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The Australian people have created a “powerful and historic” moment in their history and should take ownership for the positive change they have brought to their country, Irish same-sex marriage campaigner Tiernan Brady has said.
Speaking less than an hour after the Australian parliament almost unanimously passed a bill for marriage equality, Mr Brady spoke to The Irish Times about watching the vote take place from the gallery with other member s of the Australians for Equality campaign.
Mr Brady was the political director of the Irish Yes Equality campaign in the run-up to Ireland’s 2015 marriage equality referendum. Two years ago he moved to Australia after he was invited by Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner to lead the Yes campaign.
Mr Brady and his colleagues from the Australians for Equality campaign spent all day in the Canberra parliament on Thursday waiting to hear the results of the cross-party bill.
“In Australia you don’t press a button to vote like in the Dáil,” he said speaking on the phone outside parliament. “You actually walk over to one side of the chamber so the visuals of seeing almost every MP from every party sitting together, that’s a beautiful image. It was like, parliament really gets this.
“When the bill passed it was really emotional for people. The atmosphere was electric. It was one of those fantastic moments in a country’s history. It’s the exact same feeling we had in Ireland. People here are feeling that happiness and also a real sense of pride in their country,” Mr Brady said.
“Everywhere you go there is a genuine sense of jubilation. I think people really feel they’ve done something powerful and historic themselves. People have a wonderful sense of ownership of what they have done, as they should have.”
Thursday’s legislative change comes just three weeks after more than 60 per cent of Australians voted in favour of same-sex marriage in a nationwide postal vote.
Although the vote was not binding, it paved the way for Australia’s parliament to legally recognise the unions of gay and lesbian couples. Participation in the postal vote was high with a record 79.5 per cent of registered voters taking part.
Mr Brady says parliament’s decision to legislate for same-sex marriage less than a month after the public vote was representative of Australian MPs’ respect for the will of their people. “What’s really brilliant is the public gave such a resounding yes vote, every single state and territory voted yes. And parliament has acted lightening fast in response.”
Mr Brady said working on both the Irish and Australian equality campaigns has taught him how much easier it is to win people over through positive campaigning.
“If you run a respectful campaign you can win. The change that comes from a positive campaign is so much greater than the change that comes from a negative campaign. At a time when you see so much negative campaigning around the world, I think the lesson from Ireland and Australia is you can speak to people’s better sides.
“Winning isn’t about beating somebody. Winning is about persuading people because that’s real change,” Mr Brady said.
Asked if he plans to return home to Ireland now that the campaign is over, Mr Brady said he will be in Donegal for Christmas but will return to Australia in the new year to figure out his next step.
“It’s been an absolute privilege and honour to be a part of this campaign. Australia is a wonderful country. We share the same values as Australians. Every part of this campaign has been joyful; it’s the luckiest job in the world.”