The greater number of those who voted "yes" in Ireland were not themselves gay, so this is not only a vote for tolerance. It is a strangely selfless statement and a contrast to the votes and discussions that took place in Westminster when the same issue was debated. There, a die-hard group of MPs thumped on about Biblical values, randomly quoting from the six texts that are supposed to condemn homosexuality in the Bible. Few of them had studied the context of these but that did not stop them.
Some of them, indeed, continue to hold these views and UKIP certainly spoke in the run-up to the last election in terms that suggested a repeal was already in the wind. Indeed, there is no gay marriage in Northern Ireland – somehow the "union" seems to have fractured there. Part of the problem for Westminster may have been the "established Church" but anyone who has attended a registry office marriage knows that the name of God is excised from the service. If God is invoked, it must be in a separate ceremony. What we got, therefore in England, was a mealy-mouthed gesture towards equality. What we got in Ireland was a triumphant affirmation.
While these two articles might seem anti-Roman, they are not. There are people like Tony Flannery who talks of "doctrinaire Catholicism", and regrets that the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, took an "extremist" position. The Archbishop said that "there's a growing gap between Irish young people and the Church." It was not his fault – he placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the young. Father Seamus Ahearne agrees – church-goers are old, and the church itself is old. It is, in other words, out of touch with the new generation.
But, despite recent comments by Cardinal Pietro Parolin that the Irish vote was "a defeat for humanity," and the continued rejection of Laurent Stéfanini, an openly gay ambassador to the Vatican, the wider Church, I think, is neither inflexible nor so "old."
There is change: the present Pope, for instance, famously said "who am I to judge?" and Cardinal Cormack Murphy O'Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster, is on record finding civil unions acceptable. While both might fight against the disintegration of the family, and while they might have seen the "gay marriage" issue as a suitable rallying call, an iconoclasm worthy of a gusty salvo, I think there might now be some serious reflection on the division of Church and State and on the value of kindness and toleration.
Gay marriage, after all, does not harm conventional marriage. It should strengthen it. It affirms for a new society that commitment between two people of any gender is binding and public. It confirms love as a centre-piece in our society. To quote Pope Francis, the concept of gay marriage is no longer something "diabolical" but a "growing effort to redefine the very institution of marriage' and he talks of "gifts and values" that should be recognised within the gay community.
Ireland has the opportunity to show the rest of the world how to move forward. There will come a point when the images of the recent film "Calvary" will give way again to a greater respect for what the Church offers, but I hope it will be a kinder, more sensitive #Religion, that will embrace difference and dissent rather than hide or suppress it. #Government