In a week of Big Gestures, the southern Irish electorate seem to have saved the best and biggest of gestures for last. According to every early indication from the tallymen and women, the Yes campaign is going to emerge victorious in the Marriage Referendum by day’s end, meaning that the Republic will become the first state internationally to legalise gay marriage through a popular vote.
The significance of that should not be underestimated.
Ireland’s international reputation as a predominantly conservative and Catholic society has long been established. This referendum result confounds long-held perceptions both at home and abroad, which were in any case outdated. The message delivered by an overwhelmingly Catholic electorate not only emphasises how comfortable modern Ireland is with the separation of Church and State, but also how determined the citizens in urban and rural Ireland are to embrace and build an inclusive society promoted and propagated not simply by an unrepresentative liberal elite but by the ordinary, plain people of Ireland.
An elderly Dundalk couple, sitting in a sofa in their living room, recording a video appeal for the Irish people to vote Yes.
Their pitch is a simple yet powerful one, redefining the Family Values narrative so often deployed by conservatives to resist equality campaigns on moral issues in Ireland, Britain, the USA and beyond.
This is a good day to be Irish. Enjoy it.