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By Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish voters backed same-sex marriage by a landslide in a referendum marking a dramatic social shift in the traditionally Catholic country, government ministers and opponents of the bill said on Saturday. Final results were not expected until around 5 p.m. (12.00 a.m. ET), but ministers predicted Ireland had become the first country to adopt same-sex marriage via a popular vote, by a margin of around two-to-one, just two decades after it decriminalized homosexuality. With over a third of the results in, all 17 of the 43 voting areas to declare had backed gay marriage.
Ireland looked set on Saturday to become the first country in the world to approve gay marriage by popular vote as crowds cheered in the streets of Dublin in anticipation of the spectacular setback for the once all-powerful Catholic Church. Early results at 1430 GMT showed 61 percent voting in favour and 38 percent against as hundreds of cheering "Yes" supporters started celebrations early, waving rainbow flags on the grounds of Dublin Castle. "It's an amazing day to be Irish!" said Rory O'Neill or "Panti Bliss", Ireland's foremost drag queen and a leading "Yes" campaigner, as she arrived at the party wearing a figure-hugging dress and high heels.