When Fine Gael senator Jerry Buttimer, 50, first met Conchobhar Ó Laoghaire, 48, a decade ago, a referendum on marriage equality seemed as likely as the sky falling in.
Less than three years on from that ground-breaking vote, both men answered “Tógfaidh mé” when asked if they took each other as respective husbands.
“It’s a wonderful day. We never thought it was going to become a reality but it’s finally happening,” Jerry said before the ceremony. “It’s a celebration of our life together and a celebration of all those who played a role in ensuring that all our citizens are equal. We are sharing the day with family and friends who’ve been with us all of the way.”
Former taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was among around 250 wedding guests, said: “It’s an example of the joy and excitement that comes from the people having made the decision in respect of marriage equality”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, attending with his partner Matthew Barrett, avoided the limelight. It was, after all, Jerry and Conchobhar’s big day.
There was no sign of nerves, not really, no, said Simon Coveney when asked if the wedding couple had shown any sign of the jitters.
But why would either man be nervous? Haven’t Jerry Buttimer and Conchobhar Ó Laoghaire had years to prepare for an occasion no-one thought possible a decade ago, when they first met through mutual friends.
“Relaxed and happy” best summed up Jerry’s pre-marriage demeanour. Bounding up the gravel drive of Triskel Christchurch on Cork’s South Main St well ahead of the 1.30pm KO time, he willingly posed for photos, every inch the dapper groom.
A black-tie wedding, Jerry’s navy dickie-bow set him apart from the other guests. Doling out hugs and glad words to guests on the steps of a building that, according to legend, has seen more than its share of momentous weddings, Jerry, a Fine Gael senator, kept an eye all the while for the love of his life.
When Conchobhar showed up at the entrance gate with just minutes to go to the official start time, Jerry gave him the broadest of smiles.
The two hugged tightly on the steps, before walking down the aisle together, albeit a good 20 minutes behind time, thanks largely to stragglers who had struggled to find parking — among them former taoiseach Enda Kenny and wife Fionnuala.
“Proud of you,” said Enda said on the way in, gripping Jerry’s hand in a warm handshake.
“Míle buíochas as ucht an tacaíocht,” (‘thanks for all the support’), answered Jerry. He also had a special word of thanks for Fine Gael TD and former tánaiste and justice and equality minister Frances Fitzgerald, under whose watch the 2015 marriage equality referendum took place.
Current Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jerry as happy. I’d say it will be a fun party later on as well.”
John Buttimer, Jerry’s brother and one of two best men (the other being Fergal O’Leary) said it was “a great day for Jerry on a personal level and for society in general”.
The wedding, or “ceiliúradh bainise”, celebrated in English and Irish, had a significant musical component, and, in addition to the exchange of rings, a hand-fasting ceremony which included rainbow ribbons to symbolise the rainbow flag, or LGBT pride flag, a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride.
After the ceremony, guests, among them journalist Vincent Browne, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, junior education minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, former Fine Gael health minister James Reilly, and Fine Gael senators Colm Burke and John Crown, headed for the Rochestown Park Hotel. Enda’s exit took him past the site of the “Non-Event Centre” where he turned the sod almost two years ago. Does he think it will ever happen?
“Now listen, I’m here today at the marriage of Jerry and Conchobhar,” he said, signalling that while he may no longer be taoiseach, he still has the knack for side-stepping awkward questions.