The crucial factors that won the Yes campaign
Eoghan Harris, who worked as a media advisor on the Mary Robinson presidential campaign, lists the five main factors that led to a Yes victory
Published 24/05/2015 | 02:30
The referendum result on same-sex marriage marks the successful conclusion of a revolution in the public regulation of sexual relations that began 25 years ago with the election of Mary Robinson
Five crucial factors, in descending order of importance, persuaded a sometimes conflicted public to put its fears aside and step into the future.
1. Personal testimonies. By far the most powerful was that of Ursula Halligan. There is nothing more moving than an intensely private person like Halligan baring her soul for a public cause.
2. The politicisation of young people. Sexual politics loom large in young lives. No economic or cultural issue could have energised first-time voters like the same-sex issue transmitted by social media. And seeing peers flying home to vote shamed some laggards.
3. The Irish working class said Yes. Last week, Yes Equality canvassers in Dublin found people in Cabra more supportive than in Stillorgan. Cultural icons like Graham Norton, Panti Bliss and Mrs Brown's Boys helped the mood music.
4. Politicians did make a difference. Although the major parties kept a contemptibly low profile, likeable politicians such as Pat Carey and Leo Varadkar, acting in a largely personal capacity, persuaded people to open their minds.
From a spin doctor's point of view, however, the strongest impression was made by two political dark horses. The first was Minister of State Aodhan O Riordain on Brendan O'Connor's Saturday Night Show.
The moment when O Riordain was required to remove his Yes pin stuck in people's minds - as O'Connor may have guessed it might. Equally effective were O Riordain's stories of the girls he taught in Sheriff Street school.
Few Labour politicians can resist depressing tales of deprivation. But like Mary Robinson, O Riordain rejected victimhood and regaled us with stories of aspiration and ambition. And his hope fed huge positives into the Yes campaign.
The second politician to make a mark - to the surprise of many critics - was Enda Kenny. Confounding those who claim he is poor on television, the Taoiseach turned in a powerful eve-of- election performance with Bryan Dobson.
Critics could correctly claim the Government left it late to get the finger out in what was by and large a lazy-arse and lacklustre campaign. But at least Kenny listened to his critics and stepped up to the mark himself.
Having swotted hard, he rolled up his sleeves, came into the RTE studio with confidence, and showed he was totally on top of a complex and controversial brief. Cynics can shake their heads. But a Taoiseach who is a practising Catholic from Co Mayo, coming out strongly for Yes, had a strong subliminal effect on vacillating Fine Gael and, indeed, Fianna Fail voters.
5. The negativity of some No spokespersons. David Quinn and John Waters did a fine job in putting the No case and clarifying the issues. But they were subverted by a minority of male ovarian obsessives fighting a futile reactionary rearguard action against the remorseless advance of sexual pluralism.
They might as well fight the sun coming up in the morning. It rose brightly as the results came in. And it shone down steadily all day on what finally felt like a real Republic.