Countdown-to-midnight celebrations as Northern Ireland marriage law enacted

There was a countdown-to-midnight celebration in Northern Ireland on Monday as new legislation which paves the way for same-sex marriage and decriminalises abortion came into effect.

Nowhere were the celebrations more intense than in Belfast, where celebrations at the LGBT-friendly Maverick Bar were “euphoric”.

Louise McCullough attended the event with her partner Martha Brown, 29, and said the atmosphere was “electric”.

Martha Brown and Louise McCullough at the Maverick Bar
Martha Brown and Louise McCullough at the Maverick Bar

“I think in Belfast we’re so slow to catch on, there’s kind of like an underlying shame that comes with being gay,” Ms McCullough, 28, told the PA news agency.

“Last night I felt so proud – I still feel like I’m on a total high and I’ve had very little sleep.”

Ms McCullough said the bar was so packed that it felt like she was “swimming through people”, adding that she felt “empowered” to be in a room of so many like-minds.

“It’s just such a powerful feeling to say finally, we are afforded the same rights as everybody else,” she said.

“It’s about time, but it’s really important to look at the positive side and not focus on how long it’s taken, we need to focus on the fact we’re finally here and we can move forward.”

Drag queen Titty Von Tramp, who Ms McCullough described as “amazing”, counted down the clock to midnight at the venue.

“There was a New Year’s Eve-style countdown to midnight and the eruption of cheer and applause was one of the biggest I’ve heard,” said Ciaran Gallagher, 30.

“I even got hugged by a total stranger – it summed up the happy conclusion to a long, hard campaign that very often seemed like it may just never come.”

Politics student Jamie Kennedy, 20, said he had “never experienced anything like it”.

“There was a real sense of anticipation heading towards midnight and once it came there was just pure euphoria in the place,” he said.

“It was just pure joy, the likes of which I haven’t seen before.”

55 mins!!! ✊

— Jamie 🎃 (@JkUmisma) October 21, 2019

Cara English, 31, travelled from Glasgow to her hometown of Belfast to join the celebrations, which she described as “a bookend to the darker days of our history”.

“If someone had told me even a few years ago that I would return to Belfast to celebrate this, I simply wouldn’t have believed them,” Ms English, who is transgender, told PA.

“The fight doesn’t end with equal marriage and reproductive justice though, trans rights in the province are in dire straits.

“I look forward to coming back to celebrate when they’re granted to my siblings at home after years of grassroots action.”

Drag queen Titty Von Tramp at the Maverick Bar
Drag queen Titty Von Tramp at the Maverick Bar

Ms English was joined by her friend Sarah Woolley, 31, a writer from London, who described it as a privilege to be a part of the “queer joy” in Belfast on Monday.

“The solidarity in the room reaches out to LGBTQA+ people across the world,” she said.

“Anything is possible when we stand together, but for now I’m surviving my first hangover since 2015.”