I’ve never voted in Ireland because I left for good in my teens. I didn’t leave for economic reasons; I had a perfectly good job, unlike many of my peers during the late Eighties recession. No, I left for social reasons.
I didn’t know the word ‘theocracy’ back then – I was young and clueless – but I knew I didn’t want to live in a country where private lives were thought-policed by groups of men self-excluded from family life who had inordinate amounts of unelected power. Where the theocracy got into bed with you, and breathed all over you. (And that was before any of the really grisly stuff came to light). No, I did not want to live in a country like that.
But Ireland is no longer a country like that.
Last Friday, it made history as it became a new country. Last Friday, Ireland told the theocracy that its services were no longer required. That the relationship had come to an end. It was over. Like a toxic marriage, the relationship between Ireland and the theocracy has long been dying , sunken into reflex, habit and co-dependency, but Friday offered something of an ultimatum. We need to talk, Ireland said. No we don’t, the theocracy replied. Be quiet and obey. Keep everything the same.
The marriage referendum was not just about marriage equality. It was about a break up. Old Ireland, helicopter-parented by the theocracy, clung desperately to the past, phobic of change. New Ireland wrapped itself in rainbow flags and exercised its democratic right to move forward in the world. And the world was watching intently. Agonisingly, we were all watching.
Those of us who aren’t gay, who don’t live in Ireland, and who are largely indifferent to the concept of marriage – we were watching with our fists in our mouths, our Twitterfeeds on fire, our breath held. This was bigger than equality for all – this was Ireland on the move.
And so when the breadth and depth of the victory for equality became apparent, those of us who are older, who live abroad, experienced a feeling we had never quite felt before. Pride. Gut-wrenching, tear-jerking pride. A pride in Ireland like we had never experienced.
Yes, there has always been huge pride in our culture, our literature, our artists – but never visceral pride like this. This was a pride in forward motion, in social evolution unfolding in front of our very eyes.
The young came home from all over the world, and they voted for love, they voted with their hearts. Those people live tweeting their efforts to get home to vote became heroes, just for one day.
What more is there to say?
Panti Bliss said that Ireland hadn’t voted for change, but had confirmed the change already there. And it worked. It was magnificent. Ireland set a global example of the power of love and democracy in action. I have never in my entire life felt so proud to be Irish.
I have never in my entire life felt so proud to be Irish
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