Saturday 10 December 2016

Minister Alan Kelly speaks of close gay friend who died, wears his tie as tribute

Published 23/05/2015 | 11:01

Labour ministers Anne Phelan and Alan Kelly at the Kilkenny by election and referendum in Cillin Hill, Kilkenny this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin
Labour ministers Anne Phelan and Alan Kelly at the Kilkenny by election and referendum in Cillin Hill, Kilkenny this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin
Brian McMahon with his daughter Lucy waiting for the reults of same-sex marriage referendum at Dublin Castle. Pic:Mark Condren
Ministers Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald pictured at the count centre in City West. Photo: Gerry Mooney
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the count centre in Castlebar, Co. Mayo as counting got underway in the marriage referendum. Photo : Keith Heneghan

Labour Party deputy leader Alan Kelly has spoken movingly about the loss of a close friend who was gay and who died suddenly.

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Speaking as he arrived at Dublin Castle, the Tipperary TD said today will "long live in everybody's memory".

Mr Kelly paid tribute to former Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore whom he said is "singularly, probably the one person who gave this opportunity".

The Environment Minister also told how he lost a close friend named Damien O'Brien who died suddenly. He said he is emotional today because his friend was a gay man.

Mr Kelly was wearing his friend's tie who he said gave it to him on condition he would wear it on special occasions.

"It's quite an emotional day for his friends and family and for all of the Damien O'Briens around us who have lived in this country and all the people who have the chance of equality and will have equality now in this country," Mr Kelly added.

Meanwhile, Micheal Martin said "there is something in the DNA of Irish people that reacts to inequality'.

The Fianna Fail leader predicted from tallies that Ireland will vote 'Yes' in the marriage equality referendum as he said the result will be noted around the world.

Sisters Rebecca and Rachel Doyle from Wexford waiting for the results of same-sex marriage referendum at Dublin Castle.
Pic:Mark Condren
Sisters Rebecca and Rachel Doyle from Wexford waiting for the results of same-sex marriage referendum at Dublin Castle. Pic:Mark Condren
Ministers Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald pictured at the count centre in City West. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Eamon Gilmore pictured after he arrived at the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum count in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Brian McMahon with his daughter Lucy waiting for the reults of same-sex marriage referendum at Dublin Castle. Pic:Mark Condren
Waiting for the reults of same-sex marriage referendum at Dublin Castle. Pic:Mark Condren
Sisters Rebecca and Rachel Doyle from Wexford waiting for the reults of same-sex marriage referendum at Dublin Castle. Pic:Mark Condren 23.5.2015
Michael Barron pictured with his husband Jamie Nanci from Dublin, [ they were married in Capetown five years ago] pictured at the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum count in the RDS Simmonscourt . 23/5/15 Pic Frank Mc Grath Irish Independent
The ballot boxes in the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum Pic Frank Mc Grath
Count Staff sort out the ballot papers in both the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Traolach O Buachalla from Dublin pictured with Sen David Norris at the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum count in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Counting gets under way for the Kilkenny by election in Kilkenny this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin
Counting gets under way for the Kilkenny by election and referendum in Cillin Hill, Kilkenny this morning. Constitution referendum votes. Photo: Tony Gavin
Tellers Fiona Nortwood and Eimear Norton counting votes during the Kilkenny by election and referendum in Cillin Hill, Kilkenny this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin
Boxes are opened as counting gets under way for the Kilkenny by election and referendum in Cillin Hill, Kilkenny this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin
Counting gets under way for the Kilkenny by election and referendum in Cillin Hill, Kilkenny this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin
Count Staff sort out the ballot papers in both the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Count Staff sort out the ballot papers in both the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Tiernan Brady Policy Director with GLEN pictured with Sen David Norris as they go through some of the tally counts at the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Count Staff sort out the ballot papers in both the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
The ballot boxes in the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum pictured being opened in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Count Staff sort out the ballot papers in both the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Count staff sort out the ballot papers in both the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum in the RDS Simmonscourt. Pic Frank Mc Grath
Count Staff sort out the ballot papers in both the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath
The ballot boxes in the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Presidential Age Referendum pictured being opened in the RDS Simmonscourt . Pic Frank Mc Grath

"It is something that Irish people do not accept historically and I believe this ballot is a vote in favour of a more inclusive, equal and just society," he added.

