ENNIS man Darren McMahon, who canvassed for a yes vote in his home town and in Galway where he now lives, was delighted that his native county supported his search for equality. A total of 58.3% of the Clare electorate voted yes in the Marriage Equality Referendum.
While Darren did have some rough experiences while canvassing, he found that many people in this county were supportive. “A yes vote won’t harm anyone but a no vote could have destroyed people,” he reflected when speaking to The Clare Champion.
“I was incredibly proud of the result in Clare. It was one of the highest yes votes outside of the big cities,” he pointed out. A bit nervous in the days leading up to last Friday’s vote, Darren was one of many people tallying at Ennis Courthouse early on Saturday morning.
“The first box that I tallied, I counted seven no votes in-a-row. I was saying I had misjudged this one and that Facebook had lured me into a false sense of security,” he said. “Then things started to pick up. The first box ended up being a yes box. I tallied four boxes in total and, thankfully, they were all yes. The closest one I got was Kilmurry McMahon, which was 109 yes to 101 no.”
From Willow Park in Ennis, Darren has been in remission from cancer for two years. Last year, he completed a post-grad in graphic design and has recently moved to Galway to find work.
In recent months though, his focus was on convincing the people of Ennis and Galway to vote yes. “I couldn’t not go out and canvas, although the campaign was mentally and physically draining, going from door to door knocking. I had my own bad experiences.”
Some of the treatment accorded to Darren and other canvassers in Ennis and Galway was extreme.
“I was spat at, I was called a faggot, a queer and every word under the sun. It did feel very humiliating, night after night, having to ask to be treated equally. Sometimes it would be a very large no. Canvassing did get easier but every single time someone said no to you, it did hurt. It did feel personal and it did feel like they didn’t see you as equal. But you just had to get on with it. In a sense, you could almost tell who was a no voter. You’d give them your little spiel and then they’d rip into you,” he said.
“They’d go on about surrogacy, the family and redefining things. You had to smile, say thank you and say ‘you’re entitled to your opinion’. Every night everyone would have one bad story but every time you got a yes it more than made up for it,” Darren McMahon acknowledged.
Some parts of Ennis were overwhelmingly positive.
“We got great responses for example in Cloughleigh and Clancy Park. They were really supportive. There was this sense of underdogs looking out for underdogs. Then in contrast, I remember going to houses that would have two nice cars in the driveway, they were usually no voters. They were happy to keep things the way they were. But, generally, there was a sense of community and of people coming together. Last Wednesday night, we did a canvas in Ennis which we called the Siege of Ennis. People came from Galway and Limerick to Ennis. We had 48 people out canvassing. That was our last big push,” Darren explained.
On a personal level, Darren was very proud that his mother, Deirdre, canvassed with him. “Everyone has a reason for going out. My mother was out canvassing with me. Again, that’s something that I could not have imagined. When I was 19 and came out to my parents, it was very difficult. They have evolved just like the country has evolved,” he has found.
Darren hit on 19 as a good time to come out in peculiar circumstances.
“I had seen an episode of Will and Grace where Will came out when he was 19. So I had it in my head that was the official age to come out. I put it to the back of my head when I was 14 and said ‘it’s grand, it’s five years away’. Since I was about 12, I had known. As a young gay person, you do have massive fears of rejection whether it’s from your friends or your family. But I was very lucky, I had a great bunch of friends. Young gay people in the position where I was, hopefully this will make it a bit easier and open up the conversation that has been going on for the last year and a half. I never really imagined having a wedding but now it is something I’m thinking of. I would like my younger cousins to be there and see it as a normal thing that happens in Irish society,” he said.
Darren was almost emotional when he learned that members of his extended family were voting yes.
“They’d be very religious but when I found out that they were voting yes, I was absolutely ecstatic. Also, on my very first day canvassing at The Height in Ennis, an older lady said she was definitely voting yes and she asked for a badge. You can’t write anyone off. The domino effect has already started. The opposition in Australia are calling for marriage equality, Israel is calling for it, as are Germany and Italy. It has been a massive thing for the whole world and I think people who did vote yes, it’s something they can be really proud of. It wasn’t just a vote for Ireland. This will have a massive global knock on effect,” the job-hunting Ennis man predicted.