Ireland has made history by voting overwhelmingly in favor of a proposal to allow gay marriage. It will become the 19th country in the world to recognize gay marriage, the 14th in Europe, and the first to ever do so by popular vote.
In some parts of Dublin, the Yes vote ran as high as 80 percent. Even in what would be considered the most conservative and religious areas of Ireland, Yes is consistently winning victories.
Only two hours after counting began at 9 AM on Saturday, bookmakers were paying out on Yes bets in what they were describing as a "landslide" victory. Not longer afterwards, prominent No campaign group Mothers and Fathers Matter conceded that the Yes campaign had won. Press release statements from the IONA Institute, a Catholic think-tank, even offered their congratulations to the Yes coalition.
"A new generation has spoken. This is a generation with open, kind hearts, a generosity of spirit, and a great capacity to love." —Michael Barron
David Quinn, Director of IONA Institute, went on to reassure the still numerically significant No voters, "Going forward, we will continue to affirm the importance of the biological ties and of motherhood and fatherhood. We hope the Government will address the concerns voters on the No side have about the implications for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience."
From the Yes coalition, in a release sent to VICE, Michael Barron, the founder of Belong To, spoke of the importance of Saturday's outcome: "We've changed forever what it means to grow up LGBT in Ireland. The Irish people, via the ballot box, have given each and every gay child and young person in Ireland—and across the world—a strong and powerful message that they are loved, they are cared for, and don't need to change who they are.
"A new generation has spoken. This is a generation with open, kind hearts, a generosity of spirit, and a great capacity to love. They have gone to the polls in their thousands and are responsible for this historic victory for their gay brothers and sisters."
Reports of an "unusually high" turnout for the referendum were emerging as the polls closed Friday evening. Urban centers like Dublin and Limerick boasted a 65 percent electorate turnout, while rural areas such as Donegal and Galway showed a turnout well above 50 percent. To put that in perspective, a referendum in 2013 only had a 39 percent turnout.
The youth demographic also turned out in force, students even traveling home from abroad. It's clear that this is a referendum that has engaged a generation typically disillusioned with politics, and an outcome that has inspired fresh optimism in political process.
Mary Cunningham, Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland told VICE, "Over, the past few months we've seen over 100,000 people—primarily young people, students, and first time voters—registering and getting ready to use their voices for good, for love. They came from all over the world to be here today [on Saturday], and the future of Ireland is brighter and better because of them."
Across the country, Yes supporters begin their celebrations, as the results continue to trickle in. In the next few days there will be much analysis and commentary, but conversation may slowly begin to turn to Northern Ireland, the last province on both islands that does not legally recognize gay marriage.
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