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My devout Catholic mother, 84, backed same-sex marriage, Mary McAleese reveals

Published 05/09/2015

Mary McAleese and her husband Martin McAleese being conferred with honorary degrees by Dublin City University, with their children Justin, Sarah and Emma
Mary McAleese and her husband Martin McAleese being conferred with honorary degrees by Dublin City University, with their children Justin, Sarah and Emma

Hearing her devout Catholic mother say she would have voted Yes in the same-sex marriage referendum earlier this year was a "transformative experience", Mary McAleese said.

The former president, whose son Justin is gay, was one of the most vocal supporters of the campaign to change the law and said she was delighted that 1.2 million Irish voters had voted yes.

She said her 84-year-old mother, who lives in Northern Ireland and so did not have a vote, told her she would have said Yes - but only made up her mind as the results were being announced.

Ahead of the historic referendum Mrs McAleese said her mother had expressed indecision over which result she would favour.

"My mother who thankfully lives in Northern Ireland and didn't have a vote had told me if she had a vote she wouldn't know what way to vote," she said at an event in London discussing social change in Ireland.

"And I said 'Well don't tell your grandson that' - her gay grandson."

But on the morning of the results, as the trends were becoming clear Mrs McAleese got a call from her mother to say the news that a Yes vote was likely was "wonderful".

Mrs McAleese said: "That was pretty transformative, for an 84-year-old woman with very fixed views and a daily mass-goer, pretty good."

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