A week ago, after a day’s canvassing (for a Yes vote, yes, I am biased), I was slightly despondent. I really felt that this referendum was going to be very close and on the balance of probabilities it would fall.
Over the last week my view has shifted and I have come to understand, through canvassing and speaking with friends and colleagues that irrespective of the outcome tomorrow, our Republic has changed… for the better.
A generation has awoken – today 66,000 people will go to the polls who have recently registered for the first time. It won’t be their last time going to the polls.
A generation stepped up – there are political activists and politicians who refused to bow to the pressure to stand for political expediency as opposed to Equality. They have proven that you can make a difference. In years to come I will point to the likes of Tiernan Brady, Seamus Carey, Sen. Averil Power, Anto Kelly, Leo Varadkar, Pat Carey, Cllr. Kate Feeney, Michael Pidgeon, Paul Anthony Ward, Micheal Martin, (dare I say it) Enda Kenny, Jerry Buttimer, Simon Coveney (and many more) and say to my kids, they did that and they helped deliver a better society for you.
A generation stayed silent – the case for broad political reform was made loudly by the deafening silence of back bench politicians and local councillors from all parties as they tried to position themselves on both sides of history. They demonstrated a breath-taking (yet predictable) unwillingness to show leadership in their communities. You know who you are, and shame on You.
This has been a “Divisive Debate” – I have heard and seen for the first time in many years a motivation to engage in socio political discourse amongst all sections of society that just has not existed for a long time. When you are talking with random strangers in the queue in Centra about how they are going to vote you know there is change afoot. Yes, it has been divisive, it wouldn’t have been a debate otherwise but we are mature enough to move on and learn from is as a society.
Mary McAleese & “That Speech” – whoever thought that we would live in an Ireland where one woman (albeit a former president) would be at least as influential as the Catholic Church! Check out “That Speech”
“That Teenager” – there has been talk about the teenager who is coming to terms with his or her sexuality sitting at their kitchen table listening to the debate both within their family and the media and the effect this will have on them. This is true however that teenager now knows that a huge proportion of Irish society is supportive of them and they have been able to identify people in their own community from whom they now know that they can turn to about their sexuality and receive support as they embark upon the path of discovering their true selves.
There are many reasons why I voted Yes this morning, for the Ireland I want my kids to grow up in, for my gay friends that they would be as equal as I, but most of all I voted Yes for the following reason; Nearly 20 years ago I stood at the graveside of a young man whose shame of his own sexuality was a contributing factor in his decision to take his own life.
Today I voted Yes mostly for him.
It may be imperfect… But our republic is now stronger. If you have not voted yet, please get out and VOTE YES.
Brendan Kiely is a co-founder and MD of a Tech Start-Up. He is a political activist, a former Executive Director of the European Movement Ireland and a former Fianna Fáil candidate. You can find him on Linked IN, facebook, and @brendankiely on twitter.