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A good night for NO and a failure of the YES campaign? May 15, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I was passing by Leinster House today at lunch and some carry-on there was there. The crew who think it’s clever to have giant images of what they say are aborted foetuses were outside – as was a truck which went around the block repeatedly with the same imagery. This may be unfair of me, but they looked American, at least some of them. Meanwhile a courageous group had large white sections of cloth on poles which they were sensibly using to mask the posters as best as was possible. Around the same time a large cohort of PBP appeared as well, I think to mask the first lot. A couple of Gardai looked on all the while. Whatever else it looked completely insane on the part of the anti-abortion lot and I can’t imagine that many people were persuaded by that sort of stuff. Anyone else see it?

Anyhow, interesting, if curious analysis of recent events in the campaign. Take Pat Leahy in the IT who argues that:

Last night’s televised debate on the abortion referendum has provided a significant fillip to a No campaign that was desperately in need of one.
Very strong viewing figures for the programme on RTÉ will further encourage anti-Repeal campaigners as the campaign heads for its decisive final week.

Why the anti-Repeal side?

The No side was better prepared and better organised for the debate and in Maria Steen of the Iona Institute, they had the best performer on the night. The No supporters in the audience were more enthusiastic for their side’s contributions, and antagonistic to the Yes side’s speakers. In a live environment, this matters: the Yes panellists looked quite taken aback for much of the debate.
This was especially so for Dr Peter Boylan, the obstetrician who has been one of the most prominent Yes campaigners so far. Confronted by an audience that was partially hostile, another obstetrician and the debating skills of Ms Steen, Boylan had a rough ride last night.

Another way of looking at that might be similar to that of the stunt outside Leinster House. That’s the kind of thing that makes people recoil – I saw it myself, from what is seen as offensive on many different levels. Indeed Leahy elsewhere argued precisely that the ‘abortion as murder’ approach didn’t work for the NO side and in this piece notes:

It also means that a lot of voters will have seen a good night for the No campaign.
But will it help them reach the undecided and soft Yes voters they need to talk to? Will it help them change minds? We will know for sure when the next round of polls arrive, but many of the messages that the No side conveyed strongly last night were messages that will resonate strongly with convinced anti-abortion voters – rather than with the crucial middle-ground undecided and soft repealer voters. Last night’s debate sometimes had the feel of a rally for the No side – not an exercise which will win hearts and minds.

And the response of some in the audience on the NO side appeared to be far far too energetic for the subject.

Meanwhile the IT had a report on Paschal Donohoe who attended a Repeal meeting in Dublin Central. Sarah Bardon reports it as follows:

The next person was a young woman who was voting Yes. Her friends were concerned that the grounds of mental health would be abused to allow for a more liberal regime in Ireland. The comparisons to the UK were also raised.
She was told the comparisons to the UK did not stand up to scrutiny. Britain is an outlier in terms of its abortion regime and was not in sync with the majority of countries. Here the risk to the woman’s mental health must be causing demonstrable harm to allow a termination, she was told.

Seems reasonable.

Her question was followed by a No voter. He wanted to know what Donohoe believed the definition of termination of a pregnancy was. To him, it was the destruction of the life of the unborn.
Donohoe responded. He did not believe a foetus of up to 12 weeks was comparable to the life of the woman. The constituent wanted support for pregnant women, not abortion.
The Minister for Finance was sorry the two had reached different positions. But he was clear that there was a balance to be achieved and his was a position was the right one for women.

Bardon concludes:

This is, of course, a Snapchat of the debate but it shows the same issues are being consistently raised. The fact they are still for discussion, 10 days away from the vote, shows a failure by those encouraging change to explain their message to voters and the impact of an effective campaign by the No side.

I may well be wrong, but I wonder if that is an entirely fair analysis of the dynamic at work. For a start it appears to assume that those raising the questions are seeking to have their minds changed.

But I don’t think that’s the case in many instances. There are those who are undecided, but those who are clearly voting Yes or No are in a different camp entirely. What might be more useful would be to hear those who genuinely are undecided and why. But even then I suspect that this issue is, like many others, one where many different aspects, emotion, sometimes religious belief, the ‘ick’ factor some have, and so on all impinge.

