Irish in Australia: ‘Some of today’s result belongs to the Irish’

Readers share their stories as the country they call home says yes to marriage equality

Australians celebrated as the country voted overwhelmingly for same-sex marriage, paving the way for legislation by the end of 2017. Australia will become the 26th nation to formalise the unions if the legislation is passed. Video: Reuters

 

Parades and parties have been taking place across Australia today as people celebrate the Yes result in a postal survey on marriage equality.

The public voted by 61.6 per cent to 38.4 per cent in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.

Irish Times Abroad asked readers living there to share their personal stories views about the result. Below is a selection of the responses we received.

Colm O’Callaghan, Sydney: ‘Tonight is a night for joy’

Colm O’Callaghan: ‘I have a smile from ear to ear, and happy tears in my eyes.’
Colm O’Callaghan: ‘I have a smile from ear to ear, and happy tears in my eyes.’

It’s 9.45pm and I’m floating home on William Street on the stretch between Sydney’s Hyde Park and King’s Cross, the place I call home now (I’m originally from Co Offaly). I’ve a smile from ear to ear, and happy tears in my eyes. As an Irish person living in Australia, this campaign has been doubly painful. We’d barely caught our breath after the Irish win in May 2015 - processed the elation, the emotion, the fact that we weren’t permitted to vote in the most relevant referendum to most LGBTQI people in our living memories - when the campaign started to mount in earnest in Australia.

Even for the most resilient, there are only so many reserves one has to call on during a public vote regarding your basic human rights - twice! But with double the pain comes double the joy, and tonight is a night for joy. The Sydney night is ablaze with music, dancing and protest. In a corner of Hyde Park, two of our legendary DJs, Ben Drayton and Matt Vaughan, have just raised the roof off the night sky, with queer people and their allies of all ages dancing for love.

Raymond Blessing and family: ‘Judy and I had three daughters and our third daughter became our son in 2015. So we are very passionate about equality for people.’
Raymond Blessing and family: ‘Judy and I had three daughters and our third daughter became our son in 2015. So we are very passionate about equality for people.’

Raymond Blessing, Melbourne: ‘I am experiencing great joy as the father of a transgender son’

Having arrived in Australia from Leitrim in 1973 I didn’t expect that in 2017 I would be experiencing great joy as the father of a transgender son. What a wonderful day for parents of LGBTI people, to see the Australian electorate vote by a significant majority to recognise LGBTI people are entitled to equality. It was sad we needed a plebiscite to achieve such a result but hopefully it will reduce the discrimination and prejudice that currently exists for gay people. Australia has finally taken the lead from the example set by Ireland.

Craig McMahon, Sydney: ‘We’ve set dates for our weddings’

By brother Alan and I are Dubs, living in Australia for 10 and 17 years, and our partners are Aussie. While as a nation it’s a day to rejoice, it’s extra special for our family, as my brother and I recently got engaged to our respective partners but I refused to set a date until my brother could legally marry his partner over here. After today’s results, we’ve set dates within a week of each other so our family and friends can come over from Dublin to attend both weddings. I couldn’t be happier for my brother and his partner today.

Michael Byron, Adelaide: ‘There were tears here and in Dublin for this family’

Byron family: ‘It is fantastic to have the re-assurance that my son and his future partner will have equal treatment in the future regardless of which country they decide to live in.’
Byron family: ‘It is fantastic to have the re-assurance that my son and his future partner will have equal treatment in the future regardless of which country they decide to live in.’

We are an Irish family living in Adelaide since 2009. Our 20-year-old son is gay and has been living in Dublin since last year, where he is studying Psychology at UCD. The gay community over here is a beautiful one but a fragile one, living with a degree of fear and inequality, until now. There were tears here and in Dublin this morning for this family. Isn’t it so fantastic to have the reassurance that our son and his future partner will have equal treatment in the future regardless of which country they decide to live in.

Jane McGuire, Sydney: ‘Some of today’s result belongs to the Irish’

I left Dublin in 1998. Australia represented freedom to explore and express feelings that were quashed and best kept secret in Ireland. As a visitor through the Celtic Tiger years, I watched Ireland cast off the shackles of the Catholic doctrine and apply critical thinking to what is actually fair, just and truly Christian. Worldly alternate views returned to Irish shores. I felt more proud than anyone to see my home country set the pace for others to follow in May 2015.

