In the carnivalesque aftermath of yesterday’s ‘Yes Vote’ it’s hard to feel jaded about the state of Ireland’s democratic present and our future as a nation. The people asked to be heard, the politicians listened, and around 60% of the people actually spoke. It seems cynical to point out a statistic that shows around 40% of the country sitting on their arses during one of the biggest decisions of their lifetime, but that’s a hell of a turnout for a referendum. As far as we’re all concerned, it’s all sunshine and rainbows… and not just the LGBT kind.
Today we can be proud of the fact that we will be the first country in the world – the whole damn world, mind you – to pass same-sex marriage into law by popular vote. It’s a coup for liberals, evolved human beings, and a country that just 23 years ago would have scoffed at the idea of homosexuals having any rights, let alone equal ones. That was then and this is very much now. We’re forward-thinking in the present – a goddamn utopia of tolerance and equality. We can lord it over anyone that calls us a backward Potato Republic forever more and I suppose a handful of people can actually marry the person they love as a convenient after-thought, too.
I’m not questioning Ireland’s motives, here. Without a doubt, the hypocrites that fell in line with someone else’s opinion before consulting or even forming their own were a tiny minority. Most of us (almost all of us) voted Yes because it was the right thing to do. That was all the justification we needed and we went for it. The ‘No’ side tried to sell themselves in every which way but (somewhat ironically) straight, but Ireland didn’t buy, and in the end, love won over hate.
Let’s celebrate – and no, I’m not being facetious, or sarcastic, or ironic. We made our little island a better place on May 22nd, we should be damn proud of that. So, hand out the congratulations and the awards. There are no issues here for the rational thinkers.
But I do have an issue. And yes, it is about yesterday’s vote.
No, I’m not about to come out of the reverse-closet and tell you I voted ‘No’ and you’re all morally reprehensible in the eyes of God. Not that I have to vindicate myself, but in order to avoid any backlash, I’ll tell you all I voted ‘Yes’ because I believe in equality. On top of that, I wish everyone in every community all the best and am looking forward to invites to some amazing weddings on the back of it. Maybe that friend we all have can find the courage to come out on the back of this, too. It can’t be anything but good.
My issue isn’t with any of that, it’s with that word equality. Or more specifically, the overwhelming majority who don’t seem to understand it fully. Not to detract from the mammoth step we’ve taken as a nation, but I have a few lingering questions.
How many people paid attention to the other vote yesterday? You know there was a second vote vote, right? That second piece of paper you got in there wasn’t a receipt or a coupon.
If the results are to be believed, almost nobody either knew or cared about it. I can’t blame them for getting caught-up in the fanfare and the rare sense of justification, of self-esteem we seem to be lacking these days. I’d support anyone getting behind a good cause for once in their lives – in fact, I’d almost encourage them to try it again on something they deem appropriate, but that’s not my point.
Here’s my two cent (not cents – we’re talking Euro, here). We took two steps forward and one step back yesterday. Sure, it’s not as bad as one forward and two back, but it’s still 66% less than three. We voted yes for equality, but we had some issues distinguishing equality for gay people with equality for everyone.
The minimum age of eligibility for presidential candidateship is still 35 years. We’ve voted not to change that to 21. But who cares, right? It doesn’t seem like such a big thing in comparison to civil fucking rights, does it? However, here’s the problem – and I mean serious problem. We can’t call ourselves a country that believes in equality unless EVERYONE is equal. So, why are young people precluded from consideration?
There are a lot of arguments against it. Actually, no, there aren’t. There was one and it was bullshit, generally phrased along the lines of
‘Could you imagine allowing my 21 year old son to run for president? He can barely get off the couch long enough to look for a job.’
Followed by derisive laughter. Yes, young people of Ireland, that’s what everyone thinks of you – a fucking punchline… and here’s the next one-liner. You agreed with them at the ballot box.
Apologies for what could be seen as wild hyperbole here (but definitely is not), but let’s rephrase that slightly so everyone can see exactly what I’m getting at here.
‘Could you imagine allowing a gay man to run for president?’
‘Could you imagine allowing a black person to run for president?’
‘Could you imagine allowing a Muslim to run for president?’
‘Could you imagine allowing a woman to run for president?’
It seems a lot more sinister to change it to something like that, but no matter how you rephrase it, we have discrimination for $1000. Unfortunately, in the minds of the Irish citizenship, this doesn’t constitute jeopardy when your reply is ‘Who are young people?’
I’ll remind everyone of how this presidential bullshit works, because nobody seems to understand.
According to page 18 (or 19, if you’re a Gaelgeoir) of Bunreacht na hÉireann, in order to run for president of Ireland, a potential candidate needs the backing of 20 members of the Oireachtas or the councils of 4 administrative Counties. How many TDs or senators do you think will have supported that joke 21 year old candidate who only ran for a laugh? It sounds ridiculous when you put it like that, but that genuinely seemed to be people’s main concern. Then, even if they had backed him or her, you’d still have to vote for this clown, too. Thank god we dodged that bullet, right? It was only a matter of time before the youth destroyed the system if that had passed, right?
Now I think of it, doesn’t excluding people from something based on skin colour, religion, orientation, or age seem a little unconstitutional? Article 40 of that little blue book states that
“All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.”
Unless of course, they happen to be under the age of 35, right?
Why am I so worked up about a bullshit piece of legislation that in reality, made almost no difference? It’s not like anyone would have voted for a kid, anyway. Because of equality, motherfuckers. It’s all or nothing when it comes to equality. Either any adult person can run for president or nobody can. All citizens… there’s no asterisk there saying over a certain age.
Any state in between that is not equality; it’s the state of being apart. There’s a tidier word for that phrase in Afrikaans, but I’m not here to sensationalise this, I’m just spelling this out for everyone in black and white.
I’m not saying that because you’ve drawn one line in the sand, the beach will eventually end up looking like this, I’m just saying… that one line shouldn’t be there at all.
So, congratulations to one and all on the historic yes vote and don’t let this sour what are bound to be some of the biggest revelries Ireland has ever seen, but please keep it in the back of your mind that not everyone came out of this as equal.