Since the Sligo branch first brought a motion to conference last year, calling for the union’s support for a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum on marriage equality, I’ve been struck by the enthusiasm for the campaign among IMPACT members that I’ve spoken to.
That conference motion was carried unanimously. Since then, I’ve been in contact with IMPACT members for whom this referendum is another major milestone on a journey toward a more tolerant and inclusive society.
I’ve also become very aware of friends and acquaintances for whom this is a milestone like no other. A ‘yes’ vote on 22nd May will, for so many, mean genuine equality. That’s why I’m happy, and proud, to be involved in the campaign.
An old friend wrote to me this week and, in the course of talking about the referendum, said “Yep, we are living through wonderful times.” He said “It has been incredibly moving to see how much support there is, given that 22 years back (which doesn’t seem that long ago) it wasn’t even legal…a kind of world we associate with Iran and Uganda.”
I remember the Ireland he was talking about, and that monumental decision by the European Court of Justice in 1988, that the Republic of Ireland’s criminalisation of homosexuality was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. It was David Norris who fought the good fight, taking it to the Irish courts first in 1977.
It strikes me now how difficult it must have been for Norris to win any kind of popular support for what he was trying to do, and to sustain the campaign until the ECJ decision 11 years later. Ireland was a different place. Less tolerant, more fearful, and preferring most of the time not to talk about these things. Norris broke the silence, and the darkness, wide open.
Fast forward to 2015 and the fear is gone. We’ve become the more open, more inclusive society which I believe most of us aspired to back then.
A few days ago, a couple of good friends, Will and John, celebrated twenty years since they first met and fell in love. Responding to lots of messages of congratulations from their friends on social media, they urged all their well wishers to vote ‘yes’ on May 22nd, “It’s so important to cast that vote. It’ll only take a few minutes. We, and thousands of couples like us, need your few minutes for equality, now more than ever. To be able to say ‘I do’ – after all these years of ‘I can’t’ – would be the icing on our cake.”
That works for me.
Vote YES on May 22nd
Niall Shanahan, communications officer