Today, Australia did the right thing. Some of today’s result belongs to the Irish for displaying what is possible, when religious values are interpreted as aspirational not literal. Emigration broke and built our countries. In a time of polarising global political turbulence, in my world, on this topic, Ireland and Australia have come full circle. Thank you both.

Clara McMullin: ‘I voted yes for my Irish-Australian children, so they will grow up knowing love is love.’
Clara McMullin: ‘I voted yes for my Irish-Australian children, so they will grow up knowing love is love.’

Tadgh McMahon, Sydney: ‘We’ll be the first in the queue to register our Irish marriage’

A big shout-out to the people of Ireland for showing the way to the people Australia; you were part of the push for equality here. As a dual Irish-Australian citizen I didn’t get to vote in the Irish referendum, but I did have the chance to marry my partner of more than 20 years (a lovely man from Western Australia) in Ireland last year. We made our commitment in front of close friends and family and rounded the day off with a night in the local pub in West Kerry. We’re still not there yet in Australia. Our parliament needs to legislate. When they do, we’ll be the first in the queue to register our Irish marriage here in Australia.

Marty Kavanagh, Ireland's Honorary Consul in Western Australia 'The Irish referendum was referenced throughout the campaign'

It was great to see today that Australians have approved same-sex marriage in almost exactly the same percentage as Ireland 62:38. Many in the Irish community have been active in the campaign nationally and at grassroots level. The Irish referendum was referenced throughout the campaign and I think our result led many Australians to say: If it's ok for Ireland - it's ok for us Aussies. Lots of very happy LGBTQI Australians today.

Louise Conville, Sydney: ‘Today symbolises what Australians have wanted all along’

Louise Conville’s #DIYrainbow in Sydney.
Louise Conville’s #DIYrainbow in Sydney.

We often spend warm afternoons making chalk drawings on the pavement outside our house in Sydney, my husband, sons and I, from flowers and fire engines to characters from Frozen. One April day in 2013, the NSW government spent $30,000 removing a rainbow-coloured pedestrian crossing from Sydney’s Oxford Street overnight. It had been painted to mark the city’s 35th annual Mardi Gras, and it brought many people joy. We swapped our sketches of Angry Birds and Autobots for a big rainbow spanning the width of our house. It wasn’t our idea and we weren’t alone, and lots of #diyrainbows appeared in all sorts of places at home and abroad, from Brisbane to Brooklyn.

Today marks progress, and symbolises, at great expense, what Australians have wanted all along, because love is love. It paves the way for our politicians to make the right decision for and by the people in December (and start spending money in less ridiculous ways). Hopefully, when they grow up, my sons, all their friends and peers will be able to marry whoever they fall in love with.

Emile Quinn, Melbourne: ‘Today is not quite Australia’s day in the sun’

I am Irish, Australian, an immigrant and gay. I cried uncontrollably with pride when I watched the scenes in Dublin at the passing of the referendum in 2015. But I can’t say this moment makes me feel the same way. I am happy for my friends and wider community who are celebrating wildly now. I am grateful to those who have campaigned in much more difficult times in decades past at great personal cost. But, there is still trepidation about actually passing the legislation.

The “debate”’ has been a disturbing one full of lies and misinformation from the No side. It has emboldened an already rising conservative voice in Australian politics. They are not the views of the wider electorate yet they deftly and strategically have been forcing their values and views about life upon me and scaremongering others. I have felt “oppression” for possibly the first time in my life.

One of my closest friends and I were among the last generations to leave Ireland in 2002 because we didn’t feel a place for us there. I feel the countries have reversed roles. Ireland is the land of enlightened, respectful, honest debate. Australia has turned into a country drowning in hysteria about people coming in boats and locking up asylum seekers in offshore prisons.

Today is not quite Australia’s day in the sun. But I am optimistic. And I am now Australian for all its faults and opportunities, just as I am Irish. I will participate fully in shaping this lucky country I feel blessed to call home. I know future generations of LGBTQI+ persons in Australia are better off tomorrow than they were today.

Siobhán Heduan with her partner Sammy and their son Rían: ‘Public recognition is vital for families like ours.’
Siobhán Heduan with her partner Sammy and their son Rían: ‘Public recognition is vital for families like ours.’

