There were no losers in Friday’s referendum. Love won, and when love wins, nobody loses – not even those who voted no and did not want the amendment to be made.
This referendum was important and it really caught my kids’ attention. Ishthara, at 13, was a bit stumped that we would even have to vote on it in the first place. Why would a civil right be reserved for one ‘type’ of person? On Wednesday night, Kashmira sent me a text to let me know how many minutes were left before I could vote. On Thursday night, she set her alarm for 6.30am to make sure I was up in time to vote. (I explained that I wasn’t voting until 10.30am, so there was no need for her alarm!).
On Friday night, she was anxious – worried that, somehow, our electorate might not actually vote in favour of equality – so I was delighted to bring the news to her that the early reports were good. As we listened to the radio and I refreshed my Twitter feed every two seconds, we found sitting still difficult. Both my girls expressed a desire to be in the courtyard of Dublin Castle when the result was declared. They wanted to be there, they wanted to share the excitement and the joy and to celebrate.
We were lucky; getting to Dublin Castle just after 2pm, we managed to get right up the front, with just one line of people between us and the crush barrier. There was so much joy, so much celebration, so much love in the air that we wouldn’t have wanted to have been everywhere else.
Cheers of joy went up every time a constituency returned its numbers, and yet another area of the country turned green. Cork, for some reason, kept us waiting more than two hours. In the end, however, they were forgiven, because they voted ‘yes’, too.
‘Will this be in history books in the future?’ Kashmira asked.
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘And I can say I was there.’
There were so many beautiful moments – like when Katherine Zappone re-proposed to Ann Louise Gilligan; when David Norris took to the stage and he and Colm O’Gorman embraced. When Colm asked the crowd if anyone had seen Úna Mullally, and when Úna made her way on stage and was overwhelmed and Colm held her and let her cry on his shoulder. The young French woman at the end who was just standing, alone, crying tears of joy. I walked to her and hugged her and she explained that she was French but so proud of Ireland and so proud to be with us on the most day in our recent history. Personally, I was very proud of David Carroll and Grainne Healy with whom I studied in DCU, who were gracious in their victory.
One of the messages that rang out loud and clear yesterday was that Irish people are a generally decent lot and that we can be trusted to make decisions for ourselves; something our government would do well to remember when treating us like children and making decisions on our behalf that are not in our best interests.
Now that we have brought marriage equality to these shores, we have other issues to sort out – child poverty; the lack of abortion rights; women’s rights; children’s rights, and our appalling suicide rates all need to be tackled. Let’s grab the momentum generated by the recent campaign and make it work for us on these other important issues, too.