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23 May 2015

Just 22 years after homosexuality was legalised, Ireland votes yes to gay marriage

More than 62 per cent of people voted in favour of the change.

By Helen Lewis

Ireland has become the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage after a popular vote.

More than 62 per cent of voters backed the change, with many coming from overseas to take part in the referendum, and using the hashtag #hometovote to share their experiences. (You can see some of the pictures here.)

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said that Ireland was a “small country with a big message for equality”. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 22 countries, including Britain – which introduced civil partnerships in 2004, and full marriage equality in 2013. Ireland passed a measure allowing civil partnerships in 2010, but the new law means that gay marriage is now protected in the constitution. It would require another popular vote to overturn the change.

It is only 22 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland. 

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A couple celebrate in Dublin Castle Square following Ireland’s vote to legalise gay marriage. Photo: Getty

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The BBC reported that turnout was 60 per cent, and 1,201,607 people voted in favour of same-sex marriage, while 734,300 voted against.

As with the British general election, there was concern that opinion polling would not accurately predict the result, with talk of apathetic voters and “shy Nos”. As Ciara Dunne wrote for the New Statesman: “Support for same sex marriage in Ireland . . . is polling at 70 per cent compared to 30 per cent against, once the undecided have been removed. Only 13 per cent are claiming to be undecided, an insignificant number that is not going to cause a massive upset although may cause the gap between yes and no to narrow. Another major poll shows support at 69 per cent when the undecided are included and 73 per cent when they’re excluded.”

In the end, these fears proved groundless, with nearly two-thirds backing the change. Commentators also noted that the predicted big split between rural and urban areas did not materialise as expected.

Ireland’s equalities minister was delighted:

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted:

Britain’s Prime Minister added: