Enda Kenny welcomes ‘palpable movement’ in Irish society

Supporters and critics of same-sex marriage referendum respond to strong Yes vote

 

As what looks like an overwhelming Yes vote pours in across the country in the same-sex marriage referendum, there was a triumphant response from advocates and gracious concession from opponents.

Whatever people’s individual views on the proposed Constitutional amendment, today there is a widespread appreciation the country has spoken, in remarkable numbers.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the significant turn-out showed a “palpable movement” of people wanting to be involved.

“From a young person’s perspective particularly, and for those who travelled from wherever to wherever, to put a single mark on a paper, shows the value of the issue,” he said.

Tanaiste Joan Burton also welcomed the early indicators. “I heard so many different stories of people’s lives where at times, particularly older gay people, they really felt they lived in a shadow and apart and younger people felt this was a moment when they could be free citizens in a free republic.”

The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the vote showed it was “okay to be gay” in modern Ireland.

“I won’t be thanked by my party for saying this but I don’t think political parties won this campaign, I think they helped but it was campaigns like BeLonG To, YesEquality -those civil society groups,” he said.

“And it was also down to, parents who for many years would have been dealing with the emotional pressure of supporting a gay son or a lesbian daughter for many years but didn’t speak about it.”

The Minister for Children James Reilly said many voters had been thinking about their grandchildren and the importance of giving them the same opportunities in life should they be gay.

Prominent No advocate Senator Ronan Mullen said he was not surprised by the seemingly “very substantial majority” in the yes vote but remains concerned about changes to the Constitution and its negative impacts.

“We are operating in a political time and place in Irish culture”, up against a very skilled Yes campaign which had the support of all political parties.

“There is a lot of goodness in Irish people and there is a lot of goodness in why people were voting yes and also why people were voting no,” he said.

Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power said gay campaigners who told their stories on the doorsteps of voters had “helped to change Ireland for all of us” not just the gay community.

She said she had seen many of them reduced to tears by the experience they had during the campaign. For them, it was often “an incredibly difficult thing to do”.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames said the referendum “for me was never anti-gay”. She said she had switched her vote from yes to no simply because of her concerns around Constitutional change and its potential effect on a child’s birthright.

The No advocacy group Mothers and Fathers Matter has expressed “warm congratulations” to the Yes side but said that one in three Irish people - the vote ratio as it currently looks - were not represented by the political establishment.

Labour’s Minister for Communications Alex White said the vote appeared to show the end of a traditional rural/urban divide and that it has been a “unifying day” for the country.

It “speaks to the maturity” of Ireland, he said. “The country were able to open their hearts and able to open the Constitution” to the gay community who sought equality.

David Quinn of the Iona Institute, who congratulated the Yes campaign, said the No vote had been about the central place of a mother and father in the lives of children.

“As a No voter and representing the roughly 35 per cent of people who voted no, just to explain again: everybody gay or straight starts off in life obviously with both a mother and a father; that is just the basic fact of life,” he said.

“My belief, and I think the belief of a lot of No voters would be that our Constitution and laws around family and so on reflect the importance of motherhood and fatherhood. My concern is that our laws can’t reflect that anymore.”