Online surge for yes, but will youth vote?

Most online comment supports passing the marriage equality referendum, but many younger people are not registered to vote, writes Dan Buckley


From Mrs Brown to Twitter, Ben & Jerry’s to Facebook and even Paddy Power, an apparently unstoppable force has emerged on social media in favour of carrying the marriage equality referendum next month.

But whether that will translate into actual votes either way remains to be seen, as younger voters have been slow to become registered. More than 120,000 people between the ages of 18 and 25 not registered to vote, according to figures from the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI).

More than 33,000 young people in Dublin are not registered to vote, with 27,000 unregistered in Cork and 13,700 in Galway.

James Doorley of the NYCI said: “Young people are overwhelmingly in favour of the referendum, but if they are not registered, they can’t vote, and it could have a big impact on the result so it’s very important that they participate.”

Enticing them to vote in favour is Ireland’s ‘Mammy-in-chief’, Agnes Brown. In a video directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the alter ego of Irish comedian Brendan O’Carroll explains her reasons for why she will vote yes.

“Nothing beats the joy and contentment I feel knowing that my son Rory has just as much opportunity for happiness as everybody else’s son.

“When two people love each other, you should allow then to get married. What’s all the fucking fuss?” she asks in her usual vernacular .

RELATED: WATCH: Mrs Brown has her say on marriage equality

Icecream makers Ben & Jerry’s is also advocating Irish people to vote yes, offering what must be Ireland’s most unusual vote-buying exercise — a free scoop in the flavour of their choice.

The company has also launched a video to promote a yes vote. It stars actors Ian Lloyd Anderson and Emmet Kirwan, DJ and model Vogue Williams, comedian Joanne McNally, Dublin GAA star Michael Darragh MacAuley and Rory O’Carroll, and models Holly Carpenter and Thalia Heffernan.

In addition, Ben & Jerry’s is kicking off a nationwide ‘YEStival’ roadshow, travelling to Mayo (May 9), Galway (May 16), and Dublin (May 17) in support of the YesEquality campaign.

Over the four dates, those who pledge to vote yes can enjoy a complementary scoop of ice cream.

“At Ben & Jerry’s, we believe everyone deserves the right to love who they love,” says Ed Shepherd, social mission manager with the multinational company.

“Equality has been a core value of Ben & Jerry’s since the company’s earliest days, and marriage equality is an issue that’s particularly near and dear to the brand.

“We’re also all about fun too, so what better way to show our support for marriage equality in Ireland than a series of YEStivals — scooping ice cream for fans as we spread the word!”

A yes vote is also being promoted by Twitter. Stephen McIntyre, vice-president and MD, Ireland, said: “Twitter is supporting a yes vote because we want Ireland to be in the group of nations that has taken this step, those that champion equality of treatment and reject the repetition of a history best forgotten. We encourage other companies to do likewise.”

He said people do better in the workplace when they can be themselves, adding that it will attract more talent and be positive for Ireland’s international reputation.

However, Twitter’s intervention has been criticised by the Iona Institute, saying such multinationals should avoid commenting on Irish politics.

Iona’s Ben Conroy said Mr McIntyre’s statement that a no vote would be bad for business is “clearly ridiculous”, as Germany, “the most powerful economy in Europe”, does not have same-sex marriage.

Another major business to promote a yes vote is the multinational bookies Paddy Power, but its intervention has also drawn criticism.

RELATED: PICS: Controversial Paddy Power referendum ad divides opinion

It has already been the subject of two complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) over its advert offering odds on the outcome of the marriage equality referendum.

The ASAI said it had received two written complaints, as well as a series of phone calls over the advert, which shows two men in balaclavas kissing alongside the slogan Tiocfaidh Ár Lá (Our day will come).

The advert, which has been published in national newspapers, has also featured on a lorry display which wheeled through the streets of Dublin earlier this week, including stops outside Leinster House and on O’Connell Bridge.

A number of celebrities are also using social media to call for vote in favour of same-sex marriage. They include Moone Boy star Chris O’Dowd, The Voice judge Niall Breslin, former rugby international Brian O’Driscoll and his wife, actress Amy Huberman, broadcasters Gay Byrne and George Hook, singer Hozier, TV chef Donal Skehan, the band Kodaline, and satirical duo Rubberbandits.

RELATED: Aidan Gillen: ’Let’s make a positive impact, vote Yes’

The Rubberbandits also used their online presence to hit out at their detractors. In a tweet, they posted: “Just had a squint at our facebook, we lost 10,000 page likes since announcing support of gay marriage. Shower of gowls.”

The deadline to register for the upcoming referendums on same-sex marriage and lowering the age for presidential candidates is tomorrow.

See for details.

RELATED: Marriage equality: Why I won’t be saying ‘I do’ to gay marriage

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