What a truly amazing few days it has been. I wrote a few words on my blog about what it meant to be the father of a gay son and was astonished at the response. I was trying to say how much the love I had for Daire changed me as a person when he told me he was gay. It’s a journey I never expected to make, but I couldn’t be more proud of him.
I happened to be at the count centre in Ballincollig doing, for the first time, some tally work for the Yes Equality team. The constituency I was checking was the largely rural one of Cork South West, so when the first boxes were opened and I could see how many Yes votes were piling up I knew without question the Marriage Equality Referendum would pass. It was an absolutely brilliant moment.
Some weeks ago I told Daire I was planning on getting involved with the Yes Equality campaign in Cork, but I shied away in the end. My wife Trish had encouraged me to join up. I have no excuse because I am unemployed and have all the time in the world, but as the days rolled by and I heard more and more the voices of Ronan Mullen, John Waters and Breda O’Brien and others on the No side, I began to think I should do what I had always planned to do one day and write about my son, and how his coming out had changed me as a person. I hoped it would resonate with other parents especially. In any case, it would tell the story of one ordinary family and our journey together.
Thousands of people read that blog. It was published in the Irish Independent, on Broadsheet.ie – there was even a story in the London Independent that was shared over 1,000 times. Hundreds shared it on Twitter and Facebook too. What I especially loved and felt deeply touched by were those who contacted me to share their stories: the sons and daughters who found it hard to come out; the guy who told his family he was gay at the age of 61. One former neighbour told me how she and her husband were shocked when their daughter revealed she was a lesbian, but learned that love conquered their own fears. That former neighbour, incidentally, was heading to her daughter’s wedding in England the following day. And then there were the young people who contacted me to say they had show the blog o their parents in the hope it might change their vote – and sometimes they did!