OPINION: A tough decision that shows a country coming of age

Our Political Correspondent Sean Defoe casts his eye over what a 'Yes' vote means for Irish society

OPINION: A tough decision that shows a country coming of age

Crowds gather at Dublin Castle for the announcement of the Eighth Amendment Referendum result. Image: Juliette Gash

Old Ireland is dead.

The emerald isle that swept problems under the rug or hid them in a laundry. 

The country of rolling green fields that hid the bodies of the babies no one wanted to talk about.

Where women were fallen, not equal. Hidden, not helped. And shunned by a country that has let them down again and again.

This isn’t the end of the change that needs to happen in Ireland to make it a better and safer place for women. Unfortunately the last few weeks have taught us there is much, much more that needs to be done.

But it has also shown that as a nation we can debate one of the most difficult and polarising issues in the world respectfully - and come to a decision.

It has shown how Irish society has changed over the past three decades, with a complete reversal in support for the Eighth Amendment.

It has shown that we can talk. Properly talk.

During this campaign, I learned that three friends of mine have been raped in the past few years.

I had absolutely no idea. No hint. No suspicion something was wrong. Nothing.

Uncomfortable conversations like those have been taking place across the country over the past few months.

A spotlight has been shone on some of the hidden places in society and this vote shows we haven’t liked what we’ve found.

It is one of the most emphatic decisions to ever come from our electorate. A sign that Ireland is ready for change, having considered all it could mean.

And for most, it was by no means an easy decision. Consciences have been wrestled with; points debated, fears shared and tears shed.

For a nation of good talkers, we have never been good at talking about the hard stuff.

It is easier not to ask THAT question. Not to let the mask slip. Easier to turn a blind eye that has for so many, for so long, felt like a cold shoulder as well.

This feels like a coming of age.

The start of a time where maybe we can sit around the table and admit it when things are not okay - and deal with them personally and at a governmental level.

For some campaigners, this marks the end of a long journey for change.

But as a country, it might just be the start of something else; as a new generation debates what kind of Ireland we want to live in.