It would be bizarre, at this stage, for a convinced NO voter to not believe what they believe. And likewise for a convinced YES voter. Discussion may change that for some, but I suspect for most attitudes are now deeply rooted – after so many decades and so many referendums it would be curious if they were not. And just on a tangent I find the dynamic we saw at the Oireachtas Committee in terms of those who went in holding ‘pro-life’ views who changed to support the provision of abortion absolutely fascinating. One or two of those TDs acknowledged they had little knowledge of the area even though they believed themselves to be anti-abortion before hand. So clearly attitudes are open to change, but not everyone is going to have the immersive experience of that Committee. We rarely enough see minds changing in politics, but this is one instance where they clearly did – I suspect that this points to why the NO campaign has been pulling back, even arguably against its own best interests, to quite hard-edged slogans and imagery because to allow for complexity is to see doubt and contingency enter into the picture.

In any event I find the idea that somehow it would be possible to come to a settled situation where these questions were not being discussed highly improbable. Win or lose on May 25th this issue isn’t going to go away. The discussion, or more accurately the disagreement, isn’t going to be resolved. However, that doesn’t mean that the dispensation cannot be changed in a progressive direction, and let’s hope the 25th represents that.

Comments»

1. E C - May 15, 2018

This stuff about a strong night for No vote, not so much for the Yes side rather betrays the facile nature of the Irish media’s “expert political analysis” attempts. Of course the Yes side could not act in the voluble partisan manner that the No side did. They need to be bigger than that. Nuanced compassion means no jeering and whooping on TV debates. This referendum is the last stand for many on the No side going back 25 years since the X Case. It ain’t just about an amendment. They’ll stoop to anything now one feels. Maybe what rankles the most is the Republican outlier groups for No seeing it as a badge of honour that women have to go to Britain for proper access to sexual health facilities. And same for Richard Bruton’s brother as well

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WorldbyStorm - May 15, 2018

Completely agree re the need to be bigger than the No side. I know precisely what you mean re the outlier Republican groups. And even the admission that that is a satisfactory situation (women going to the UK) also rankles. It’s like they won’t face up to the logic of what they say they believe.

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irishelectionliterature - May 15, 2018

I know it’s stating the obvious but some of the most ardent Republican Pro Lifers are lads who blew Britain to bits in the 70’s

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EWI - May 16, 2018

I know it’s stating the obvious but some of the most ardent Republican Pro Lifers are lads who blew Britain to bits in the 70’s

And some of the hardest-line Pro Lifers are die-hard NATO fans, Likudniks and Trump supporters.

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EWI - May 16, 2018

Not to mention fanatical southern unionists such as Johnny Bruton and that Mills buffoon from Limerick (what is with Limerick types and longing for Union Jacks?).

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2. irishelectionliterature - May 15, 2018

Couldn’t bring myself to watch the debate. From reports of the show it was shockingly chaired and I hope all the whooping and hollering from the No side put people off
I’ve been doing the odd bit of handing out leaflets in the morning before work and the odd evening one too… today on lunch I Stood for a few minutes watching Save the 8th canvassing in Grand Canal Dock. They were totally ignored by most people. 2 groups of young women in Repeal shirts talking to them too. Was surprised at the total lack of public interaction with them. (I know there would be a good deal of International people working in the area but even still was encouraged by the shit time they looked to be having.
From my own experience we’d get 1 in 2 or 3 passers by taking the Yes leaflets or acknowledging us saying they were a Yes voter and not to be wasting the paper.
Still a long way to go to the vote though!

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3. AdoPerry - May 15, 2018

The real concern I have is the comments by McGuirk when he said the Yes side will win Dublin but anything less than 60% Yes in Dublin will be a gamechanger for the No side. This is the strategy of the No crowd in their increased leafletting/postering throughout Dublin . Keep the Yes vote down to an acceptable in Dublin and rely on rural conservatives. Hopefully it will not succeed.

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WorldbyStorm - May 15, 2018

That’s sounds very realistic what you’re saying. No room for complacency at all.

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EWI - May 16, 2018

Simon McGarr on Twitter refers to academic research about this sort of acrimony suppressing the middle vote, which may be exactly what the NO fanatics want (and they’re clearly getting very, very expensive advice).

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4. Miguel62 - May 16, 2018

I have to say I was very impressed by Mary Lou’s performance. She was very well informed, calm and dispassionate and was by far the best on the ‘YES’ side. She came across as strong and empathetic to women and I think this is precisely the stance that ‘YES’ needs to adopt. (Claire Daly did a similar job on Prime Time tonight. Kudos!)

