Monday 26 February 2018

Burton celebrates 'rainbow Ireland' and a cavalcade of 'Yes'

Tanaiste Joan Burton casting her vote at St. Joseph’s School, Navan Road, Cabra West Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren
Tanaiste Joan Burton casting her vote at St. Joseph’s School, Navan Road, Cabra West Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

“For she’s a jolly good fellow, for she’s a jolly good fellow,” sang the crowd, as Joan Burton stood with her shoulders draped in a bright flag.

“We’re having our rainbow moment,” she had declared moments earlier as she arrived at the RDS Simmonscourt.

The morning had been marked by flags, hugs, tears of happiness and disbelief. A sense of something special unfolding, a moment in Irish life which will be forever preserved in the amber of memory, to be savoured and remembered on less sunny days.

What could it be compared to, wondered the crowds in the RDS count centre, as an avalanche of Yes poured out onto the trestle-tables just after 9am.

The closest comparison was the exuberance of Italia 90, when the nation united behind Jack’s Lads, and the travelling Green Army went on the march through Italy while the home supporters kept the fiesta going in bars and homes across the country.

Seasoned poll-watchers all agreed that this ongoing count was a peculiar one: within minutes of the boxes being opened, all suspense and drama was over. Dublin at least was looking like a resounding Yes. But then the news began to roll in from the four corners of the country. It wasn’t just the Dubs who were backing marriage equality.

Boxes of Yes votes were emerging all over the place - in small rural villages, in working-class wards in the heart of cities. In Donegal, a county which usually wears its contrariness like a badge of honour when it comes to referendums, there was a cavalcade of Yes.

The only suspense left - and it was mild enough - was which ward and which constituency would return the highest percentage of Yes votes. By mid-morning as the tallies came in, the leafy suburb of Ranelagh in Dublin South East had edged ahead of Ringsend, with 84.4pc.

There was no tension, just an electric jolt of joy as people hung over the barriers and watched the count, or greeted fellow warriors from the campaign trail with hugs and tears.

Politicians strolled around exuding relaxation; this time out none of them needed the algorithms of the tally-people to alert them that it was safe to show their faces.

In fact, by mid-morning, there was only one question on everyone’s lips. “Where are we going in town later to celebrate?” one campaigner asked another.

Her friend just smiled. “Anywhere. Everywhere”.

Ole, ole, ole, ole.

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