Siobhán Heduan, Brisbane: ‘Public recognition is vital for families like ours’

I moved from Leixlip to Australia with my sister Grainne in 2005 for a year of fun and adventure. I met Sammy, the love of my life in Brisbane in 2006. We now have a beautiful five-year-old boy, Rían. We have always felt accepted as a “normal” family. The opportunity to legally get married, like our friends and family is priceless. The public recognition is vital for families like ours and the wider community. Well done Australia!

Philip Lynch, Tasmania: ‘I felt embarrassed to be asked for my opinion’

As a straight person, I felt embarrassed to be asked for my opinion on whether gay people should be allowed to marry. For a supposedly secular country, it was excruciating to have to listen to the argument of the “no” campaign; with dissenters citing religious freedom and sex education in schools as being their chief reasons for their opposition. It was difficult not to conclude that plain old homophobia and bigotry were the real reasons underlying the debate.

But for all that, it was a remarkably restrained debate, considering the plebiscite was foisted upon the public at significant expense. Many Australians would have preferred our parliament simply legislated for marriage equality when it already had overwhelming bipartisan support to do so.

With the result of our marriage equality plebiscite in the affirmative, Australia finally looks set to formally endorsing same sex marriage, mostly likely by Christmas. All in all, it is an excellent day for all fair-minded Australians. And to cap things off, earlier this evening in Sydney our Socceroos secured their berth in the World Cup soccer in Russia.

Ciara Nic Eabhairdh with her son: ‘I’m absolutely delighted that love came out on top in Australia.’
Ciara Nic Eabhairdh with her son: ‘I’m absolutely delighted that love came out on top in Australia.’

Marcus Dervin, Sydney: ‘Other prehistoric attitudes need to shift’

When I came to Australia from Co Cork in 1997, I was amazed at the Mardi Gras Parade, and how much more progressive Australia was than the Ireland I had just left. Twenty years on, it was Ireland that had progressed, Australia stuck in right-wing politics, stuck in time. Finally there is a shift. We will see what happens from here, but the treatment of refugees, support of coal, and other prehistoric attitudes need to shift fast if we are to stay strong in the global economy. It will pass in parliament, maybe not be December, but surely in the new year. 75 per cent of voters in Tony Abbot’s constituency voted yes. I wonder if that will quieten him a little.

Megan Etherton, Melbourne: ‘It’s amazing to witness that joy and relief all over again’

In Melbourne I work at a design agency that donates 5 per cent of revenue for positive social impact, and each staff member gets to direct $5,000 of that money to a cause that they care about. I gave my allocation to the Yes campaign, and to design and print some giant posters that went up around the city, urging people to post their votes.

Before and during the postal vote we were discussing how we could make an impact even though we didn’t have a vote, by going to rallies, having conversations with people, and tidying up vandalised equality artwork. Today we switched on the big screen and cheered at the result. Even though I couldn’t vote, it’s amazing to witness that joy and relief all over again.

Grace Walsh: ‘I am so utterly relieved that the Yes vote came through.’
Grace Walsh: ‘I am so utterly relieved that the Yes vote came through.’

Grace Walsh, Tasmania: ‘I saw the impact it had on young people’

Watching the lead up to the postal survey has been excruciating, having already witnessed how horrific and damaging an experience it was at times for friends from the LGBTI+ community in Ireland. The fact that it is a non-binding result, and was not needed was even more infuriating. There was the same fear mongering, baseless and confused arguments against marriage equality and the sense of injustice when a minority is given the opportunity to vote on the rights of a minority.

As a youth worker in a small school in Northwest Tasmania, I was privy to the impact it had on young people who identify. I am relieved the Yes vote came through, but still feel it was an unnecessary process. I just hope the parliament make sure this passes as quickly, and painlessly as possible.

Patrick Beary, Sydney: ‘Huge congratulations to Tiernan Brady’

While this is a fantastic result, I am pretty exhausted with the conversation around Marriage Equality and I am sure there are many more people like me, and I am a gay man. It should not have taken this long to achieve. Huge congratulations to Tiernan Brady who executed this campaign with so much passion. A lot of people will be celebrating tonight after all their hard work; they certainly deserve the recognition for persevering.

