DUBLIN, Republic of Ireland – Polls have closed in Ireland’s constitutional referendum to allow gay marriage amidst allegations traditionalists were unable to express their views. Despite promises of an open and fair vote, every state-funded political party in the country supported full gay unions, now expected to easily pass.
Christians suggested they felt unable to admit their views or openly campaign because of the strength of feeling in the ‘Yes’ camp. Traditionalists also battled a fearsome campaign from the University Students of Ireland (USI). The student group claimed to have signed up as many as 30,000 new voters specially for the referendum, and even put up a six storey banner in Dublin to hammer home their message.
One local businessman told Breitbart London he was deeply concerned about the risk of women being forced to be surrogates to gay couples but admitted his views “were likely to be ignored”. He did not wish to be named as he feared a boycott from pro-gay marriage customers.
Ireland is traditionally thought of as a staunchly Catholic country and homosexuality was illegal until 1993. Even today abortion is against the law except where the mother’s life is in danger. But the country’s reputation is likely to change forever tomorrow (Saturday) when the result is declared.
Even before the polls closed, the ‘Yes’ camp were jubilant. One gay man, Seamus Wright, who voted with his partner John O’Sullivan told AFP: “It’s a very historic day, for Ireland, for gay people and for their family and for their friends, and for the future of the country.”
He continued: “Today in fact is our first anniversary of our civil partnership and we hope it’s our last anniversary as well because we would like to get married.”
If the move is approved and the ensuing legislation is passed, Ireland would become the first country to make the change following a popular vote. Earlier this week the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, said: “We are saying here, in a world first, that the people of Ireland can extend the right of civil marriage to all our citizens.”
Not to be left out the Irish President Michael Higgins voted, despite firm rules banning the Irish Head of State becoming involved in political matters. He cast his ballot in a hospital in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, without openly stating any opinion.
Catholic Bishops issued a letter to their parishioners at Sunday Mass begging them to oppose gay marriage. Most churchgoers are expected to follow their advice but numbers have dwindled in recent years as a result of child abuse allegations against priests.
Ireland would be the 19th country in the world to legalise gay marriage and the 14th in Europe if the referendum passes. Across the border in Northern Ireland, gay marriage is banned even though it is legal in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Results are expected to be announced at Dublin Castle at around 5:30pm (BST) on Saturday. The turnout is expected to be over 60 percent, perhaps even topping 70, which would make it the biggest referendum turnout ever.
The country is also voting on whether to drop the minimum age for a Presidential run from 35 years old to 21. The proposal has generated almost no interest from voters but is likely to pass anyway.
Additional reporting from AFP.