“I’ve been going door to door for the last six weeks asking strangers if it’s ok for me to marry my girlfriend.”
Rebecca Murphy gives a frank answer when asked if she’s suffering referendum-fatigue.
She has just knocked on the door of a Kinsale householder who says she’s an enthusiastic yes voter, yet light-heartedly dismisses the Yes Equality canvassers from her door.
“I don’t want to read anymore about it, I don’t want to hear anymore about it,” she laughs.
The referendum is just days away as a group of a dozen or so Yes Equality canvassers go door to door in the town.
The fine weather is both a blessing and a curse — the group avoid the drenching they’ve suffered on other evenings, yet find many homes vacant as residents get out to enjoy a walk.
Away from the doorstep, Rebecca says she understands voters’ weariness after weeks of what has been an intense and often heated campaign.
She remains upbeat, however, and the canvass continues regardless.
The replies on the doorstep are universally civil — a few yeses, a couple of undecideds.
One elderly man politely informs a canvasser that his mind is made up, but leaves the conversation at that.
Ronan O’Riordan says that when he reflects on the campaign it is “bizarre” that he finds himself in a position where he is asking strangers for their permission to get married.
Mary Burgen says that after a draining first night canvassing, she texted eight of her friends who are due to get married to tell them how lucky they are.
Innishannon ladies Elaine and Maria Burke, campaigning for a yes
vote in Kinsale, Co Cork.
They say the reception they’ve received have been universally civil, with one notable exception.
“Someone came out the door the other night with a crucifix shouting ‘sodomisers’,” Ronan says.
“That’s an extreme, that was one house in Blarney out of hundreds,” he hastily adds, as he notes this reporter’s incredulity.
Ronan said on the same night an undecided voter invited him in out of the rain in the middle of his dinner to ask him questions.
“That man had concerns, genuine concerns, that he felt were real and he just wanted to talk to someone. I just told him what I felt it was about and how I felt. He was really happy to engage, most people are.”
They both admit that the feeling of being judged can take its toll — both say they are exhausted by the end of a canvassing week. The group offer mutual support for those struggling with the negative aspects of the campaign.
“That feeling when you’re standing on a doorstep, introducing yourself and when you say what you’re there for and their face changes; that’s tough” Mary says.
“You try and pick yourself up, and have resilience over the six weeks but it gets in a little bit, that look. You feel the judgement.”
Mary reveals that one friend’s mother joined them on a canvass.
“She was shocked to see people open the door and look at her and as soon as she would say what she was there for, she could see the change. She said she’d never seen that in people before, it was a real eye opener for her.”
“It is about us,” Ronan says. “It’s not going to affect anybody else except us. There’s the line being peddled that ‘oh no, you’re voting for children’s rights.’ You’re actually not, and people are ignoring the fact that gay families exist. They’re real families, they’re real people. It’s not a hypothetical.
“We’re always trying to show that this is a fact, a reality for people. That these families exist but that they’re not recognised. No one is going to take their family out on a canvass, parade their children around to people’s doorsteps and say ‘we want the protection of the Constitution’.
“No one is going to do that so it’s left to us to go out there and tell people that we’re citizens too.
We have the same aspirations; we want the same responsibilities and protections there for everyone else.”
Both say that they will be “devastated” if the amendment is defeated.
Mary says she feels like the country is being asked “Am I good enough?”
“Everyone says you’ll just be maintaining the status quo, nothing will have changed, but something will have changed,” Ronan adds.
“If I’m walking down the street in Cork now, the people I pass haven’t been asked to make a decision on my rights.
“If I walk down the street on Saturday evening and the country has been asked whether or not I can marry the person I love and vote no, how am I to know the person I meet hasn’t voted no? It will have changed. Irish people will have said no, you’re not equal.”
Over the past week the Irish Examiner has unsuccessfully endeavoured to join a no campaign canvass. A spokesperson for Mothers and Fathers Matter said the group had a nationwide policy of not inviting journalists on a canvass.
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