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Australian activists shouldn't lose hope, says Ireland -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Ireland is coming to terms with becoming a global bastion of social liberalism after its historic vote at the weekend on same sex marriage.

It became the first country in the world to put the issue to a popular vote and lock gay marriage equality into its constitution, surprising many, as it's been regarded as arguably the West's most socially conservative country.

The vote prompted calls for a referendum here, but they've been flatly rejected by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Europe correspondent Mary Gearin has spoken with some relieved gay rights campaigners about the vote and the world's reaction.

(Sound of applause and cheering)

MARY GEARIN: The parties were long and loud across Ireland for those who voted Yes, and now the country has woken to profound change.

Rory O'Neill is a well-known gay rights advocate and drag queen. His alter-ego Panti Bliss attracted world fame for a speech against homophobia.

RORY O'NEILL: Well I felt great waking up today. But in a way I don't really feel like I'm waking up to a new Ireland, because I've said for a long time that you know that Ireland has been this way. I think really what happened yesterday was that Ireland confirmed that change that I was already sure had happened.

MARY GEARIN: The rest of the world is reacting with some shock though.

RORY O'NEILL: It can be a little annoying the way that we're seen from abroad. And so I would hope that maybe this will sort of say to the world that actually, you know, you need to catch up.

MARY GEARIN: There are places like Australia where the Prime Minister has been asked about this and he says that he's still opposed to same sex marriage and has ruled out a referendum.

RORY O'NEILL: Our own prime minister here, he's been on a journey with this and only a couple of years ago he was not in favour of gay marriage and it's something that he came round to.

But of course it's also true that we would have done it legislatively, like every other country has, if we could have, because that would have been much easier - every political party, government and non-government were in favour, so it would have sailed through. But we had to put it to a referendum just because of the vagaries of our constitution. And that actually is sort of a terrifying prospect, it's much more difficult. But, having done it that way, the result is even more powerful and more affirmative.

MARY GEARIN: Ireland's former equality minister Pat Carey says Australian activists shouldn't lose hope.

PAT CAREY: I think it's an indication of a mature democracy that it is able to address the difficult questions, like same sex marriage, in a mature way.

MARY GEARIN: What do you think that this has proven, if you like, about the Catholic Church and the modern Ireland?

PAT CAREY: Well I think what people in Ireland are now better able to do than previously, they can separate issues of religion away from civil matters. And this proposal was at the end of the day a proposal to allow people to avail of civil marriage in a registry office. I think the Roman Catholic Church, as indeed the Anglican churches, are walking through the theology of somebody being gay, also (inaudible) them to be possible people of genuine faith.

But I don't presume it's going to happen overnight and it mightn't happen even in my lifetime. But sure as God made little apples, it will happen.

MARY GEARIN: And as sure as God made those apples, the fallout from Ireland's decision will continue to ripple through the Church and the rest of the world.

This is Mary Gearin for AM.