Mr Martin said that what was astonishing about the campaign was the way in which people of all backgrounds and ages became so engaged in the debate.

"It was, for the most part, a very respectful and informed debate. I think it reflected very well on Ireland as a country and a society."

"There is absolutely no doubt that Ireland has changed dramatically as a country over the past 20 or 25 years."

"What I particularly noted was the way in which people defied the usual predictions of voter profiles."

"There were young people who were ardently campaigning for a 'Yes' vote. Yesterday, we also saw elderly people going out to vote 'Yes' because they had a daughter, a son, a niece, a nephew or a grandchild who was gay."

"They didn't want to see that person treated any differently in Irish society to anyone else."

Mr Martin said it was a singular achievement for Ireland to become the first country in the world to ratify full marriage equality by popular ballot.

"It is an historic day for Ireland. I think that the outcome of this vote will reflect very well on Ireland as a society that is committed to equality and justice for all."

He also paid tribute to those involved in managing the 'Yes' campaign for what he termed "a very successful, very well thought out and strategic campaign."

An emotional Leo Varadkar said 'Ireland is shining' as tally counts across the country indicate a 'Yes' vote in the historic marriage referendum.

The Health Minister, who came out as a gay man earlier this year, said it's a 'really great day for Ireland'.

"Pretty much every constituency is running about 75pc 'Yes' vote," he told RTE Radio One, speaking about the six in the Dublin county count.

"It's a really great day for Ireland... Ireland is shining.

"If you think about it really is historic... it's something really special.

The minister said he believes the intervention of Mary McAleese was very important.

"It seems to me that the Irish people had made their minds up on this some time ago," he continued.

"One thing I came across this referendum was parents in their forties and fifties to go out and vote, this is something really different and really special.

"Something's been awakened in the Irish people in this referendum."

He also said today's referendum is more than a vote - it's a social revolution.

"It's a very proud day to be Irish," he said.

"This referendum for so many people is personal. People from the LGBT community are a minority but with so many friends and family and co-workers voting Yes, it's a majority."

"For me, it wasn't just a referendum, but a social revolution".

Positive

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the outcome of the marriage equality referendum is looking very positively at a Yes win.

Speaking at the Mayo Convention Centre in Castlebar, Mr Kenny said he believed the referendum would be carried in his home county.

“On 20pc of the boxes opened it’s 55pc/45pc where it’s Yes it’s a strong Yes. Where it’s No it’s a strong No but my overall judgement from what I’ve seen here, it will be a Yes,” he said.

On the national vote he said reports were also positive.

“I think that’s a value judgement by people on the issue which shows the importance of politics, the importance of the vote. So while it’s too early to say yet, we’re looking very positively at a this,” he added.

Mr Kenny said that if the vote is carried out would carry out a message internationally of Ireland’s “pioneering leadership”.

Mr Kenny said the higher than average turnout showed the “palpable movement” of people who wanted to be involved in a campaign like this.

“I think from a young person’s perspective particularly, for those who travelled from wherever to wherever to put a simple mark on a paper, it shows the value of the issue and the importance of politics.

“It’s also a lesson I suppose for politicians themselves that when you have serious matters to be decided people do get engaged, want to be engaged,” he added.

Speaking in particularly about the young vote, Mr Kenny said 60,000 registered particularly for this referendum and made a real effort to be registered and to go express their vote.

“So it’s a case clearly of where the issue interests young people they want to be part of that and the decision here, if it’s carried, will be a first globally where by popular vote of the people the constitution is being amended and added to in respect of the civil law,” he added

Mr Kenny, accepted there was an urban/rural divide in many places but said he believed the urban vote would compensate for any surge in No votes.

“I wouldn’t have reports from all over the country but clearly there is a difference between urban and rural in many places. As I said even here where it’s been a Yes, it’s been a heavy Yes and where it’s a No it’s been a heavy No. But I think the urban vote will more than compensate for rural areas so lets wait and see what the overall vote will be,” he added.

And Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said the high yes vote would not have been possible without the large numbers of young voters engaging with the referendum.

"Seeing Leaving Cert students, still in their uniforms and coming out of polling stations - that will always be a memory I will cherish," she said at the Dublin County counting centre in the Convention Centre, Citywest.

