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05.23.15 11:49 AM ET

Ireland Says ‘I Do' to Marriage Equality

Jubilant scenes on a historic day for Ireland, as the country becomes the first to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

It’s all over bar the singing.

Ireland has become the first country in the world to introduce same sex marriage on the basis of a popular vote, after the ‘Yes’ side won a resounding victory in the marriage equality referendum, taking a decisive 62% of the vote.

One leading gay Irish politician, Leo Varadkar, described the result as a 'not just a referendum, more like a social revolution'.

After the result was declared, the Irish Taoiseach - as the Prime Minister is known - quoted the Johnny Nash song 'I Can See Clearly Now', in a press conference, saying, "Gone are the dark clouds that had me down, it's gonna be a bright, bright sunshiney day."

Enda Kenny said that the first marriages could now take place 'very quickly', a development all the more astonishing when one considers that homosexuality itself was only decriminalized in Ireland in 1993.

In reference to a famous remark he once made saying that Ireland was the best small country in which to do business, Kenny rhetorically asked,  "Is Ireland the best small country to be gay in? It's certainly a better country to be gay or lesbian in today than it was yesterday."

 A carnival atmosphere prevailed at Dublin Castle, where the result was officially announced shortly before 7pm. The party looked set to continue late into the night as Dublin was gripped by the celebratory spirit.

Although there was no formal parade, crowds of happy 'Yes' supporters took to the streets in celebration of the historic result.

Buses had to be diverted as crowds of 'Yes' supporters took to the streets around Dublin Castle. Motorists 'in a hurry' were being advised to use a different route.

Counting of the vote had begun at 9am local time on Saturday morning (4am EDT), and less than ten minutes after the first boxes had been opened in Dublin, the equality minister, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, declared that the ‘Yes’ side had won in a celebratory tweet.

Although the official result was not released until counting had finished later in the day, the ‘Yes’ side’s victory quickly became apparent, as observers compiled unofficial ‘tallies’ from count centers across the country.

The celebrations on the Yes side began in earnest when one of the leading advocates for a ‘No’ vote, David Quinn, of the Iona Institute, which promotes the place of marriage and religion in society, conceded defeat at 10am.

Thousands of jubilant Yes supporters cheered and waved rainbow flags in the sunshine at the Upper Yard of Dublin Castle, where the final result was announced.

The overall percentage in favor, 62%, was in line with polls which had indicated from the beginning of the campaign that the ‘Yes’ side was on course for a historic victory.

Persistent fears on the ‘Yes’ side that ‘shy’ No voters could produce a late surge against the proposal came to nothing.

Strongest support for the proposed change to the Irish constitution—voters were asked whether or not they wanted to insert a line into the constitution saying, “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”—came from urban centers and the capital Dublin, home to 500,000 of Ireland’s 4.5 million citizens. Up to 73 percent of people in the Dublin suburb of Dun Laoighre, for example, voted Yes. The suburb of Ranelagh was 84 percent in favor.

Turnout was also very high—“remarkable” some commentators said—by Irish standards, at 61%.

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One of the great surprises in the results was the strong support for the measure in many rural areas. The conservative heartland of Cork North West, for example, which voted against legalizing divorce in 1995, voted 54 percent ‘Yes’ versus 46 percent ‘No.’

In another deeply traditional and predominantly rural area, Donegal, the result was 54 percent to 46 percent for the ‘Yes’ side.

Only one constituency voted No.

One of Ireland’s few out politicians, Leo Varadkar, the Health Minister, who came out as a gay man earlier this year, appeared close to tears as he told RTE, “It’s a really great day for Ireland... Ireland is shining. If you think about it really is historic... it’s something really special.”

The No side's David Quinn, appearing on the public broadcaster RTÉ radio, expressed his “disappointment” at the result, saying, “I am quite philosophical about the outcome. It was always going to be an uphill battle. We knew that relatively speaking there would be far fewer organisations on the ‘No’ side. And obviously the parties lined up on the ‘Yes’ side.”

Quinn’s graceless loser’s analysis failed to take in the huge success of the ‘Yes’ campaign, which was to face down and vanquish the years of prejudiced, anti-gay doctrine the Catholic Church had promulgated in Ireland—prejudice which the ‘No’ side freely and negatively tried to exploit during their campaign, which majored on such things as the supposed harm marriage equality would do to children.

(The No-supporting Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said, as the result of the poll became clear, that the church needed "to do a reality check," and questioned whether it had "drifted away completely from young people.")

Quinn went on to express concerns about the ‘gay cake’ court case in Northern Ireland, saying, “I mean there are religious people of good intent and good will who are concerned about that kind of thing.”

Quinn was roundly mocked on social media for the comments.

What few victories there were for the No side came from remote islands off the west coast of Ireland Inishbiggle (pop, 39) and Inishturk (pop. 58)

However, despite the overwhelming Yes vote, the Irish reputation for cussedness when it comes to referenda was also proved with a second proposal – to lower the age from 35 to 21 at which a citizen can stand for the Presidency of the country – set to be defeated by a margin of 2 to 1.

And another modern Irish tradition was observed when singer Sinead O’Connor penned an open letter—this time to her former partner, newspaper columnist and No campaigner John Waters, who has argued that same sex marriage will threaten family life and children’s well being.

Sinead wrote, “You and I didn’t ever live together in our lives. Our daughter was half the time with each of us until 13, when she decided to stay fully with me. She is now 19 and one of the most incredible women on earth. She didn’t come from the core family you are talking about. And she is my core heroine.

“Our own staggering daughter is the living contradiction to your argument.

“You’ve been a great father to her. I’ve been a great mother to her (I hope and pray). [She is] a student, with astonishing work ethic, astonishing self esteem, self confidence, intelligence, heart, spirit, everything.

“I love you. Please don’t worry. Just picture your own girl.”