Friday 22 November 2019

Under a rainbow sky, Yes side weeps tears of utter joy and relief

At Dublin Castle it was time to party, time to love and celebrate equality at last, writes Donal Lynch

JOYFUL FACES: Thomas McDermott and Sara Jane Flynn pictured celebrating the Yes result
JOYFUL FACES: Thomas McDermott and Sara Jane Flynn pictured celebrating the Yes result
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

A rainbow appeared over Dublin yesterday morning, and it seemed like a good omen.

By the time it had burned away in the heat of the afternoon, Dublin Castle was thronged with gay marriage supporters.

A roar went up from the rainbow sea as David Norris, who had just arrived, turned to acknowledge his supporters.

Slowly, sagely he climbed onto the stage where Miriam O'Callaghan was already waiting, beaming.

David joined hands with Katherine Zappone, who held her hands aloft like Evita on the balcony of the Casa Rosanda.

Later, she produced one of the most dramatic moments of the afternoon, proposing to her partner Anne Louise Gilligan live on air.

Early on, the big screens still showed all of the counties as blank.

Intermittently, No campaigner David Quinn of the Iona Institute flashed on to the screens; his lips moved but no sound came out.

Many people had been here since morning, many of them having barely slept.

They were impatient for the result.

By 2pm, only Dublin North West had come through; an overwhelming majority of Yes voters, boding well for the coming afternoon.

On the stage the two all-stars of the Irish gay rights movement waited, their every wave producing a roar of approval. Of course, the biggest star of all had yet to arrive.

Down the hill, on Parliament Street, the towering figure of Panti was already visible, sashaying from her eponymous bar slowly toward the castle as a cameraman tripped in front of her and a colourful convoy of supporters, well-wishers and gawping tourists shuffled slowly behind. Like the peace activists of the 1960s she carried in her hands a single flower. Her advent at the castle grounds registered slowly but when they spotted her there was thunderous cheering.

Panti is a nocturnal creature, this was the first time many of us had ever seen her in the daytime.

"Panti for President!" someone screamed.

The referendum, we were constantly told, was about families and children.

One of the notable things about the crowd was the number of people who had brought children with them. They were draped in rainbow flags. One father could be heard telling his child "this is as big a moment as 1916."

The returning diaspora who had pilgrimaged here carried little flags of their adopted countries. Amid the sea of rainbow there were Australian flags, British flags, the Stars and Stripes. When the vote for Sligo/north Leitrim came through onto the screens with 54pc for the Yes side, some people wept openly in the crowd. Liberalism is no longer limited to the Dublin suburbs, it seemed.

A similarly strong Yes in other rural areas, including the Dingle peninsula, also produced cheers. As constituency after constituency came back with a Yes vote, the area on the big screens turned green; the country itself slowly turned green for equality.

The atmosphere has passed from the tension of the early afternoon into something like a carnival. The moment of truth was near. Time to party, to love, to celebrate.

Sunday Independent

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