The Art of a Yes Vote

As polling day arrives, it is time to stop campaigning and to finally get out and vote. It has been a long referendum campaign, which saw a surge of young people getting involved in Irish politics. It was also one of the more passionate referendums in our country’s history, which saw both the Yes and No sides pulling down opposing posters and debating intensely. No campaigners even ruined some of the street art promoting a yes vote.

Regardless of whether or not today’s vote legalises same-sex marriage, it is safe to say that this referendum has inspired some beautiful creative works. The Yes campaign in particular have been promoting marriage equality through art, music, poetry and photography. If the Marriage Equality Referendum doesn’t pass, it will be remembered as having some of the most creative campaigning ever. If the referendum does pass, these pieces of art, music and poetry will remain in our memories as symbols of how we extended our right to marry to same-sex couples. They will become emblems of how supportive of gay rights the people of Ireland became in such a short time.

Here is the best of these creative art works:

the claddagh embrace
Photo: William Murphy

Joe Caslin has probably become the artist most associated with the Marriage Equality Referendum after a four-storey same-sex marriage mural was created overnight above Rick’s Burgers on the corner of George’s Street. The mural entitled The Claddagh Embrace features two men, who live locally, embracing. The mural caused much debate; after there were requests to take it down, a petition signed by almost 20,000 people emerged asking that it remain in place. The mural has remained in place, but has become damaged by bad weather.

Artist Joe Caslin then followed this piece up with a mural of two young women in an intimate pose on the side of a castle in Galway. This mural was inspired by Frederick William Burton’s painting The Meeting on the Turret Stairs, which is based on the medieval Danish ballad of Hellelil and Hildebrand. Hellelil is a princess and the king does not approve of the young soldier Hildebrand as a suitor for his daughter.

marriage equality painting
Photo: The Bernard Shaw

The original painting, which is exhibited in the National Gallery, portrays the couple’s final embrace. Joe Caslin includes this poignant underlying story in his work alluding to the difficulties same-sex couples can experience. Unfortunately, this mural will also disappear as it was created using biodegradable materials.

Street artist William St Leger began a project called Walls of Equality. He approached a number of businesses that gave him permission to paint murals in favour of marriage equality on their buildings. He then set about recruiting street artists to take part. The project has resulted in many brightly painted walls around the country, which won’t be disappearing any time soon. One of the best known pieces in this project was painted by Jess Tobin at The Bernard Shaw. The piece was ruined with black paint and then restored a number of times, but now there is a giant YES in its place.

yes mural
Photo: The Bernard Shaw

There have also been a lot of songs inspired by the desire for a Yes vote. Comedy trio, The Nuala’s, released a humorous song in support of marriage equality. Yes 2 Love‘s video shows two men falling in love over a Jammy Dodger and the lyrics were sure to please The Nuala’s gay following: “It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, love is something to celebrate.”

Cork’s Choral Con Fusion LGBTS Choir also released a single to raise funds for the marriage referendum’s yes campaign, as well as to promote a yes vote. ‘We Love the Same’ was created by the 40 members of the choir and written by Karl Fradgley.

Galway band Ghost Rats also contributed to the yes campaign with a irony laced tune called ‘Everything is Gay‘. Band member Cathal explained that the inspiration for the song came from the opinions of those against same-sex marriage: “I saw an interview with Jeremy Irons, the actor, and he wondered out loud as to the legalities of a man marrying his son ‘for tax reasons’, I just thought like… Where did that even come from? How would you ever think that? So as I was writing the song I had that in my head. Besides that then there’s obviously what’s going on here with the referendum and it’s all over American politics right now too, so it’s just in the air.”

Ghost Rats

Cathal believes that a Yes vote is important, saying, “We’ve got kids growing up labelled different now, with a range of sexual and gender identities, and this is a vote telling them that their ‘normality’ is up for debate, it’s not fair.”

UCD Dance Society also got involved in the Yes campaign by creating a dance piece about all types of love and relationships. The piece ‘What I Did for Love‘ involved 40 dancers and more than 100 hours of rehearsals. “We are proud to do our part in support of this year’s marriage equality referendum campaign,” said a spokesperson person for the group. The piece follows six couples who struggle to find the right partner for them and then their discovery of who they really want to be with. According to the UCD Dance Society, the piece supports the idea that no matter who you are and who you love, everyone has to work hard to be with the person they love and every relationship deserves to be valued.

what I did for love

This is just a small selection of the creativity that has been inspired by a Yes vote for the Marriage Equality Referendum, but if same-sex marriage is introduced, all those involved in the various pieces of art, poetry and music can proudly tell their future children, or grandchildren, of the part they played in the campaign.


Photo: Choral Con Fusion

With thanks to Judd Scully