As I've noted in a number of postings in the past few days, a theme now emerging following the remarkable Irish vote for LGBT human rights has been the example the little island of Ireland now sets for many other places in the world. There's a venerable trope of talk about Ireland as the surprising little place that makes a huge and unanticipated splash in the rest of the world — as when Irish missionaries, monks who had preserved Greek and Roman texts destroyed in the rest of Europe, tramped across Europe in the early Middle Ages to Christianize many places in the continent, a story explored by Thomas Cahill in his popular book How the Irish Saved Civilization. Much of the commentary about the possible effects of the Irish vote on other countries implicitly builds on that trope.
I noted yesterday that there's already a move afoot to press Australia's Jesuit-educated and conservative Catholic prime minister Tony Abbott, who is opposed to same-sex marriage, to reconsider his position on this issue and move marriage equality forward in Australia after the Irish vote. Abbott refuses to budge.
And so today the Australian New Age editorializes:
Ireland is a strongly Catholic country. In a survey in 2011, almost 85 per cent of the people of the republic identified themselves as Catholic. And although the influence wielded by the church has been diminished greatly by the kinds of child abuse scandals currently convulsing Australia, pre-vote polling last week found that about 35 per cent of the populace still relied on the church as a source of influence in their vote.
If such a lesson had yet to be learnt, the Irish vote demonstrated that the question of marriage equality is not one of morality or religious dogma, but of human rights. If this can be understood in Catholic Ireland, why not in secular Australia?
Prior to the Irish vote, Rodney Croome, the national director of Australian Marriage Equality, predicted that Australians would be ashamed to lag behind Ireland, if Ireland voted for equality. Now that the Irish have done so in a landslide vote for equal rights, it appears Croome's prediction is being proven correct.
And not just Australia: as The Local reports today, in light of what has happened in Ireland, there's now growing pressure in Italy to move towards legal recognition of same-sex partnerships:
Laura Boldrini, president of the country’s parliament, said the Irish vote should spur progress in Rome.
"From Ireland another push. It’s time that Italy also has a law on civil unions. To be European signifies recognizing rights," she wrote on Twitter.
And Germany: as Deutsche Welle notes this morning, the Green Party in Germany is pointing to the Irish vote to shame chancellor Angela Merkel into action on the issue of equal rights for LGBT citizens:
"It's time Mrs. Merkel," the party's parliamentary leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt told newspaper "Die Welt." "The Merkel faction cannot just sit out the debate on marriage for all…I am confident that the Irish vote will accelerate equality in Germany."
As Derek Scally reports for The Irish Times,
Friday’s vote, and Saturday’s result, generated huge interest in Germany – topping the main evening news and shattering many dearly-held if dusty cliches about the “grüne Insel” or green isle.
For the past several days, I've followed the Twitter feed of #HometoVote and #IrelandSaidYES. One of the interesting things that will leap out at anyone perusing both discussion threads is the number of young people in many places in the world who have posted in this thread, in a polyglot of languages, about how the actions just taken by the Irish people inspire them, and how they hope their own country will soon follow suit.
After the Irish vote, the Sri Lankan radio personality in Ireland, Dil Wickremasinghe, proposed to her Irish girlfriend Anne Marie O'Toole on live radio. What happened in Ireland in the past several days is inspiring young people, in particular, across cultural boundaries, from one culture to another — giving them hope, fueling their energy to work to transform their own societies to make them more inclusive and respectful of the human rights of those on the margins of society.
This seems to me an altogether good thing.
The video report on the Irish vote is from The Guardian.