Listen up: Roísín Ingle on . . . the emotional highs of Equality Day
We stood connected, hearts brimming with gratitude, under blue skies and warm sun
Marriage-equality supporters at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times
Too much. We kept repeating it to each other. By way of a greeting. Instead of ‘hello’ or ‘how’s it going?’ neither of which would cut it on this day of days. Instead we said: “Too much.” On that Saturday, May 23rd in the year 2015. We said it to people we knew and to people we’d never met. We said it with our voices but also with our eyes and with our smiles. Too much.
It needed to be vocalised. Said out loud. Set free. There was too much emotion. Too many feelings. Too much happiness. Too many tears. All that elation. All that jubilation. The hope. The disbelief. Too much, we kept saying to each other as though we thought we couldn’t handle it only to discover that yes we could. Yes.
It was a rare gift of a Saturday. We stood connected, hearts brimming with gratitude, under blue skies and warm sun. For the rest of our lives we can close our eyes and ride that wave again. On cue, stomachs will flutter with recalled giddiness. Eyes will moisten. We will stop for a moment on busy days and taste all that joy whooping into the courtyard of Dublin Castle on May 23rd in the year 2015. See it spilling out onto the streets, floating into the air, conjuring up a double rainbow in the sky over Dublin in case anybody was in doubt about whether or not the universe believed equal marriage was a good idea.
I don’t think I have ever laughed as much in one day. Or cried as much. And you know I like to sing, but I don’t think I’ve ever sung as much either. We were standing all afternoon in front of a big screen. Looking at a low-fi map of Ireland, waiting for all but one of the counties to turn from grey to green. The majority supporting a minority. Too much. Every so often the screen was slowly refreshed, and a new county that had said yes was revealed and we’d cheer or burst into another round of Equality Karaoke: A Whole New World. Pride (In the Name of Love.) All You Need Is Love.
Dublin Castle on May 23rd in the year 2015 was not the place to be if you didn’t like PDAs. (public displays of affection). Or, for that matter, PDEs (public displays of emotion). We’d never been hugged so tightly or doled out so many hugs. I met ecstatic mothers who had come to celebrate with their gay children. I met a couple of beaming women who had just announced to their friends that they were expecting a baby. I met children waving rainbow flags sitting on the shoulders of their parents. So many newly liberated women. So many weeping men. One of them was a friend I hadn’t seen for a good while. We hugged as he cried, shaking, disbelieving, overcome with the emotion. Equal for the first time in his life. It was, he said, Too Much.
Earlier that day, on the 23rd of May in the year 2015, my sister Katie and her husband Killian held a naming ceremony for their baby daughter Iseult. They had rainbow bunting outside the house and in his speech Killian spoke of how glad he was that Iseult, when she grew up, could marry whoever she liked.
It set me off for the first time that day. Not the last by a long shot. So many magic moments. A young female couple telling a news reporter they could walk easy now while holding each other’s hand in public. Una Mullally up on the stage, her fists pumping the air before the tears took over, her head resting on Colm O’Gorman’s chest who held her there, a perfect portrait.
More heroes. To name just a few: Gráinne Healy, Rory O’Neill, Moninne Griffith, Brian Sheehan, Andrew Hyland, David Norris, Averil Power, Leo Varadkar, Ivana Bacik, Frances Fitzgerald, Simon Coveney, Katherine Zappone, Ann Louise Gilligan, Pat Carey, John Lyons, Eamon Gilmore, Joan Burton, Enda Kenny.
We cheered like they were headline acts at Electric Picnic. We roared their names on this rare day. When it seemed like the whole world was giving Ireland a high five. Except for a tiny corner of Italy, where this joy and beauty and happiness was observed and then described as the “death of humanity”. You’d have to have compassion for anyone with a mind that worked that way.
Finally, when Cork turned from grey to green we spilled out onto Dame Street which had turned into Equality Street. Cars beeped. Flags waved. Crowds danced. By 9pm I was walking home through Temple Bar looking into the eyes of people, drinking in the joy. The next day my daughter asked: “Was it better than the day we were born?”. And I said that it wasn’t but that it was close. So very, very close. Too Much.