We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Shutterstock/PLRANG ART
marriage referendum

A woman sprinkled holy water to 'cleanse her yard' after Yes campaigners' visit

A new book about the Yes Equality campaign carries some fascinating anecdotes from the canvass trail.

NEW DETAILS OF the strange, unusual and sometimes harrowing experiences of Yes canvassers in the marriage referendum have been published in a new book about the historic campaign.

In one instance canvassers in a midlands town were followed out of a driveway by a woman sprinkling holy water to “cleanse her yard” after their visit.

That story and others feature in the book ’Ireland says Yes – The Inside Story of How the Vote for Marriage Equality Was Won’ which provides a detailed account of the campaign for marriage equality earlier this year.

The book is authored by the two directors of the Yes Equality, Gráinne Healy and Brian Sheehan, and the barrister and columnist Noel Whelan who worked closely with the campaign.

The fast-paced narrative account of the last 100 days of the campaign provides granular detail on how the referendum on same-sex marriage was passed on 23 May this year. It sheds new light on how the successful campaign strategy was devised and executed across the country and on social media to deliver a historic referendum result.

The book details another story of how two young men campaigning in Dublin’s Dolphin’s Barn were told repeatedly by an elderly woman that she would be voting Yes. But she is said to have told them:

“Of course I’ll vote Yes, sure it’s not your own fault.

“A definitive Yes was welcome, even if expressed in non-PC terms,” the authors note.

30/4/2015 Gay Marriage Equality Referendums Gráinne Healy and Brian Sheehan Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

However, other canvassers reported more harrowing experiences.

The book details how the partner of Marriage Equality co-director Moninne Griffith was abused:

In Portlaoise, the hometown of Moninne’s partner Clodagh Robinson, where they had always been well received as a lesbian couple, a man came over to the bus twice to shout abuse at them.
‘People like you should be locked up – like they do in Africa,’ he called to the bus team.

Another story recounts how in Newcastle West a group of men stood outside the bank “leering and jeering” at the bus and its occupants.

As some townspeople were talking to the bus team, shouts of ‘Are you going off with the lezzers and the gay boys?’ were heard.

The authors also describe other encounters:

A man was so abusive to one of the young men from the bus in Waterford that the gardaí had to be called, while in Dundrum another told [Yes campaigner] Mary [McDermott] that ‘This will be the end of humanity if it passes’.


The books carries detailed accounts of how a number of high-profile figures spoke publicly about their sexuality for the first time, including TV3 political correspondent Ursula Halligan, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, and former Fianna Fáil minister Pat Carey.

The book also details the Yes Equality’s frustrations with RTÉ during the referendum campaign.

The authors claim that unlike previous referendums there was little effort by the national broadcaster to fact-check claims and counter-claims by both the Yes and No sides:

Even though the controversies about surrogacy and adoption, for example, raged for weeks, there was no use of the health correspondent or the social affairs correspondent to explain the factual situation. Coverage mainly took the form of ‘one side says this, the other side says that’ reports.

It also reveals that in the final days of the campaign Sheehan received a series of abusive and homophobic anonymous messages on his mobile phone.

Read: 13 heroes of the Yes campaign

Read: David Norris got an amazing reception at Dublin Castle this afternoon

“Everything changes with this”: Tears, relief (and sunscreen) at a jubilant Dublin Castle

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.