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Love — And Legalization — Is In The Eire For Irish Same-Sex Couples


Not many people would've predicted that a very Catholic country would become the first nation in the world to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, but that's what happened today in Ireland. Daniel McConnell is a political correspondent for Independent newspapers in Dublin. He joins us on the phone now. Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL MCCONNELL: Good afternoon.

RATH: Outside of the Roman Catholic Church, there was a lot of support for a yes vote going into today. Still, how big was the margin of victory, and was that a surprise?

MCCONNELL: The margin of victory today was a significant 62 percent in favor, 38 percent against, and that is certainly wider than what a lot of opinion polls had been forecasting in recent days. There had been some feeling that as the campaign kicked off in earnest over the last month or so, that the gap would narrow. It clearly hadn't and didn't, and ultimately, Ireland, by a pretty handsome majority, has voted to approve same-sex marriage, it being now the first country in the entire world to do so - and so a pretty remarkable day here.

RATH: And how big was the turnout of voters, and was that a surprise?

MCCONNELL: The turnout was very high - well over 60 percent of the electorate. This campaign was unlike any other I've seen in my lifetime and certainly in my reporting career. Young people from every sector of the country, from every corner of the country got engaged by the yes campaign. They saw this campaign as their issue, their time to get involved with politics. We have huge numbers of people rushing to get registered so they could vote for the first time ever.

But we also went through a pretty significant national dialogue about equality and tolerance. And we had leading broadcasters come out and reveal their sexuality. We had leading sports stars come out and advocate yes vote. It was phenomenal, the level of discussion and the national discussion that took place here in Ireland in recent weeks.

RATH: Daniel, do you have a sense of the demographic breakdown in the vote? You know, was there a division, say, between the young and the old, between cities and rural areas - that kind of thing?

MCCONNELL: We don't have that sort of level of detail as of yet. What we do know, only 1 constituency out of 43 voted the referendum down, which is significant because Ireland, out of Dublin and out of the other main cities, would still be pretty conservative. And there were a number of constituency in the west of Ireland that literally voted by 51 percent to 49, so the margins were quite close.

In terms of young and old, we don't necessarily have that yet, but what is clear is that young and old in Dublin, in Galway, in Cork and in other major urban areas voted en masse to support this referendum. So it wasn't just a youth vote. It was a vote - a strong vote across the demographics.

RATH: And Daniel, can you tells us about the reaction there in Dublin? Are you seeing celebrations, demonstrations in the streets?

MCCONNELL: Well, there's been a huge phenomenal response already. The Dublin castle was open to members of the public, and at least 2000 people gathered there for most of the day. The scenes were described by colleagues as almost a carnival-like atmosphere. There's no doubt that Dublin will celebrate pretty heavily tonight (laughter). But you know, so far, the reaction has been hugely positive. It was a gloriously sunny day in Dublin as well, so that kind of added to the atmosphere.

RATH: Are any people there taking this vote as a sign that the Roman Catholic Church may not be such a powerful influence on Irish Catholics?

MCCONNELL: Well, that has been the way for 10 or 15 years. A raft all sorts of sexual abuse scandals and other scandals that have dulled the Catholic Church in recent years have really dwindled and really hurt its influence that it previously would've held in Ireland. But that old image of being a kind of a priest-infested, you know, backwater doesn't really wash anymore. We are a hugely secular society now, and I think that's reflected in today's vote.

RATH: Finally, Daniel, how long will it be before the weddings start?

MCCONNELL: Yeah. There's a number of steps that need to happen. The government has literally promised immediately that there will be legislation passed to Parliament by the summer with expecting that the path to be clear for weddings to take place by Christmas. So we're likely to see quite a number of same-sex marriages happening in - around Christmas, which will be pretty special, I'm sure, for those involved.

RATH: Daniel McConnell is a political correspondent for Independent newspapers in Dublin. Thanks very much.

MCCONNELL: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.