While the debate over the marriage referendum has at times divided people, one of its features has also been the democratic awakening of many young people.
According to data from Census 2011 and the electoral register, almost one in three people aged 18-25 in Kilkenny are not registered to vote. A number of local volunteers and activists have been trying to change this statistic – helping students fill out forms, giving advice and ensuring those who are interested get registered.
These events are disinterested; the young people are not told to vote in a certain way or recruited by either side of the referendum campaign. But it’s also true that for many in this age cohort, the issue of marriage equality is seen as the civil rights issue of their generation.
Anthony Dawson Doyle is young, gay man from Kilkenny City. Until this referendum, he had never been involved in a political campaign in his life – now he’s one of the ‘Yes’ campaign’s most active volunteers.
“I have no political views at all,” he says.
“Politics is a tricky game to get involved with, you can never please everyone. There’ll always be someone who doesn’t agree with your views or method to getting things done.
“I’ve never canvassed before because nothing else has ever meant as much to me as this referendum – when something becomes personal that’s when you’ll see people take a stance and wanting change.
“I just feel that we need this change in Ireland to show those young LGBT people and even those who are older and still not able to come out, that it is ok to come out, that Ireland is progressing and becoming more equal and accepting!”
Originally, he was asked to help out canvassing in Dublin through a friend. Unavailable at the time, he emailed the Yes Equality Head office and asked about canvassing in his hometown. It was through this that he met Enya Kennedy, who was one of the first people on board with the campaign here.
“We canvass as much as we can,” he says. “[We are] currently in the process of doing door-to-door canvassing, and just asking people do they have any questions they need answering or clarity on. But we hold events too – like the Yes Equality Bus will be in Kilkenny on May 15, which will be exciting. So, hopefully people will show up and have a good day.”
The past few weeks for Anthony have been a learning curve. Reactions from people, he says, have been largely positive and receptive.
“Thankfully, Kilkenny has been great and very positive,” he says.
“This for me, as a young gay man in such a small city, just shows me hope for the future of the LGBT in Kilkenny. And across Ireland!”
“Negative, there has been some – very little – but I don’t dwell on that because, look, no matter who you are or what you do, there’ll always be one or two people who will say different just because they can. And 99% of the time what they say is either pointless or just for some attention!”
Anthony cites a statistic that gay people in Ireland are seven times more likely to attempt suicide, which he says is ‘frightening’. He is hopeful the referendum will be carried, if people get out and vote.
“This is why I urge people to vote ‘Yes’ on May 22 – you too could have the chance to help others feel more accepted and equal! And at the end of the day it’s just about two consenting adults who are in love wanting to have the same rights as their friends and family.”For more, see Yes Equality Kilkenny.