By Shaun Connolly and Conor Kane
A "day of liberation for gay people in Ireland" has been declared by former Labour leader Eamon Gilmore amid expectations of a strong Yes vote in the marriage equality referendum.
Mr Gilmore, who pushed the cause of extending marriage rights to same sex couples while Tánaiste, welcomed the likely emphatic victory as marking a new era in Irish society.
Mr Gilmore was speaking at Dublin's RDS count centre as tallies predicted an overwhelming victory for the Yes side following an often fractious campaign.
Figures from the tallies at the RDS put Yes on 67% in Dublin North Central, 72% in Dublin North East, Dublin Central at 75%, and 74% in Dublin South.
Leo Varadkar, who became the first openly gay Cabinet Minister earlier this year, welcomed the scale of the victory, and said he hoped legislation enabling same sex marriage could proceed as soon as possible without any attempts at constitutional challenges.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD for Tipperary North Noel Coonan said: "We've grown up as a nation" because of the “mature” way the campaign was conducted on both sides.
“There seems to be a very strong Yes vote right across the country and that’s being replicated here in Tipperary,” he said at the count centre in Thurles where votes from both Tipperary north and south constituencies are being counted.
“Results coming in from all parts of the country seem to indicate about 70-30 [approval],” Mr Coonan added.
“I want to acknowledge the efforts of both sides and I think we’ve grown up very much as a nation becaue there was a very mature debate and very little in the way of insults or trading unnecessary remarks. People were very conscious of other people’s feelings.”
The Templemore-based TD said it was an “emotional” debate for many people involved and he paid tribute to those who campaigned. “I think we’ve grown up as a nation and it’s great that you can put this type of argument to the public and there’s a very mature response to it.”