Tanaiste Joan described the result as 'outstanding'.

"This is a great moment for Ireland. In a way I think we're becoming a rainbow nation, where we have a huge amount of diversity," she told RTE.

"I think it's a great vote for inclusion, for equality...

"Younger people felt that this was the moment where they could be free citizens in a free nation."

'Act of inclusion'

And former Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who was a main driver in the holding of the same-sex marriage referendum, has been hailed as a “national act of inclusion” the people’s decision to pass the marriage equality referendum.

Mr Gilmore has expressed his “absolute delight” that genuine equality will now conferred on gay people.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Mr Gilmore said it was a great result and that his previous claim that marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our generation was proved right, given the amount of people who turned out to vote on Friday.

“The people who came home, the queues at polling stations we haven’t seen that in a very long time,” he said.

“It was a powerful statement from Ireland to the world, particularly those who suffer persecution and discrimination still today,” Mr Gilmore said.

The former Labour party leader, who resigned last year, said the victory was as a result of the “long road” of change which came in small steps.

He pointed to the introduction of the Civil Partnership in 2010, and then the referral of the same-sex marriage proposal to the constitutional convention as the slow march towards today’s result.

“This was done in an incremental way which made it possible,” he said.

Asked about his own feelings, he said: “I am just glad for all the people who will now be genuinely equal,” he said.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar described the people’s decision as a “great day for Ireland, Ireland is shining.” He paid tribute to the role played by former President Mary McAleese in the national debate, after she came out strongly in support for the proposal. Her son Justin also came out as gay during the campaign.

The Iona Institute’s David Quinn conceded defeat by tweet congratulating the Yes Campaign on the result.

Meanwhile, Minister for State and Fine Gael TD Simon Harris says he has never seen a movement like the Yes campaign in his political career and says today is this generation’s contribution to making Ireland a more inclusive place.

Speaking at the Wicklow count centre in Greystones, Minster Harris told Independent.ie:

“I’m really delighted that Wicklow is going to give a resounding Yes to the marriage equality referendum and looks like it will be joined by so many other counties right across the country.

“I think this is a really significant day for our Republic and for the values of equality in the community which we hold dear. I’m also enthused by the fact the turnout is so large. I think we could get near 70pc turnout in Co Wicklow.

“I think the civil society movement that sprung around this referendum in every county in Ireland has been hugely significant. People from community groups and with no political affiliations whatsoever came together in the interest of equality and I don’t think we’ve seen a movement like it in my lifetime.

“Every generation has to step on the road to making society more equal and more inclusive and I think this is my generation’s contribution to making Ireland a more tolerant and inclusive place.

'Historic day'

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly was looking jubilant at the count centre in Thurles this morning and said it was "a historic day" for Ireland. 

"Tipperary is going to vote 'Yes', it's a fantastic day. I'm very proud of my country and my county and I'm very thankful to the people of Tipperary who voted 'Yes'," he told the Irish Independent.

"I'm thankful to everyone who engaged in this debate, Ireland is now the first country in the world to vote for marriage equality by popular vote and that's an amazing thing to say.

"I'm also very proud of the Labour Party who insisted on going into government that this referendum take place. There are a lot of people around Tipperary who spoke at a lot of different rallies and I'm thinking of all of them today," he added.

Signs are currently positive that the marriage equality referendum will pass in North Tipperary with a strong 60/40 consensus so far. South Tipperary was leaning towards a No vote initially but boxes are currently edging to 55/45 in favour of marriage equality.

Fine Gael senator, Tony Mulcahy at the Clare count this morning said to gay people ‘struggle no more, you are now accepted as equal'

He said: "I am proud to be Irish today”.

With the ‘yes’ vote in Clare running at 59%, the Fine Gael senator said: "We now have an inclusive society for all our friends and family. We have someone from the extended family who is gay so I am delighted to be part today of what is a very inclusive Ireland."

He said: "It is an emotional day, because this was a challenging campaign with a lot of rubbish thrown around. This is about people being treated equally in our society."

Senator Mulcahy said: "This is where I want my grand-children to grow up - in an inclusive Ireland. I am over the moon. Thrilled.

He remarked: "It is fairly difficult for gay people to come out and take that step forward and I would have met a large number of gay people who would have struggled with that, but struggle no more. Gay people are now accepted as equal.”

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