The referendum legalising same-sex marriage capped an astonishing 50-year social revolutionby Gerry Lynch / June 18, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
In the referendum held in Ireland on 22nd May, voters chose overwhelmingly—by 62 per cent to 38 per cent—to endorse a proposal to amend the country’s constitution in order that “marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” All the major political parties had supported a Yes vote on same-sex marriage. Predictably, the Catholic Church, once such a power in the land, had urged its flock to reject the proposal. Many of the Church hierarchy did so only half-heartedly, however, and in rural Ireland, where for decades the writ of the Church had run unchallenged, there were reports of walkouts at mass when priests called for a No vote from the pulpit.
A couple of days after the referendum, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, a senior Vatican official, described the result as not just a “defeat for Christian principle, but… a defeat for humanity.” But Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said that the crushing popular vote in favour of same-sex marriage was a “reality check” for the Church. It was more than that: it was confirmation of the strange, slow death of Catholic Ireland.
The story of its demise can be told be told in four acts.
Act 1: July 1949
Soldiers lined the route and bowed as the funeral cortège of Douglas Hyde, first President of the Irish Republic, founder of the Gaelic League and campaigner for the cultura…