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Yes, We Said Yes, Yes

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

The Irish Embassy in Madrid hosted a film in Cine Doré on Monday 29th of November ahead of International Day of Human Rights and the film was Queen of Ireland which looked at the history of Pantibliss and the historical Referendum for Marriage Equality that took place in May 2015 that was passed with 62% of voters favouring marriage equality.

Supported by the Irish Film Institute, Culture Ireland and the Arts Council of Ireland, the purpose of the event was to mark International Human Rights Day, with the widely acclaimed documentary exploring the history of Drag Queens in Ireland and the path to advancing LGBTQ rights.

Ireland was the first state to legalise same sex-marriage by popular vote. It has been six years since the referendum and in some ways it feels like yesterday and in some ways it feels like an eternity ago. Looking back a century ago to the publication of Ulysses, we saw the book banned and burned until a court case in New York in 1933 declared that the book wasn't pornographic or obscene.

Senator Norris sharing his copy of Ulysses with us.

Ulysses was controversial and LGBT Rights had been very controversial in a Catholic country like Ireland for a very long time until challenged by David Norris in the late 80s and early 90s.

The beloved Senator and Joycean scholar challenged Irish views on homosexuality and won, and two decades later the public had their say too. I remember being in the LGBT society in university as a member of the Student Union and people still weren't yet open about their sexuality beyond the small society group. I remember one friend whose family and friends didn't even know and that was Ireland less than twenty years ago and I find it hard to imagine what Ireland was like over 100 years ago for writers like Joyce and Wilde who quite literally broke the mould.

The film focused around the Marriage Equality Act of 2015 and I was reminded of this historical moment despite not being in Ireland at the time.

A group of people, mostly Irish of course, gathered in Retiro Park in the centre of Madrid and tried to share the love.

Here is my account of that memorable day with lots of colourful pictures.


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. This is how awesome the Irish community looked in Spain on that sunny sunny day.


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.

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 booked.

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 y su nieto 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.

Green Blonde & Orange

Ireland made history around the world in the last referendum and there will be many more exciting referendums 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 following referendum was particularly sensitive for those who have had to travel to England or abroad in the past and an emotive issue for everyone else.

For that referendum, it was difficult to wear silly hats and gather in a public park but friends travelled from Madrid and returned home to Repeal the 8th in 2018.

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.

Supported by

UNESCO City of Literature

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