Ireland goes to the polls
Ireland goes to the polls in the historic gay marriage referendum.Getty Images

Polling stations in Ireland reported an "unusually high" turnout in Friday 22 May's historic referendum on whether to legalise same-sex marriage. Result were expected mid-morning on Saturday.

Dublin, Limerick and Waterford passed the 60% electorate turnout mark, while in Cork, Carlow, Kilkenny, Donegal, Tipperary, Kerry and Galway it was above 50%.

The referendum, coming 22 years after homosexuality was decriminalised in the country, asked whether people agreed that "marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex".

"It's looking as if there's a strong vote in urban areas, which would be more beneficial to the Yes side," Mattie McGrath, one of just two of Ireland's 166 members of parliament who campaigned for a No vote, told Reuters.

"It's all to play for tomorrow, but the Yes vote might shade it," he said.

Yes campaigners also told Reuters that the high turnout was a good sign.

"[I'm] beginning to dare to hope," said Rory O'Neill, also known by his drag queen stage name Panti Bliss, who has been one of the faces of the Yes campaign.

The hashtags #VoteYes and #hometovote were among the top trending on Twitter and thousands of Irish expatriates made the trip home to vote.

"I've been genuinely overwhelmed by the scale and the scope of the hometovote movement," said Joey Kavanagh of the Get The Boat 2 Vote group, as he and about 50 others made the eight-hour journey by train and ferry from London to Dublin.

"It's a very festive, celebratory atmosphere. At the moment we're hanging up posters in the lounge and stringing up balloons. People are just very eager to get back."