Peter Boylan was a bit of a disaster. Came across as a smug condescending and aloof figure who looked genuinely shocked when his pronouncements didn’t get the respect he thought he deserved. I guess it goes with the consultant territory.

I couldn’t believe the whooping and hollering from the ‘NO; people in the audience. I would imagine it was hugely counterproductive in terms of alienating the undecided.

I don’t get any sense of a swing to ‘NO’ – I think most people recognise this is a complex issue and practical choices need to be offered to women who find themselves wanting to terminate a pregnancy. Even people who I would have expected to be strongly anti-abortion are turning out to be somewhat reluctantly in the ‘YES’ camp. It’s all about the middle ground and I think ‘YES’ has it fairly comfortably.

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WorldbyStorm - May 16, 2018

Fingers crossed, but your thoughts are good to hear and make me at least feel a fair bit more positive.

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Miguel62 - May 16, 2018

I also feel very positive when I see strong women like Mary Lou and Claire take control of this issue, which concerns us all, but impacts mainly on women. (BTW I obviously don’t mean this in a sexist or patronising way – it’s just great to see women asserting their rights in such a powerful way.)

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5. Joe - May 16, 2018

FWIW, I thought the No did better on that programme. The Yes side came across to me as less prepared. I think a problem is that the No crowd have a simple direct message ‘abortion kills babies’, ‘save babies’ lives’. The Yes message isn’t and probably can’t be as direct as that.
Around Dublin now there’s an awful lot of people with Yes and Tá badges.
Whether the likes of the Claire Byrne show debate will sway a lot of undecideds and people who have not up to now been engaged by the debate – that could be the difference. The fact that that programme had big audience figures may mean that people are only now switching on to the debate – so the next 9 days are crucial.

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6. CL - May 16, 2018

“Though campaign funding is strictly regulated by Irish law, there are questions about how effectively these regulations are being enforced, and in particular about the ‘No’ campaign’s links to anti-abortion organisations in the US….
In the relationship between foetus and woman, the woman is granted fewer rights than a corpse. But it’s possible that the ban on abortion has less to do with the rights of the unborn child than with the threat to social order represented by women in control of their reproductive lives.
Irish women’s freedom to decide what happens to their bodies has been restricted by many and varied means: the prohibition on contraception until the 1980s, the legality of marital rape until 1990, the threat of incarceration in institutions like the Magdalen Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes. These legal and social practices were not arranged around the protection of unborn life, but around control of reproduction.”
https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n10/sally-rooney/an-irish-problem

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7. Daire O'Criodain - May 16, 2018

I wonder why journalists feel obliged to reach a “conclusion” when the facts in the two cases you mention certainly don’t compel it and can only be said to support it at a stretch. Pat Leahy is mildly hysterical. “Uk oh, heel against the head for no…. but, then again, maybe not.” and Sarah Bardon’s is just risible. I think its a combination of believing that their readers imagine they have a superior vantage point simply because they are immersed in this, or maybe they themselves like to imagine they have a superior vantage point because they are immersed in things. Either way, reflecting on what they say for even a moment, you realise its superficial waffle.

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E C - May 16, 2018

They’re in the business of click bait whilst adhereing to the status quo, not really journalism. Anything genuinely thought provoking is a fluke. Though apeing football pundits talking about a managers’ post match interview just shows how little they care. How they’re not bothered even faking sincerity the way F O’Tool can

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WorldbyStorm - May 16, 2018

And to add to what you both say, there’s precious little data behind these journalists thoughts. It’s all anecdotal… a debate ‘seems’ to be won, or lost. Etc.

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8. Joe - May 16, 2018

Here’s another thought. In 1983 when the 8th Amendment was voted in, men could be imprisoned in this country for the crime of having sex with each other. That law was abolished in the nineties. And a year or two ago, gay marriage was legalised after a resounding referendum victory.
Ireland has changed big time since 1983.
I see the same demographic who led the gay marriage campaign leading the current Together for Yes campaign.
Surely most or all who voted Yes in the gay marriage referendum will vote yes again in the Repeal the 8th one?

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WorldbyStorm - May 16, 2018

Most indeed!

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