Thursday 29 September 2016

Yes I said yes I will yes!

Panti Bliss

Published 24/05/2015 | 02:30

'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill with John Lyons TD at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, after Zappone proposed live on TV as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill with John Lyons TD at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, after Zappone proposed live on TV as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill with John Lyons TD at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, after Zappone proposed live on TV as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 23: Drag queen artist and Yes campaign activist, Panti Bliss is interviewed bare foot by news crews as thousands gather in Dublin Castle square awaiting the referendum vote outcome on May 23, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill with (from left) Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Junior Finance Minister Simon Harris at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, after Zappone proposed live on TV as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill with Dean McCarron at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, after Zappone proposed live on TV as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill with John Lyons TD at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, after Zappone proposed live on TV as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill with Tanaiste Joan Burton at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, after Zappone proposed live on TV as votes are continued to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, as votes continue to be counted in the referendum on same-sex marriage. Brian Lawless/PA Wire
'I’ve never asked anyone to marry me, but today it feels like I asked a whole country to marry me and they said Yes'

Yes. It's such a little word but today it feels so big. YES. Has one simple syllable ever meant so much before? Not to me anyway. I've never asked anyone to marry me, but today it feels like I asked a whole country to marry me and they said Yes. And I'm delighted. Ecstatic. I'm over the gay moon and drunk on Yes, and like any happy groom on his wedding morning, I'm truly, deeply, madly in love. I am in love with the whole country.

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At times over the past few months the campaign has been tough. Exhausting, frustrating, mentally draining. It's been difficult for members of the LGBT community and our friends and families to see the No posters everywhere, to come home at night and watch the debates on TV, only to wake up in the morning and hear them all over again on the radio. Every debate, argument and conversation has felt deeply personal. People debating our lives, our relationships, our worth.

But the campaign has also been wonderful. Over the past few months many thousands of ordinary people - gay and straight - have joined forces behind a simple idea: that all citizens of the Republic should be treated equally under the law. That we should, as the Proclamation of 1916 urges, cherish all the children of the nation equally.

And to that end, people have contributed their time and energy and talents, and even if the result had been different, they would have been able to say that they couldn't have done more. They have stuffed envelopes, made videos, raised funds and written letters. They've gone to meetings, organised rallies, and got up early to hand out flyers at train stations before work. And they have talked - to family and co-workers and strangers. They've had conversations that weren't always easy, but were necessary. In groups (that started out small but grew and grew) they have attempted to knock on every door in the country - and they almost succeeded!

Groups of men and women all across the country - students with shaved heads and grandmothers with headscarves, indefatigable activists and groggy-from-night-work taxi drivers - knocking on the doors of their fellow citizens in the pursuit of a simple and beautiful idea: the we are all equally deserving of respect.

On Friday, Ireland agreed with that simple proposition. Forty years after those first brave men and women stood up and said, "no more", the people of Ireland said Yes, and what must have seemed impossible all those years ago has been achieved: Ireland's LGBTI citizens are full and equal citizens under the law.

And I know that not everyone voted Yes. Some voted No out of deeply held religious conviction or other genuinely held concerns, and others because the world is changing so fast and they can't keep up. And many of them voted No with heavy hearts because they didn't want to hurt gay friends or family.

But I hope, and believe, that in time - as Ireland's LGBTI citizens and their families get on with their lives under the full and equal protections of the law - that even those voters will recognise that the people of Ireland made the right decision last Friday.

It was indeed, a good Friday.

Sunday Independent

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