity, hideous revelations about abuse and corruption in every layer of Church and State, mass emigration… the sun has broken through the clouds… and the rainbow fills us with hope for the future… one that we can build together, for us all.

In the wise words of Fintan O’Toole:

It has given our battered republic a new sense of engagement, a new confidence, an expanded sense of possibility.

It has shown all of us that the unthinkable is perfectly attainable.

We now have to figure out how to rise to that daunting and exhilarating challenge.

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