By Conor Kane
Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has described today as “a fantastic day” and said it was “amazing” that Ireland is becoming the first country to approve same-sex marriage by referendum.
“It’s a fantastic day. I’m very proud of my country and very proud of my county,” Mr Kelly said at the Tipperary North and South count centre in Thurles. Both Tipperary constituencies are expected to say Yes to same-sex marriage.
“Ireland is now the first country in the world to vote for marriage equality by popular vote and that’s an amazing thing to say. I’m very proud as a member of the government and very proud of the Irish people.”
He paid tribute to the Labour Party and former leader Eamon Gilmore who insisted, on entering government, that the referendum be held during its term.
“It’s a very special day. I’m thinking of all the people around Tipperary who spoke at various different rallies,” Mr Kelly said.
“I was always very hopeful that this would pass. I’ve canvassed across Tipperary on this. I canvassed in the wet and rain of Tipperary town. I was out talking to people in Clonmel.
"I canvassed around Nenagh with Joan Burton and in many other areas and I always got a sense that this would pass because at the end of the day, people looked at the issue and thought about it and it is really about equality, it’s really about love, it’s really about saying that any two people, whatever their sexual orientation are entitled to love one another as much as anyone else. And I think people judged it on that and made their own decisions.”
He said he heard “many stories” from families regarding their voting intentions.
He said: “I remember meeting a couple who told me they voted twice against divorce but were voting yes in this because a member of their family had told them that she was gay. That’s just an example.”
The amount of young people who became part of the campaign was “phenomenal” but he said he also met many people from older generations who also intended to vote yes.
Tipperary has been among the three “most conservative” counties in the country based on previous referendum results, Mr Kelly said.
“But having said that, this was a different type of referendum. This was a referendum about fairness, about equality, about love… I think the message got through to everyone and the people of Tipperary responded like I always knew they would.
"The people of Tipperary are very decent people, they studied the issue and they made their decision and I’m proud of them.”
The minister said he hoped the young people who got involved in politics for the first time before this referendum will re-engage with politics in future.
“I met a chap yesterday who was 18 and was voting for the first time and people like that will remember today. I hope they become politicised. I hope they get engaged. We did have an issue with apathy as regards young people and politics, I hope this re-ignites that, I think that would be very important.”