I was in Dublin today.
I wanted to be there. Hard to explain. At Connolly Station, one young woman with a “Tá” sticker. It gave me the impression that a lot of people would be wearing stickers. In fact, very few were. ctually I wanted a sheet of stickers for a “craft project” of sorts.
I was in Dublin three weeks ago. Then, the “YES” posters heavily outnumbered “NO” posters. Certainly seemed more even today along Talbot Street but I would say that the “NO” posters were appealing even more to “emotion” that they had been on my last visit.
No posters in O’Connell Street …or there didnt seem to be any. Or Henry Street. The photograph was taken Capel Street. I like the fact that this Gay Centre is called the “Outhouse”.
I think I was in parts of Dorset Street/Bolton Street. I was really looking for a polling station but couldnt find any. Called into a Catholic bookshop. The guy there (from Timor I think) was pretty resigned to losing the vote.
Back in O’Connell Street at McDonalds, I ask two teen girls where they got the “YES” buttons. Seemingly they were being handed out at “The Spike” yesterday. Really I chose the wrong day to go to Dublin. There was no “active” campaigning today. I totally underestimated the power of the convention not to campaign on Election today.
The two girls in McDonalds are actually Americans on a school trip and really carried away by the excitement of the Referendum.
Across O’Connell Street (Earl Street) I see a familiar figure. Senator David Norris, the former Presidential candidate. Either he has been at the Pro-Cathedral (extremely unlikely) where Mass is taking place. Or he has been at a polling station at a school in Marlborough Street. Or maybe he has just parked his car in the multi-storey car park. He is of course talking as he walks…louder than strictly necessary. His two female companions seem to be Americans.
At the polling station, I was interviewed by a Dutch Radio reporter. We discuss the cliché that the votes will split on generational lines.
Some older people are relunctant to discuss their vote. A middle aged man says he voted YES. An elderly woman says she voted YES and NO. She voted YES to Same Sex Marriage and NO to lowering the age of a candidate for Presidential Elections to 21 years of age. She is very politically aware. She doesnt want a 28 year old retired President getting a pension of €100,000 a year.
But a woman in her 60s perhaps gets it right. One of her ten children is gay and only told her a few years ago. She doesnt want gay people hiding away in corners. She is scathing about Catholic churchmen on the issue and surprisingly says that “young people” are intolerant and full of hate. Earlier this week she had witnessed some “Polish fellas” abusing some YES campaigners. I must emphasise that she was sad about it. There was nothing xenophobic.
So…I think those are two interesting points. Older people cannot be dismissed as intolerant and younger people hailed as tolerant. Indeed I think at the fringes of both campaigns, there is a hint of anti-religion…specifically anti-Catholicism or homophobia on the “NO” side.
There are of course a lot of Christian and other religions (Islam) campaigning for a NO vote but a lot of Catholics and other People of Faith who will vote YES.
The “Polish” Question is one that I had not considered. The population of the Republic is now about 4.6 million with around 450,000 born outside Ireland. Liberals tend to welcome the changes that a more diverse population will bring about.Less Religious Education. Status of Irish Language to be downgraded.
But arguably on this issue…Equal Marriage…many of our “new citizens” are not with the programme to “modernise” Ireland.
I am probably now….Elderly. Dammit…there is no doubt. I am 63 years old. I think that people of the generation (say 45-65) were largely unaware of Magdalen Launderies and Orphanages and Mother and Baby Homes. But the older folks (over 65s) would have heard rumours, had sisters or schoolfriends who went off the radar in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. They actually are aware of the excesses and probably more anxious to get it right than the middle-aged.
Of course I was I Dublin today. I was not in County Roscommon or County Kerry. I am not convinced that there is a vast difference. I recall twenty five years ago Dermot Morgan, the comedian was on the Late Late Show and he said he had two very different acts. If he drove into an Irish town and saw a branch of Xtravision or Blockbusters (the video rental chains) he pitched them one act. If he saw no video rental chain, then he had a different act.
In the age of the Internet, I think the gap between Dublin and the Rest of Ireland has closed.
Has Ireland changed today? Have Irish people changed today? HAVE I CHANGED TODAY.
I have never been homophobic but I am a man of my time. I would have been wary of active support for Gay Rights. I would have been passive. Outlandish displays such as Gay Pride might have embarrassed me. Or even the words “Gay Marriage” would have bothered me. The concept never bothered me.
Please dont judge me on this. It is generational.
And certainly I was never bothered by hand-holding in the street. Yes….of course, it is more likely to be seen in London, Dublin, Belfast than in Bushmills, County Antrim or Bagenalstown, County Carlow. And lets be frank that the first time I saw this, I might have done a double-take. Now it just seems …sweet.
A strange thing happened on Wednesday night. I was in McDonalds in Belfast and two well dressed people came in. Only remarkable in the sense that they looked over-dressed for McDonalds. Both seemingly large ladies but it was only when one spoke that I realised they were “cross-dressers” . Now again I say …I am 63 years of age and this was my first experience. I expect nor indeed want credit for not caring….they have every right. Indeed as an observer, my only interest was seeing how others reacted. And quite properly nobody batted an eyelid.
We have all accepted it.
It has been a hard, long road for Gay People. I congratulate them on their victory in becoming mainstream. But the crucial thing is that when one group achieves its Human Rights, the Rights of us all are enhanced. They fought a battle that we have all won.
If….and it is still an IF….the Irish people become the first to successfully vote for Equal Marriage….it will be amazing.
But a note of caution. Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered folks make up about ten per cent of the population and if they (we!!!) are victorious, it will not be because of their own votes. It will be in part due to straight people, older people, people of No Faith….people of Faith….including Catholics.