Yes Equality party celebrates successfully rocking the boat

Tears of joy were everywhere at a party so good even the Eurovision was ignored


They are down on the ground at the Yes Equality party in the Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin. Three rows of campaigners, legs around the person in front, arms moving from side to side. It is like the best wedding you have ever been to.

So I’d like to know where, you got the notion?

Said I’d like to know where you got the notion?

To rock the boat, don’t rock the boat baby

The notion has been there for a long time and yesterday the Yes Equality campaigners and 1.2 million Irish people rocked the boat like it had never been rocked before.

“You go through your whole life and you are not the same as everyone else and today over a million people said ‘I think you are the same,’” says Caroline Matthews, all the way from Holland via Bray.

“It’s the proudest day I’ve ever had in my whole life. It’s about the pride of the people. I am just so f**king proud. You can’t print that can you?”

Anything is possible now, Caroline.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald arrives wearing a bright pink jacket and high heels. She thanks everyone.

“I am delighted to be here, it has been an extraordinary day,” she tells the easiest audience she will ever have. “I have been privileged to be the Minister who introduced the legislation to the Dáil.”

Moninne Griffith, co-director of Marriage Equality, is having an “OMG” moment.

It is the “second-best day of her life” after the birth of her daughter Edie almost two years ago. “I just can’t stop crying,” says one of the architects of the national boat-rocking.

She says she feels proud to be Irish, but her partner Clodagh Robinson is so proud of Moninne. “I can say to Edie in the future: ‘Your mammy did this’.

“I am so proud of her,” says the woman who has kept the home fires burning. “It has been eight years and it has literally been all we have done, but now Edie will grow up and no one will ever point a finger.”

Clodagh is crying. The whole room is milling through the tissues. “When Moninne held my hand walking out of the RDS and she said: ‘We are equal now’. It was then it hit me. This means everything.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton is led to the stage. She is in congratulatory mood.

“I’ve just come out of town and the Guards have closed off Capel Street,” she tells a hollering crowd.

“There are people having picnics on the steps of City Hall and I’m told the queues outside the Front Lounge will have you waiting an hour and a half.

“We made history today. Well done Ireland. I hope that the message goes out from here that we’ve made the change and I hope that life in Ireland will be better for everyone.”

Burton is quick to show her appreciation for the Yes Equality campaign and the way it has looked at us.

“It is easy to come up with slogans for the thing you want to get but the art of politics is often knocking at doors – and you did that.

“At the end of the day you did it and today is a bit like the GPO. In 20 years, people will ask you if you were here,” she tells the room. “We have just turned a page on a new chapter of the Irish story.”

If it was old-school knocking on doors “what won it”, John McNamara can take a bow. The accountant found a kindred spirit in Justin McAleese, also of the accounting persuasion, and was part of the team that love-bombed the doorsteps of Dublin South.

The area was so good (and so were they), they did it twice.

It was only on Wednesday, putting in a final canvas of the eight canal bridges, that he knew the canvassers’ efforts had paid off.

“People started beeping their horns and asking for stickers. That evening we had expected to finish at 7pm, but we were out until nearly 9pm and I realised something had shifted. People had decided how they were going to vote and were starting to celebrate.”

Everyone at the Yes Equality party was celebrating on Saturday.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar was relaxing with friends. Senator Averil Power was looking good on the dance floor. Jerry Buttimer was beaming and Minister Aodhan O’Riordan looked good from where we were sitting. To be fair, at that stage, everyone was looking good.

Brian Sheehan, co-director of Marriage Equality, who always looks good, is feeling “totally satisfied”. We giggle, but the serious side soon comes out.

“I am amazed and astonished at the generosity of people. I had always felt we were going to win, but I didn’t ‘know’ we were going to win. I did have a sense of the fairness of the Irish people, however. And I was right.”

“I am thinking of the 14-year-old gay boy going in to do his Junior Cert, or the 18-year-old lesbian about to do her Leaving Cert, and how Irish people have said: ‘We think you are OK.’ It is the biggest message of fairness they could get.”

Maura Molloy and Ursula Barry have been in the hotel-cum-election-bunker all day. They are almost out of tears. As founder members of Irishwomen United, they have been friends for a long time.

They tell The Irish Times that 40 years ago one of the founding principles of the organisation was “the right of all women to a self-defined sexuality.” They smile warmly at each other. Job done.

Ciarán Watson and Conor Irwin are celebrating for themselves and for their gay mothers. “I have two Irish mammies and a dad,” says Conor. He likes it that way.

“For me, it was an equality issue. I know what it means to the lesbian and gay citizens of Ireland. I am so proud we have done this,” he says.

Ciarán came back from Berlin to ensure that if his mother wants to marry, she can.

It was late in Ballsbridge and the party was still going. Ireland was saying goodbye to any lingering stereotypes of backwardness and conservatism. This was Ireland International.

Lots of stereotypes were dying a death. The Yes Equality family was ignoring the big screen showing Sweden winning the Eurovision song contest.

I am the voice in the wind and the pouring rain

I am the voice of your hunger and pain,

I am the voice of the future

I am the voice, I am the voice

Eurovision will just have to wait another year.

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