'People have really been freed by this decision' - Frances Fitzgerald joins crowds to celebrate anniversary of marriage referendum
Hundreds gathered at Dublin Castle this afternoon to celebrate the anniversary of the marriage equality vote.
Crowds of people including Yes Equality campaigners and politicians turned out in the courtyard to mark the day with a huge rainbow wedding cake made by the Cupcake Bloke.
Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was amongst those present.
“It’s a very joyous occasion here, people are really celebrating. You can feel some of the atmosphere that we had here last year, because this means so much to people on an individual level,” she told Independent.ie.
“That’s what it’s about really. We changed the law in a historic vote by the Irish people, but it’s the impact on individuals, on families and children, that really matters.
“I think the joy is very personal and felt by people who have really been freed by the decision Irish people made and the generous and supportive environment in which this decision was made.”
During the campaign, Katherine Zappone was one of the most visible faces on the Yes side, and famously described the people as “voting for a republic of love”.
“We definitely had a republic of love here this morning as we all gathered. I do think it isn’t just a feeling that happened today, it is part of the cultural shift that happened as a result of the people’s choice a year ago.
“It’s an extraordinary, joyful moment, which I started to feel when I walked through the gates of Dublin Castle this morning. People started pouring in, and it felt a lot like what we felt last year,” the Children and Youth Affairs Minister said today.
Reflecting on how the marriage referendum impact on her life, she continued: “Oh my goodness, my life has changed enormously and I think especially because of the referendum and that great sense of freedom that just erupted throughout the country.
“I have felt that many, many times in speaking with a lot of LGBT people and their parents and their partners.”
When the result was delivered last May, Ms Zappone took the opportunity to propose to her spouse Ann Louise Gilligan live on television. The pair tied the knot for the second time in January.
“Ann Louise and I were so thrilled to gather family, friends and colleague in City Hall to bring our marriage home. 13 years ago, we got married in Canada and felt a bit like exiles to have to go out of country to do that.
“We said that when we got it here in this country we said we would re-enact or renew the vows, and it was extraordinary.”
New research from LGBT organisation BeLong To published in the Sunday Independent revealed that there has been an “enormous surge” in the number of young people coming out since the vote, but that 62pc of those surveyed noted problems with bullying and lack of support.
Ms Zappone cited the figures and mentioned issues in education, health and community support as particularly concerning.
“There still are many challenges for young people about their sexual identity that the government and society needs to address.”
Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty Ireland, was another prominent figure during the campaign, and said that he was glad that he could introduce his partner of 17 years as his husband.
“We were already married, as far as we were concerned, but of course it makes a significant difference to have our marriage recognised in Irish law, to not feel like I’m saying something odd when I introduce Paul as my husband.”
He mentioned both young and old members of the LGBT community in Ireland as particularly benefiting from the result, especially those living in rural parts of the country.
“Hopefully what’s next is that we get on with our lives, and that our sexual orientation becomes an important aspect of who we are but no more important than heterosexuality is to somebody who is straight.
“That we recognise that Ireland is a place where we value love, care-giving and family regardless of the people involved and that we do so on an equal basis,” he said.
Mr O’Gorman also noted that there is still a job of work to be done to bring full equality to Ireland.
“I’m not suggesting that everything is easy and straightforward from that point on. Mary McAleese during the campaign referred to dismantling the architecture of homophobia, and May 22 last year was a massive moment in that, but we need to continue to do that,” he said.
“It’s important that those who were concerned about the outcome of the referendum recognise that the roof hasn’t fallen in, that Ireland is still Ireland, as a matter of fact that we’re more Ireland than we were before that moment.”