4th generation matchmaker Willie Daly chats up love seekers at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival in Co. Clare, Ireland. This is the 2nd year the 158 year old festival has included gay people. Ireland will hold a referendum on same sex marriage next year. Corinne Purtill Instagram
BY CORINNE PURTILL / GlobalPost
The whole world is watching as the Irish prepare to head to the polls next spring.
LISDOONVARNA, Ireland — Willie Daly looked a little tired on a recent Saturday night.
This is the busiest time of year for the fourth-generation matchmaker, who collects lists of love-seekers’ preferences and particularities and matches them up like a human OkCupid.
For the last 157 years, his tiny west coast village has hosted the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, a month-long mingle session created back when people were too busy toiling in the fields to find partners themselves. Although the basics of matchmaking haven’t changed much since Daly’s great-grandfather got into the business, times in Ireland have.
Since the festival opened to gay singles two years ago, the line at Daly’s table has included men and women seeking soul mates of the same gender. Depending on the result of a vote next spring, they could join the 3,000 married couples he claims to have already paired.
“All my life has been about finding love for couples,” says Daly, a gray-bearded septuagenarian with a fondness for meandering anecdotes. An intoxicated parish priest lost his birth certificate; he doesn’t know his exact age.
“I think everyone deserves to find love,” he adds. “I just never done it before with gay people and lesbian people.”
This spring, the Irish will hold a referendum on whether the state should recognize same-sex marriages. If they vote yes, Ireland will become the 12th European country to recognize gay marriage and the first to pass it by popular vote. At the moment, the polls look good for proponents of marriage equality. Seventy-six percent of likely voters said they supported same-sex marriage when the referendum was announced in November, a number that’s remained high since.
All of Ireland’s major political parties back the referendum, the exact date of which hasn’t been set. Even a majority of farmers — traditionally a socially conservative constituency — say they favor gay marriage.
A greater percentage of people in Ireland support same-sex marriage now than did in Britain last year before equal marriage became law in England and Wales.
(Scotland passed gay marriage laws separately. Northern Ireland lawmakers have rejected several attempts to institute same-sex marriage there.)
“I’d vote for it, yeah,” said Jeremiah Murphy, 61, from the doorway of the Ritz pub in Lisdoonvarna’s village square as the matchmaking festival continued down the street. “I’m not gay meself,” the retired sugar factory worker said in a Cork accent thick as butter. “But I wouldn’t stop them. They’re not doin’ me no harm, are they?”
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