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Would a Referendum to Repeal the 8th pass? July 12, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.

There seems to be a bit of a backlash against Katherine Zappone and how she voted on Mick Wallaces Bill as well as her statement on the news at one that she was “not convinced that people are ready to pass a referendum on eighth amendment”
Personally I would have voted for Wallaces Bill and have had it tested in the Courts, however I do agree with her that an amendment on repealing the 8th would not pass at the minute.
We have all seen the Pro Life Campaign and their allies in action over the years and it seems some people are comparing the Marriage Equality vote with a prospective vote on Repealing the 8th. They are Two different Campaigns altogether. I think the Assembly is a fudge but what it may do is come up with something that has widespread agreement on what should replace the 8th (either in law or via a seperate Referendum). So rather than repealing we may end up replacing the 8th in the Constitution, where I’d imagine most of us would prefer the 8th to be gone and the area to be legislated on as any normal democracy would do.
Realistically I think we will probably end up voting on replacing the 8th rather than a plain repeal and what it will be replaced with will be only slightly less restrictive.
Any thoughts on what we will actually get to vote on and what will be there to replace it?…. and it’s prospect of passing?


1. Éamann Mac Donnchada (@EamonnMacDonagh) - July 12, 2016

The church would throw absolutely everything at a repeal the 8th campaign, no blow would be too low. It would be the defence of Stalingrad for them, lose the 8th and they might as well pack it in. And abortion reaches the parts of people’s psyche that marriage doesn’t.


WorldbyStorm - July 12, 2016

It might. I do agree that it would be a campaign where there’ would be a massive push back.


2. dmfod - July 12, 2016

All the polls show large majorities in favour of repeal, the smallest being two-thirds and that these majorities exist across all parts of the country and among supporters of all parties. The issue has so much momentum as well that support is growing all the time. A couple of months ago, Kenny was saying the Assembly would report back within 5 years but they’re so on the back foot that they’ve been forced to speed that whole timetable up. Those who say a referendum would be lost are ignoring all this evidence. Zappone’s stance is almost identical to Aodhan O’Riordain when he was a minister, pretending to be a big supporter of repeal but then undermining the campaign by saying a referendum wouldn’t pass when really the issue is they are in government and putting their own careers over women’s rights. There’s also a real generation gap on this is in terms of how winnable people think this is as older people generally are not as aware of the huge sea change in public opinion on this literally in the last 3-4 years and are overly afraid of the pro-lifers who are much weakened from what they were. There is a danger of a weak proposal being put but its content will be strongly influenced by the amount of public pressure and campaigning between now and then. Politicians are way behind public opinion on this and are being dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way.


sonofstan - July 12, 2016

You’re right about the generation gap. Those of us old enough to remember ’83 have a certain nervousness about going through it all again, whereas, as you say, for those born since the 80s it is – as it should be – a simple issue.


WorldbyStorm - July 12, 2016

There’s definitely very strong support for repeal of the 8th in relation to fatal foetal abnormality or rape. Beyond those it may be considerably more difficult. My own feeling is that repeal proposals will be tightly drawn around those areas.


3. Ivorthorne - July 12, 2016

The question is how the campaign would be run.

For the past couple of decades, every time the question about liberalising our abortion laws has come in the context of tragic cases which would probably not have happened with more liberal abortion laws. This is the equivalent of the sequence of questions that Sir Humphrey asks Bernard before Bernard agrees with implementing national service.

Attack the right to life of the unborn in general is a far more difficult task. Zappone is probably right in that replacing the 8th is easier than just deleting it. If you have a replacement, you have a replacement, you can explain to people why the replacement means that situations like the botched abortion of a polish baby with DS who was born alive and left to die will not happen.

With regard to the RCC and the marriage equality campaign, the church knows to keep out of these campaigns. Or at least to move behind the scenes and make low key announcements. They just aren’t popular with the swing voters. Iona and the like have the same problem but they exist as much to serve the egos of their spokespeople as much as anything else. They won’t shut up and they will probably help the anti-liberalisation campaign in many cases.

Anecdotally, my Facebook feed informs me that I have at least 2 old friends (in their early 30s) who both supported marriage equality and who regularly like pro-life memes and the like on Facebook. The problem with many liberals – and indeed some lefties – is that they imagine that there opposition to abortion liberalisation comes just or primarily from old, priest-fearing, boggers who would like to get rid of divorce and contraception. In truth, many of those who would have difficulty in voting to repeal the 8th, have not been in a church outside of Christmas in years, dislike Waters and his ilk and don’t give a fig about Catholic teaching but who simply believe that humans in the early stages of their development still have a right to life.

