Sunday 23 September 2018

Anna Nolan: The country I love said 'yes, you are the same as us'

Senator Katherine Zappone (left) with Ann Louise Gilligan at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, after Zappone proposed live on TV
Senator Katherine Zappone (left) with Ann Louise Gilligan at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin, after Zappone proposed live on TV

I have been in and out of tears all weekend. I have experienced that dreaded over-used television phrase - 'a roller coaster of emotions'.

The marriage referendum passed and although I didn't party, instead deciding to absorb it all on my own, I felt love from the country I love.

I took myself away to my mobile home on Friday. I had been asked on Marian Finucane and Vincent Browne. Lots of friends invited me to the count in the RDS and to go to Dublin Castle.

But me being the strange fish I am, I wanted to be away from everyone. I wanted to absolutely feel this momentous event. Perhaps I would be too teary and I don't like being teary.

On Saturday morning, I woke up at 6.30. Nervous, excited, sick. I had the coffee and the cigarettes ready. I knew there would be a lot of pacing.

It turns out there wasn't a lot of pacing (and it turns out I didn't smoke any cigarettes) - RTE called it quite early in the day that it would be an overwhelming win for the 'Yes' side. I sobbed. A big ugly sob that came from I don't know where.

As the morning went on, I had so many thoughts. I remembered the canvassing stories over the last few weeks that my friends told me. One very dear friend of mine travelled to her home town on her own. She had asked people to join her, via Facebook, not knowing if anyone would. They did. They knocked on every door in that village and had conversations with parents, with older men and women, with people they knew. I believe that group turned a 'No' vote into a 'Yes' vote for that town.


I thought of all the unsung heroes. The men and women up and down the country who came out to family members.

I thought of the gay men and women who had passed away, never having the opportunity to experience their country saying to them "you are the same as us".

I also thought of the original people in the Yes Equality campaign. The ones who thought civil partnership wasn't 'enough'. The ones who had to convince even gays and lesbians that they deserve more.

There are hundreds of people who played a part in making this whole campaign a success. There were politicians, journalists, celebrities, who came on board. This was one big beautiful band wagon that the Yes Equality group were very happy to let people jump on.

But there is one person who I would like to mention. Grainne Healy. If any political party or organisation has any sense, they would hire her the second she recovers from this campaign.

Diginified, smart, collaborative, humble. Devising the most impressive strategy ever experienced in our generation for Yes Equality. She is incredible.

I hope she and all the board members of Yes Equality know that they inspired a nation to change. They must be exhausted, drained but happy. I salute them all and thank them for making Ireland a better place.

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