High turnout seen favoring Yes in Irish gay marriage vote

Fri May 22, 2015 6:49pm EDT
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By Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish voters turned out in droves to cast ballots in a gay marriage referendum on Friday, with the high turnout likely to favor the Yes side seeking equality just two decades after the country decriminalized homosexuality.

With the once mighty Catholic Church's influence ravaged by child abuse scandals, opinion polls indicated the proposal would pass by as much as two-to-one, making Ireland the first country to adopt same-sex marriage via a popular vote.

Irish national broadcaster RTE said it appeared to have been one of the highest ever turnouts for a referendum in the country, with turnout likely to reach 60 percent in Dublin. Only 39 percent voted nationally in an unsuccessful bid to abolish the upper house of parliament in 2013.

"It's looking as if there's a strong vote in urban areas, which would be more beneficial to the Yes side," said Mattie McGrath, one of just two of Ireland's 166 members of parliament who campaigned for a No vote.

"It's all to play for tomorrow, but the Yes vote might shade it," he said. There was no national exit poll and the first indications of the result were expected mid-morning on Saturday.

Yes campaigners also said the high turnout was a good sign.

"[I'm] beginning to dare to hope," said Rory O'Neill, also known by his drag queen stage name Panti Bliss, who has been one of the faces of the Yes campaign.

The result may depend on whether younger voters, tens of thousands of whom registered as the campaign gathered momentum, turn out to cast their ballots.   Continued...

Men walk past a Yes vote campaign graffiti in central Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on gay marriage, May 22, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Staples