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#ProudToBeIrish – How Social Media Fuelled the Irish Gay Marriage Referendum

theguardian.com

Unless you’ve been living under a rock on the dark side of Ganymede, you’re probably aware that the Republic of Ireland just passed a legislation which has made gay marriage legal nationwide. It is the first nation ever to pass such a law based on public vote and the 14th European country to pass one. This is a massive achievement both for Ireland and for LGBT activism and the role social media played in the initiative cannot be played down.

Among the 65% of registered Irish voters who turned out to cast their ballots, those who voted yes were heavily comprised of a younger demographic, and it goes without saying that younger people interface with (and understand) social media on a far grander scale than anyone else. Other recent referendums (such as the Scottish independence vote) have been heavily promoted on social media, but far more even-handedly. Any attempt to raise promotion against gay marriage would have garnered an epic backlash (as the 'Mothers and Fathers Matter' flagship campaign did), meaning that the yes campaign was always going to hit the ground running, regardless of scale.

During the final week of the campaign, 'Yes Equality' Facebook posts cumulatively reached 1.6 million users. Meanwhile on Twitter, the pertinent hashtag reached over 2 million. That was just the dedicated campaigning though, spontaneous, grassroots initiatives sprouted up constantly in the run up to the vote. The #hometovote push was particularly successful, working to encourage native Irish living outside the country to get involved with the referendum. This heightened engagement amongst the young also resulted in a massive uptick in young voter registration in Ireland.

After the count started the context shifted, but the online momentum remained in play. #ProudToBeIrish became one of the most heavily trending tags on the entire of Twitter, with thousands of people coming out to celebrate the result. Corporate Twitters like Paddy Power and Innocent also got in on the act. In an amusing twist, a double rainbow appeared over Dublin shortly after the announcement, which was hailed as divine proclamation on God’s (totally legit) Twitter page.


Whether this massive social media impact on voter turnout and the nature of votes cast will have any impetus on future referendums and elections is difficult to determine, while social media’s increasing role in such things is inevitable, any vote that related to equal rights was always going to resonate online. In any case, it’s a massive achievement for LGBT supporters around the world and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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#ProudToBeIrish – How Social Media Fuelled the Irish Gay Marriage Referendum Reviewed by Callum Davies on Tuesday, May 26, 2015 Rating: 5

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