Mike McGettrick, Canberra: ‘It was none of my business’

I understood the reason why Ireland had a vote to allow same sex marriages. I believe it was a public demonstration that the people of Ireland were no longer accepting of the dictates of the Catholic Church. In Australia I could not understand why I should be asked if it was okay for two people to marry. It was none of my business.

David Murphy, Melbourne: ‘It is an incremental step toward social justice for all’

David Murphy: ‘The fight’s not over and everyone is aware of that.’
David Murphy: ‘The fight’s not over and everyone is aware of that.’

I’m 34, originally from Ballymun and working for a health insurer in Melbourne. I wasn’t able to vote so I made a 30-minute radio programme about the issues I thought were affecting the LGBT community the most; the lies in the press about how marriage equality would hurt children, and the vitriolic comments online. Everyone’s happy it went through but we’re all concerned that the right-wing of the LNP coalition will try to strip away other protections under the guise of protecting religious freedoms. The fight’s not over and everyone is aware of that. The same people who dislike the LGBT community don’t like Muslims much either, or asylum seekers, or welfare recipients. It’s important to find common cause and see this day as an incremental step toward social justice for all.

Lisa Dunne, Melbourne: ‘I was lectured about why I should vote yes’

It was great to finally have the results of the Marriage Equality Survey read today. Not just because it has been a long wait for those who want to be able to marry, or support a loved one who wishes to, but because I can go out again. Everywhere I went, I was being lectured about why I should vote yes, by friends, acquaintances and colleagues. It was always my intention to vote yes, and I did.

I am a reasonably well educated person, with critical thinking skills and I have contact with a diverse range of people in the community. I can decide based on my experience of the world. I didn’t need the text messages or the lessons on morality by so many of the people I met. I felt it was very undemocratic.

Sadhbh Warren: ‘There were lots of cheers, tears and airpunches at work when the result came through, but it’s not pure joy here in Sydney. More satisfaction at getting a good result in so we can push for some actual change.’
Sadhbh Warren: ‘There were lots of cheers, tears and airpunches at work when the result came through, but it’s not pure joy here in Sydney. More satisfaction at getting a good result in so we can push for some actual change.’

Amy Kennelly, Tralee: ‘I’m proud to have called Australia home’

Last night at 11pm, I turned on the livestream to watch the Australian Bureau of Statistics announce the results of the plebiscite. As soon as the numbers were called out I had a rush of emotion, that same one I had two years ago in my bedroom in Sydney when I watched the results of the Irish referendum roll in. Relief and joy, and a twinge of homesickness.

Last week, I returned to Ireland after living in Australia for four and a half years. My LGBTQ friends were such an important part of my life there. As any emigrant will know your friends become your family when you live away from home, and with my family this year I took part in the Mardi Gras parade, performed in a drag-inspired improv troupe, and in recent months, marched for equality on the streets of Sydney.

I have seen how difficult it has been for my friends who have had to endure television debates, No-campaign ads, and have discussions with people who were deciding whether or not the civil right of marriage should be afforded to them. I could not fathom how it would have felt if a No vote had been returned. Now we all hope that the Australian government will act swiftly in progressing this mandate from the people to law.

I woke up this morning to another flurry of messages, as the celebrations waged on. My heart is swelling with love and joy, and though I have returned to Ireland, today I feel a sense of pride that I have called Australia home.

Saoirse Connolly, Sydney: 'My granny, was a veteran marriage equality campaigner'

Madeline Connolly, my granny, was a veteran marriage equality campaigner. A devout Catholic, she never missed mass a day in her life, but she believed God made us all equal and everyone should have the opportunity to get married. At the ripe old age of 90 she did everything she could to ensure love got over the line in Ireland in 2015.

Being away from Ireland during that pivotal time in our nation’s history was incredibly hard.  It broke my heart not to be able to have a say in a decision that affected so many of my friends and family.

But with the equality campaign in Australia reaching the final stages and concern over the low levels of 18-35 year olds taking part, Jen Stallard and I used our Deep House Yoga Project class to raise awareness for the Yes vote, and more than $500 for the Sydney LGBTQI community centre.

 Australia’s Yes was a reminder for me that solidarity is key. I’ve never been more proud of this country I call home. Now it’s time for the government to get on with their job and legalise same-sex marriage immediately.

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