In this article I examine why ‘Yes’ vote was a right choice for Irish voters and what this means for the future relationship between the Irish state and the Catholic church. Read here.
On May 25th, Irish public voted overwhelmingly in the support of social change and repealed the 8th amendment, which is regarded as one of the strictest regulations against abortion in the developed world. On Friday, 1,429,981 voters (66.40%) voted Yes to ‘Repeal the Eighth Amendment?’, while 723,632 (33.60%) voted No. In essence, the vote legalises abortions for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and marks a strong shift in cultural attitudes. With a turnout of 64.5%, the 2018 referendum witnessed the third highest-ever for a referendum in Ireland since the adoption of the Constitution in 1937.
For a country long dominated by authoritarian religious doctrine and its archaic ideologies, the vote further suggests that a new open-minded and secular majority has usurped the more conservative Catholic generations. This referendum also proves that the Catholic Church’s influence and authority over Irish politics continues to weaken, thanks to the series of child abuse and sexual assault scandals; Magdalene Laundries revelations and the 2015 vote to allow same-sex marriages. It is obvious that the public and political views in Ireland are changing and the country sees a bright future with open-minded, educated and understanding citizens.
In the run-up to the referendum, both sides campaigned tirelessly providing their viewpoints, but the loudest voices were heard on the pro-choice side, with sites like In Her Shoes – Women of the Eighth sharing harrowing memories and experiences that women lived through because of strict abortion laws, as well as allusions to Savita Halappanavar’s fate, which acted as a catalyst for referendum. In addition, #HomeToVote became a defining moment in the build-up of the referendum and was commemorated in the Twitter’s HQ.
The result shows that history is not set in stone and there is always a potential for new, emerging voices to be heard and the history to be re-written. The Irish public is no longer willing to blindly accept the rule of the Catholic Church and is ready to challenge now seemingly outdated views on various issues. Thanks to better education standards, the availability of world wide web and more exposure/information on the rule of and atrocities committed by the Church in the past decades, this vote signals that the domination of Catholic Church is over.
Reactions to the abortion vote have been predominantly positive, with negative opinions drowned out by the sheer volume of the support the ‘Yes’ vote has received globally. It is a new age in Ireland, the age where the Catholic Church no longer controls the public. Now, it is time for a different relationship to be established, where the Church no longer acts like the authoritarian ruler but rather asks forgiveness and remains humble.