Same-sex marriage: gay couples react to Yes vote
‘It means that we’re the same as everybody else. We are now officially part of Ireland’
Linda Cullen and Feargha Ní Bhroan with their twin 5-year-old children Tess and Rosa Cullen Byrne after voting in Monkstown. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Gráinne Courtney and her partner Orla Howard, with Gráinne’s daughter Daire Courtney (left) pictured prior to voting. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Gearóid Kenny and Séamus Moore voting in the marriage referendum in North County Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson
Kit Geraghty and Darragh Staunton pictured in Ranelagh. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Una Mullally with her partner Sarah Francis voting in the marriage referendum in Pearse Street, Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson
Orla Howard and Grainne Courtney
“It like Christmas Eve when I was a ten-year-old,” says Gráinne. “I couldn’t wait for nine o’clock on Saturday
for the boxes to be opened. I haven’t slept for two months,” she adds.
They spent the morning at the count centre. “I finally relaxed and started breathing,” says Orla. “We couldn’t possibly have imagined that it was going to be anything like this – a resounding affirmation. People all over the country actually affirm who we are – that’s the most amazing feeling. So many people went out and voted yes.”
For campaigners like Orla and Gráinne it’s been a long time coming. “This is our legacy,” says Gráinne. “We invested so much in this we didn’t dare hope... I want the moment to go on and on. I don’t want this day to end.”
What does it mean for them?
“It means that we’re the same as everybody else,” says Orla. “We are now officially part of Ireland. My mother-in-law, Gráinne’s mum said ‘You’re going to come back full constitutional citizens of this country.’ That’s what the day is going to bring.”
Séamus Moore and Gearóid Kenny
Séamus and Gearóid, who are getting married in September, celebrated the news of the referendum passing separately because they are in, respectively, Sligo and Tipperary for family confirmations.
“It’s a bit bittersweet because we aren’t together,” says Séamus. “Originally the two of us were saying ‘We have to stay in Dublin’ but I’d already promised to take my nephew go-carting – he’s only 12 – and Gearóid was the sponsor for his niece. We couldn’t turn around and say ‘actually, we have to party in Dublin.’ But it’s lovely. [My nephew] Paul just said ‘It’s great news for you and Gearóid.’”
They’ve been inundated with texts and messages and Séamus says the whole experience has deepened his relationship with Gearóid. “Sixty-two percent of the population are now saying ‘You know what? It’s okay to be gay.’ People have accepted us.”
He says that it’s also lovely to know their impending wedding isn’t just a civil partnership.
“We’re not pretending to get married, we’re actually getting married. We’ve spent the last few months asking all these people can we get married and they’ve all turned around and said we can.”
Timeline of gay rights in Ireland
Feargha Ní Bhroin and Linda Cullen
“Our world has changed. Ireland has changed and I’m just so proud to be Irish today,” says Feargha, “Proud of us as country and a community and so proud of the campaign. Everything has changed.”
She laughs. “Archbishop Diarmuid Martin even said ‘lesbian’ on television.”
As it is, Feargha and Linda’s civil partnership will soon be recognised as a marriage and they are thrilled. “If it had gone the other way it was going to be a terrible, terrible moment where we would understand that we were not accepted,” says Linda.
“But the opposite has happened – we’re fully accepted, fully embraced, fully part of this society and are going to be recognised as such.”
So they’ve offloaded their five-year-old twins for the evening to celebrate? Linda laughs. “Excuse me! Our precious children are being cared for by their aunt.”
Are they anticipating a late night? “Not that late. The children will be up at 6.30 regardless.”
Darragh Staunton and Kit Geraghty
“I was nervous the night before,” says 18-year-old Darragh Staunton, “and the next day my teacher texted me ‘it’s a yes!’”
“I slept in,” says his boyfriend Kit Geraghty. “By the time I’d woken up it had already got to the point where it had passed.”
“It’s fantastic,” says Darragh. “It’s been really emotional. I got really excited and then I was crying for no reason and then got excited again. My mam came home from golf and we hugged. ‘Yay! It’s passed!’”
Did you celebrate? “I was watching Eurovision with my friend and we had cake and stuff,” says Kit. “It was kind of a little party I guess.”
“I studied, played Pokémon and then watched the count and Eurovision,” says Darragh.
The Eurovision was a big part of their celebrations?
“Yeah,” says Kit and he laughs. “I was looking forward to that longer than the referendum.”
What does this mean to them? “It makes me aware of where we stand,” says Kit. “You can see how everyone over the age of 18 feels about us in different counties. I live in Ranelagh where 92% voted ‘yes’... Ireland accepts me, but my specific area really accepts me.”
Una Mullally says that she spent the morning of the count feeling “massive relief”.
“Most of the day it didn’t sink in at all,” she says. “I didn’t cry the entire day and then we were up in Dublin Castle and Colm O’Gorman said I should go up to the stage… I hate doing things like that but I went up with Colm and everybody started cheering and I burst into tears.
“So instead of having a nice silent cry in a toilet it was in front of thousands of people.”
She was increasingly moved by the sense of community, she says. “People always talk about gay pride and ask why we need to have marches – I think finally straight people understood what that pride meant because it became intertwined with national pride. Amhrán na Bhfiann spontaneously burst out in Dublin Castle after the results and everyone was just crying.”
She thinks this change will do amazing things for Irish society. She talks about the younger gay people she met that evening.
“They look physically different now. They look emboldened. The way they carry themselves is different… Coming from feeling so subjugated in society and marginalised – overcoming that and changing the country, it’s the most powerful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
Does it feel different to how she expected it might? “I don’t know how you quantify feeling equal.”