Sunday 25 September 2016

Democracy has won, whatever the outcome

Published 23/05/2015 | 02:30

Members of the public pass a referendum poster on Capel Street, Dublin as people head to polling stations to cast their votes in the referendum on gay marriage (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Members of the public pass a referendum poster on Capel Street, Dublin as people head to polling stations to cast their votes in the referendum on gay marriage (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Civil partners of four years Paul Higgins and Richard Lucey, who have been in a relationship together for 19 years, arrive to cast their votes at their polling station in Cabra, Dublin for the referendum on gay marriage (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

The brief hiatus between the casting and the counting of votes in the same-sex marriage referendum affords an opportunity to reflect on a worthy campaign on a social issue. Both sides deserve some credit for the largely positive experience the country went through in debating the matter at hand of whether the State should extend marriage recognition to gay couples.

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Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, the perception of gay people in this country has been enhanced over the course of the campaign.

Numerous gay people have courageously stepped forward to explain how they have emerged from the shadows to come to terms with their identity and wish to be acknowledged as equal members of society.

Within the pages of this newspaper, young men like Justin McAleese and Anthony Kelly spoke of their own aspirations, while parents like Marie Brady, Tom Curran, Eithna Hyland and Tom Hickey addressed their compassion for their children.

Their actions have ensured it will be that bit easier for the next generation to come out and find acceptance by their family and friends, knowing they are not alone.

However, it was also important through this campaign to ensure the voices be heard of those opposed to the amendment, including our own columnist David Quinn, Senator Ronan Mullen, GAA star Ger Brennan and cleric Dr Ali Salim. In this regard, this newspaper offers no apologies for affording space to these voices. Those who voted No do not deserve to be denounced as homophobes.

Exercising a democratic franchise in the ballot box makes Yes and No opinions equally valid.

Moreover, the level of engagement by people in the campaign who had never before been involved in the political process was commendable and will hopefully lead to increased levels of turnout in future polls.

Previously unpoliticised people went out to knock on doors from Dublin 4 to the Donegal Gaeltacht.

Young people, in particular, saw the political process mattered, but their interest must not be fleeting.

Democracy is the real winner today.

Irish Independent

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