Dublin: Ireland voted on Friday to allow gay marriage, with a strong turnout by young voters favoring a Yes vote. The final count is expected to show a margin in the region of 2-1 in favor.
It seemed that every constituency in the Irish Republic-- bar Roscommon/South Leitrim--would show a Yes vote— an extraordinary outcome.
The huge flood of young people voting, including many who returned home from overseas was a key factor in the victory.
Dublin districts were returning tallies that favored the Yes side by as high as 85 percent. In conservative Donegal both constituencies voted in favor.
The major surprise was that rural Ireland was also voting in favor, albeit not as heaviy as Dublin.
Global interest in the referendum result made the hashtag #VoteYes the number one trend on Twitter on Friday and multiple news reports followed thousands of young Irish people making the journey home to vote via the #hometovote hashtag.
"I think this is a moment that rebrands Irelland to a lot of folks around the world as a country not stuck in tradition but that has an inclusive tradition,"Ty Cobb the international dicector of the Human Rights Campaign based in Washington told The New York Times.
On the streets of Dublin on Saturday afternoon there was an almost carnival like atmosphere as pockets of the young met up outside bars and clubs to debate, cheer and encourage each other after results emerged.
At Dublin Castle thousands also joined to celebrate the verdict.
The referendum Yes vote was supported by all the main political parties and it marks a major departure from the deciding influence of the Catholic Church on matters of Irish public policy.
The scale of the departure is not confined to the major cities, one village in County Clare reported an 83 percent Yes vote at press time.
Approaching 5 pm in Ireland and the final tally it has become clear that young people, as never before in Irish history, have transformed the country.
Leading No campaigners have begun to concede defeat after few if any show a No vote winning the referendum.
On national broadcaster RTE radio this morning David Quinn, director of the conservative Catholic group the Iona Institute, congratulated the Yes side on its victory, also expressing his disappointment at the result.
“I am quite philosophical about the outcome,” Quinn told RTE. It was always going to be an uphill battle. We knew that relatively speaking there would be far fewer organizations on the No side. And obviously the parties lined up on the Yes side.”
Asked if the No side had lost the argument Eileen King, a spokesperson for the Mothers and Fathers Matter campaign, told RTE: “Absolutely not. For me, in the last three weeks when we finally did get to have our debate put out there, and the real discussion put out. I noticed a turning point across the board in the debates. For the first time I had people approach me and say, ‘well I never thought of it from that perspective. I bought into the buzzword of equality, that soundbite campaign.”