Ireland says Yes to marriage equality

24 May 2015

Paul Higgins and Richard Lucey pictured at the Yes Equality press conference on 24 May, following Ireland’s historic same-sex marriage referendum. Photo by Paul Sharp/SHARPPIX

The date 23 May 2015 will go down in Ireland’s history as the day this nation became the first in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote.

While the crowd gathered early in the grounds of Dublin Castle, the final tally didn’t come until 7pm. Yet the news had already broken that a Yes vote had won out – not least due to an empassioned tweet from Ireland’s Minister for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, TD.

For those who couldn’t make it to the capital city centre for the iconic moment, it was easy to follow along on Twitter, where people in the thick of it shared Vines and tweets capturing the atmosphere.

As a record number of votes were cast in this referendum – 1,935,907 valid ballots in all – the final count from the returning officer Ríona Ní Fhlanghaile took longer than anticipated. As the clock ticked, the crowd was waiting for the final results from Cork before the official announcement could be made.

Social media was used to encourage Yes voters throughout the campaign and, on the day of reckoning, users around the world were following and talking about Ireland’s #MarRef. Twitter revealed that more than 400,000 #MarRef tweets were sent from the time of the polls opening at 7am on 22 May, with the peak in conversation coming between 9.30am and 10.30am on Saturday morning, when the Yes vote was already looking like a winner.

Twitter #MarRef heatmap

Twitter #MarRef heatmap

In the end, it was a whopping 1,201,607 votes (62.1pc) saying Yes to marriage equality.

Following the formal announcement, Yes Equality co-directors Grainne Healy and Brian Sheehan spoke to the celebratory Dublin Castle crowd: “To the Irish people, to those who voted ‘Yes’, you have done something that should make you forever proud. Do not forget this moment, this moment when you were your best self, when you chose to make your mark for an Ireland that could be a better and fairer place.

“To those who did not yet vote with us, we hope that, as lesbian and gay couples marry, you will see that we seek only to add to the happiness and the security of the diverse Irish national family.”

Of course, the news was also well received by the team behind Inspirefest 2015, Silicon Republic’s international sci-tech festival and conference aiming to promote diversity and inclusion in STEM fields.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic