Yes or No, have your say

By Morgan Fagg – Guest Blogger

The Marriage Equality referendum in 2015 made history around the world and the Irish diaspora was active online and even returning to Ireland to have their say. As another referendum rapidly approaches us, Morgan Fagg looks back at the Irish community’s response, in the heart of Spain.

Around the world, people voiced their opinions and excitement and here in the capital of Spain, a few people gathered together to show that they cared. The event was called Send the Love Home and a few years on, I am sure I won’t get in too much trouble for talking about that referendum.

Sending the Love Home:

I had heard about the Send the Love Home campaign event that was being held in Madrid and decided to show my support, I was far from my hometown of Athlone yet far from alone with over 50 people from all over Ireland gathering for the event.

The idea was that the group would gather and take pictures in the shape of a heart and we were all encouraged to wear green.

I put a few Saint Patrick’s Day items in my camera bag and cycled down to Buen Retiro, a beautiful park with a very large pond, located near Madrid´s city centre. I decided to bring my camera as you never know when a photographer can’t make it or hasn’t been fully organised.

Ireland´s attitude towards gay rights had changed enormously since Norris v. Ireland, when David Norris successfully charged that Ireland was in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to respect for private and family life. Almost two decades later, it was clear from the large colourful crowd that people were coming out to show their support for the LGBT community.

Some G.A.A. friends saw me with my camera bag and asked if I was the photographer but before I had time to explain that I wasn’t, the organisers were asking “who´s got a camera?”

I got off my bike and took out a novelty green tie and leprechaun hat to hand to some friends. The group organised themselves in the shape of a heart and I took off on my bike to the other side of the pond to try and get some photographs.

Returning out of breath, I decided it was best to try to take the pictures from a rowboat and carefully jumped the barriers and got into a tourist’s paddle boat.

An Italian couple held our Vote Yes signs, with pride and two cailíns rowed over to see what was happening with all the Irish flags.

They may have been in the same rowboat but the two girls were a Yes and a no vote as one girl was just visiting Madrid and her friend had lost her vote, when she, hmm, took the boat.

The Italians, the Irish girls and a grandfather and his grandson in another rowboat, all took signs which were written in three languages, Tá, Yes and Sí.

At one stage our flotilla nearly flooded as the abuelo and his grandson got too close to a fountain.

We never asked them their opinion on changing the President´s age from 35 to 21 but appreciated all the Spanish support we could get.

I had to be careful not to get my camera wet and also to watch out for those trilingual signs as Sí, Yes and Tá looked too much like the Spanish word for nap, si-es-ta. Tired of our Spanish Armada, it was time to get back on dry land where I took some green hair dye from my magic camera bag for one last photograph.

One of the organisers Clodagh Daly and a girl from Northern Ireland Kathryn Warke ended up in a very patriotic photograph, a tricolour of green, blonde and orange as Ultan O´Cinneide did an incredible hulk impression with the green hair dye.

Ireland made history around the world in the last referendum and there will be many more exciting referenda in the future so even if you have crossed the pond, have taken a boat or lost your vote.

Voting is essential to our democracy, get involved whenever possible and have your say.

Even in a foreign land, you are never far from friends and a feeling of home, let’s enjoy our democracy. The upcoming referendum is particularly sensitive for those who have had to travel to England or abroad in the past and an emotive issue for everyone else.

For the upcoming referendum, it is difficult to wear silly hats and gather in a public park but be respectful and try to enjoy, making new friends and being politically active, climbing poles and canvassing in the rain and we will continue to send the love, from Spain.

Morgan Fagg is an English teacher in Spain and an amateur photographer with experience with Local Elections, National Elections and the 2011 Presidential Election.

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