Liked by 1 person

irishelectionliterature - July 12, 2016

Agree entirely. On the rare times that Abortion would be discussed (Post Savita for example) I was always surprised how many people have pro life views and as you say not too many of them would be regulars at Mass.
Whilst this is supposition I wouldn’t imagine too many of the 37.93% of the electorate that voted against Marriage Equality would be pro choice. So you already have a narrow enough number of people to try and vote in repealing the 8th.


dmfod - July 12, 2016

I’m not surprised anti-choicers have anti-choice friends on Facebook. If I based how I think a referendum would go on my Facebook friends it would probably be 100% pro-repeal, bar my aunt who is a nun. In other words, what circles you move in affects how you instinctively think people will vote, which is why opinion polls are helpful:

– this poll in May 2015 found 81% were pro-choice or favoured choice in cases of rape or incest, where the woman’s health is at risk, or fatal foetal abnormality

– this poll in February 2016 found 87% of people want access to abortion expanded which would mean repealing the 8th https://www.amnesty.ie/node/4728

– this Irish Times IPSOS/MRBI general election exit poll also in February 2016 found 64% pro-repeal http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/poll

– the latest Irish Times IPSOS/MRBI found support for repeal had risen to 67% with only 21% opposed http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/majority-support-repeal-of-eighth-amendment-poll-shows-1.2714191?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/majority-support-repeal-of-eighth-amendment-poll-shows-1.2714191


WorldbyStorm - July 12, 2016

Sorry, dmfod, the two amnesty links don’t appear to work. Here’s some of the detail. https://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Public-Opinion

Just on the IT polls both were couched in the context of fatal foetal abnormality and rape, and I think almost everyone would agree entirely with your point that there’s now broad societal support for repeal of the 8th albeit to accommodate those, though it will still be a struggle to push legislature towards that. The same is borne out by the Amnesty Red C polls. But I’d wonder about abortion provision beyond that being attainable in the short term. I think that is a steeper challenge again. There is, it would seem 38% who would vote for a pro-choice position, at least according to Amnesty, some polls put it as high as 45%. All that said pressing on with the 8th is crucial.


Jonah - July 14, 2016

Great point there at the end. This is very anecdotal but there are two members of my immediate family who voted Yes on marriage equality who would vote against repeal of the 8th – definitely in one case, 50/50 in the other. Neither of them would be religiously motivated.

I think there’s also an issue here around the strength of the campaigns.

One of the strengths of the marriage equality campaign was the amount of ordinary people energised to actually go out and canvass, to talk to other voters.

In my own Dublin constituency, canvass teams of 30 were not uncommon, quite apart from the political parties.

This was organised on the back of a campaign group that had been working together for more than a year in advance.

I couldn’t claim to be deeply involved in the pro-choice campaign but I don’t get the impression there is anything like the money, resources, organisation or structure that there was for the marriage equality campaign.

And in a repeal the 8th campaign it may be even more important than in the marriage equality referendum as there’s likely to be less on-the-ground support from the main political parties.

I’d be nervous about going for a referendum on the 8th if the pro-choice side wasn’t prepared for it and I don’t get the sense that it is.

Liked by 1 person

4. Michael Carley - July 12, 2016

Would the way to do it be something like Divorce II: put the legislation in place to be activated upon repeal of the eighth? As I understand it, if the eighth were repealed now, we would still have the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act which prescribes a fourteen year sentence.


5. dublinstreams - July 12, 2016

did the gov not produce and pass legislation to take the heat out of the Childrens referendum before it, and now that are saying the repeal the 8th won’t pass while refusing to do all that they could to make it so like producing the legislation _they_ claim is needed to replace it

Liked by 1 person

6. Ivorthorne - July 12, 2016

That’s a fair point dublinstreams, but you’re forgetting that not all members of the government want to repeal the 8th.

The purpose of referring it to the constiutional convention is – at least in part – to avoid internal debates within FG. Following the advice of the commission allows FG TDs who are on the fence (for electoral reasons) a fig leaf. It’s a little like the Water Commission for FF. Some pro-life FG supporters would be annoyed by the fact that they even ran the referendum. If advice comes out of the CC to repeal or amend the 8th, then they can claim that they were just following the advice of experts and the people.


dublinstreams - July 15, 2016

“following the advice of the commission [assembly?] allows FG TDs who are on the fence (for electoral reasons) a fig leaf.” I’ve heard this said but I don’t get it really. What difference does it make to the people who would vote on (against) this issue.


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