London | Gay rights groups hailed victory in Ireland’s referendum to allow same-sex marriage today after the No campaigners effectively conceded defeat in the historic vote. Everyone seems to be predicting a ‘yes’ and that seems to be the case at the moment. It’s disappointing, said John Murray from Catholic think tank the Iona Institute, which spearheaded the No campaign.
Early indications suggest the Republic of Ireland has voted to legalise same-sex marriage in a historic referendum. More than 3.2 million people were asked whether they wanted to amend the country’s constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Counting started at 0800 GMT this morning. An unusually high turnout has been reported. The final result is expected later today.
If the change is approved, the Republic of Ireland would become the first country to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular vote. Minister for Equality Aodhan O Riordain said on Twitter: I’m calling it. Key boxes opened. It’s a yes. And a landslide across Dublin. And I’m so proud to be Irish today.
Legalising gay marriage would be a seismic change in the traditionally Catholic republic, where homosexuality was illegal until 1993 and abortion remains prohibited except where the mother’s life is in danger. Opinion polls forecast a comfortable victory for the Yes campaign. However, supporters have been warning for weeks of a large block of ‘shy’, largely rural and elderly No voters, who have not been as vocal in the campaign.
State broadcaster RTE said polling stations were recording a higher turnout than usual for referendums, with voting levels in cities such as Dublin, Limerick and Waterford predicted to top 60 per cent. It said large numbers of young voters were noted across the country, with queues stretching outside some polling stations during the early morning and late evening peaks.
In a sign of how much interest the referendum has attracted, the government announced that the 2,000-capacity grounds of Dublin Castle would be open to the public to hear the official result announcement. All Ireland’s main political parties, including the conservatives, supported amending the constitutional definition of marriage. Gerry Adams, president of the socialist Sinn Fein opposition party, said the referendum brought the issues of inclusion and equality to the fore.
Whatever the final outcome, the issue of equality for gay and lesbian citizens is a live political issue, he said. If the move is approved and the ensuing legislation is passed, Ireland would become the first country to make the change following a popular vote. It would be the 19th country in the world to legalise gay marriage, and the 14th in Europe.