Irish Eyes Are Smiling

By Eoin O’Donnell

How can they see the love in our eyes And still they don’t believe us And after all this time They don’t want to believe us And if they don’t believe us now Will they ever believe us? – Morrissey 


The votes counted, a Yes result declared, the national and international headlines written, and a major session’s been had.

For many in Ireland, Friday’s vote to legalise same-sex marriage made for a historic Saturday of celebrations – but Sunday has always been a day to reflect (and genuflect).

Lest we forget what an illiberal and backward kip this place can be, it was little more than 20 years ago that it was still a crime to be gay on these shores. That every major political party officially backed the Yes vote (to allow same-sex couples to wed) was not some wildly progressive move, however, rather, it was a simple case of old school politics: gauge the zeitgeist, estimate the numbers, aim for the right side of history.

Lest we forget what an illiberal and backward kip this place can be

Many of these same ‘progressive’, Yes vote, political folk were in situ back in the 80s when one of their own senators, David Norris, took a case to the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to end the criminalisation of homosexuality, which was then an offence. The title of that case was ‘Norris v. Ireland’ – a neat summation of the oppressive intolerance Norris and every other LGBT person must have felt in the climate of the time. Norris won, but it would be a full five years, in 1993, before homosexuality was decriminalised, making  Ireland one of the last countries in the western world to do so.

But that was far from the end of the national orthodoxy. It took until 1996, and a different referendum, before the right to a divorce arrived – and, even then, there was a shit-load of people none too happy about it. Despite it being less than 20 years ago, the Yes side on that occasion had to crawl to the barest of victories, managing just 50.28% of the vote.

With Irish citizens too often travelling to do so by ferry, the debate surrounding that issue has, quite literally, sailed.

To the present, then, where (despite more votes and amendments) abortion is still illegal and still the country’s dirtiest secret – one simply exported to mainland Britain. With Irish citizens too often travelling to do so by ferry, the debate surrounding that issue has, quite literally, sailed.

So, it is against such a backdrop that The Marriage Equality Bill 2015 arrived to once more tear away the cultural scab and expose Ireland’s curious, moral subdivisions.

But, beneath all the bluster and impassioned debate, it’s already passed, the only thing that counts: on Saturday, May 23rd, 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote – 62% for the Yes side and 38% for the No.

Riding on the coat tails of that historic vote, we took to the streets of Dublin city on Saturday evening to catch a glimpse of the celebrations…

 

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