Young people have just changed Ireland. We should celebrate this fact because it has never happened before in the history of the state.
Ordinarily the reverse happens. It's conservative older people voting in the largest numbers who usually carry our national votes.
But the masterful Yes Equality campaign, which was staffed at its core by both gay and straight volunteers, has demonstrated exactly what can happen when young people are politically engaged by an issue.
The referendum result has proved to them -- and the country's suddenly nervous political establishment -- exactly how much is possible when young people commit themselves to change.
Let's be clear. The final result on the marriage equality referendum wasn't just a national transformation: It registered on the global political Richter scale. Ireland became the first country in the world to vote in favor of marriage equality for its LGBT citizens, demonstrating quite a few facts in the process.
First of all they have proved that their Irish family values will now include their gay sisters and brothers. They have drawn a historic dividing line under the historic Catholic theocracy that Ireland once was.
They have underlined that the majority of Irish young people are socially liberal and politically to the left of center, and when they want to see positive change they will move heaven and earth to achieve it.
To Ireland's conservative political establishment they're terrifying, in other words. The reason we have barely heard a word about the dramatic result from the people who organized and ran the no campaign isn't because they are being gracious in defeat. It's because they are afraid of further provoking the sleeping giant that just sent them packing for the first time.
And what's remarkable is that if the people who ran Yes Equality can maintain and direct this level of political engagement by the nation's young people -- and there is no reason to suspect that they can not -- then the transformation of our national politics is something that isn't just possible. It's ensured.
Yes Equality worked hard to newly register tens of thousands of young people. They did this by face-to-face appeals and through online activism, reaching the young wherever they congregate, in a way that none of the nation’s major political parties have ever achieved.
In the process young Irish voters discovered that they had the power to transform the nation themselves. They fundraised, door-stepped, campaigned and they succeeded.
They took on the immovable monolith of Irish politics and they moved it. That has never happened before.
Crucially, during the campaign the young also got a clear sense of which major political parties and which ministers had – and did not have – their backs.
For this reason Senator Averil Power resigned from Fianna Fail just days after the referendum, claiming that the failure of many members of her party to actively campaign for marriage equality was the “final straw.”
Power, alone in her party, gets it. Young Irish people want principled and clear sighted political leadership, not a bunch of dissembling no-shows who are afraid of the mutterings of some of their most conservative constituents.
But there isn't a political party in the country that can claim ownership of the youth vote because ideologically they are simply not equal to the task.
Young people did not vote to approve “gay marriage.” They voted to protect equality.
They did not want to live in a state where some of their friends are disfavored by the law because of who they love. So they voted to ensure they didn't. Call it a velvet revolution.
Certainly they have already learned that you don't join Fine Gael or Labour or Fianna Fail's youth wing if you are serious about change. You will already know that they will absorb you and redirect your passion to their own party purposes. Before you know it you will just be another player in our conservative national politics, utterly impervious to meaningful change.
But now we know that Yes Equality and other dynamic equality groups can probably harness the youth vote if a new political party emerges – a thing that looks increasingly inevitable.