62.1% vs 37.9%
Today, Ireland turned a corner by becoming the first country in the world to approve gay marriage by popular vote. A corner a lot of people have been struggling with for decades. A fear that many were afraid of voicing, afraid of a Catholic Church still instilling that famous Irish guilt in many.
Religion has always been a tough subject in Ireland as it continuously interfered in issues it had no clue about at all. Contraception was illegal until 1980, and it was illegal for single people to buy a condom until 1992. There was a constitutional ban on divorce until 1995 (and can still take +5 years to be finalised), and homosexuality was a criminal offense until the 1990s. While the Catholic Church itself harbours and moves around paedophile priests without punishing them, and nuns chastised pregnant girls and women in its Magdalen Laundries, it continued punishing its flock for having ‘impure thoughts’.
When the Labour party put forward the idea about a same-sex marriage equality referendum in 2013, nobody imagined it would turn into what it became yesterday: an emotional campaign for Ireland as a nation. It was about civil and human rights.
Irish people were crossing the country to vote in their constituency, and people living in Canada, the US, Thailand, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand flew home just to vote. Money was donated to those who couldn’t afford flights, accommodation offered and family and friends gathered around for that important vote that could finally mean inclusion and equality for the entire Irish community.
One of my favourite orators in Irish politics, as well as a real Joycean, David Norris has finally been lauded on a national level. He was credited with having “managed, almost single-handedly, to overthrow the anti-homosexuality law which brought about the downfall of Oscar Wilde”, a feat he achieved in 1988 after a fourteen-year campaign.
Equality is finally a given to all people living in Ireland. Finally young voters have been listened to. I could not be happier for friends and acquaintances who were desperate for a ‘Yes’ vote. While I tried working out what the gay community went through from my own straight views, I realised it was about one thing only. Love. Inclusion. Diversity. Equality.
After an eight-year recession struggle, and as the world watched today’s extraordinary news unfold, Ireland has finally come of age.
Neurologically challenged by MS and personally by her will to succeed, Willeke is a disability awareness advocate seeking to improve neurological/MS services in Ireland. By highlighting difficult issues that come with such a diagnosis, she hopes her tenacity can bring some dignity to people most in need of a modern, inclusive healthcare system that looks after every aspect of life.
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