1.9 million people turned out to vote on Friday, a 60.5% turnout that saw the highest number of ballots ever cast in an Irish referendum.
1.2 million of those people voted for marriage equality.
It seemed pretty clear by half an hour into the count that it was trending heavily toward a win for equality, but everyone here remained on pins and needles through the morning, growing increasingly hopeful as it appeared the measure wasn’t just going to pass, but was heading rapidly toward a landslide 2-to-1. My entire Twitter feed was full of people on the verge of nervous tears, and by the time the official count was announced around 5pm the whole city was basically glowing with disbelieving joy.
*One* constituency had a majority of no, by a .6% margin; another passed by 33 votes. There were a lot of places that were 51/49 in favour, and others that passed 85/15 in favour.
66,000 people were added to the supplemental voting registry in the last weeks before the vote; eighty percent of them turned out to vote.
Pundits speaking for the Church and other No Campaign organisations said they’d lost the Irish Mammy (a veritable institution), and that the women of the villages and rural communities were, it seemed, looking beyond the moment and thinking of their children and grandchildren, reckoning the odds that at least one of them would be gay, and voting not only voting yes for them, but working on their husbands to do the same.
The fear, the huge fear, here, was of the Silent No: the people who wouldn’t admit they were going to vote no, and might be skewing the polls, which were running about 52/48 in favour–but the results were 62.1% in favour, 37.9% against. It seems that there may well have been a Silent Yes, instead: a rural farmer with five children and numerous grandchildren refused any pamphlets or flyers, saying he didn’t want his neighbors to know he was voting yes, but that Ireland had to change.
The most heartbreaking story I heard coming out of the Yes Campaign was from Tipperary, where one of the canvassers came back to his group in tears. He’d just spoken to a 90 year old man who had, as they talked, broken down into tears himself and said, “It’s too late for me, but I wish you all well, and I’ll be voting yes on Friday so that it will never be too late again for anybody else.”
It’ll never be too late for anybody else. Ireland, and by extension the world, is a palpably better place than it was three days ago.
It’s not very often you can say that, that you can *know* it, with certainty, but this time? This time I think we can. Love conquers all!