Crowds celebrate anniversary of marriage equality vote

Politicians and LGBT advocates gather at Dublin Castle reflect on ‘transformative’ referendum

Politicians mingled with newlyweds, families and Yes campaigners in Dublin Castle on Sunday as the sun shone down on the one-year anniversary celebration for the passing of the marriage equality referendum.

One year on from what was hailed as a seminal occasion for Ireland’s LGBT community, revellers reprised the feeling of joy and euphoria that was evident at the same venue for the announcement of the result on May 23rd.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald was present alongside Labour TD Joan Burton and Senator Ivana Bacik as hundreds crowded around a nine-tier wedding cake adorned with rainbow decorations made for the ceremony.

Another minister who was given a particularly warm reception was Katherine Zappone, whose embrace with partner Ann Louise Gilligan after a second marriage proposal became inextricably associated with the scenes of celebration that day.


“As Ann Louise and I came walking into Dublin Castle it all came flooding back. There were so many people just flowing in, so all of that joyful feeling was with us,” she said.

“We had a renewal of our vows in January and it was everything that we had hoped for to have our family and friends in City Hall in front of us as we declared our forever love to each other.”

Among the multitudes who dusted off their brightly-coloured Yes Equality t-shirts from a year ago was 17 year-old Kai Donohoe, who is looking forward to going to her first full gay wedding later this year following the vote.

"My aunts are getting married just after Pride this year so I'm really excited to go to my first gay wedding. It's reassuring for me to know that in the future I can have a family and it'll be ok," she said.

Despite describing the scene as "strange", David Barrett was happy that huge progress has been made on LGBT issues since 1.2 million people voted to introduce gay marriage into legislation.

“It feels strange to be here again with a very similar crowd. It nearly feels like a different era – before and after the day.

“Just walking around you certainly see more openly gay couples. I now get nagged about the fact that myself and my boyfriend have been dating for four years. My sister’s getting married to her partner next year and that would have been unthinkable before,” he said.

First state

The referendum result meant Ireland became the first state to vote for gay marriage in a plebiscite, and the Ms Fitzgerald said the country has shown global leadership in the area.

“I think it was a transformative decision last year, quite clearly, and I think the whole of the LGBTI community would say that,” she said.

“I think we can show that this is nothing to be frightened about, it’s about liberating people, about respecting different identities.

“I think at an international level Ireland is now in a position to show leadership because there are some instances of horrific discrimination still in relation to LGBTI across the world.”

The ceremony coincided with the release of a poll conducted by LGBT rights organisation BeLonG To which indicated that many young people have felt empowered to come out as gay following the referendum, but challenges remain in providing support for these individuals.

The survey of more than 1,300 people aged between 14-23 and from all sexual orientations found that more than half know someone who has come out for the first time within the last year.

However, 62 per cent of participants agreed that those who come out do not know where to turn for support and advice.

"We celebrate along with the happy couples who have benefited from marriage equality so far this year and their families and friends," said BeLonG To director Moninne Griffith.

“We know from the young people we work with everyday, that sadly their daily lives are broadly unaffected by the referendum. They are still experiencing bullying, isolation, mental health issues and are struggling without the right support.”