Dublin. Saturday, 26 May 2018: Thousands of Irish women cheer the announcement that a nationwide referendum has produced a decisive 66.4 percent vote in favour of repealing the constitutional prohibition against abortion in Ireland.
TRUST THE IRISH to tell a good story. Fifty years from now the young women who gathered in their thousands outside Dublin Castle to cheer the stunning result of the “Repeal the Eighth Amendment Referendum” will have a wonderful tale to tell their grand-daughters. Not only was the result wonderful – 66.4 percent voted in favour of removing what was in effect a constitutional ban on abortion in Ireland – but so too was the way it was won.
As the polls showed a tightening of the gap between the “Yes” and “No” camps, the call went out to Irish women and men scattered across the globe to come home and vote for change. And come home they did. Ireland’s wild geese flocked home in their thousands. The distinctive black “Repeal” T-shirts of the Yes Campaign could be seen at airports and ferry terminals across Ireland. Irish women from as far away as Canada and Australia made the journey to rescue Ireland from the reactionary grip of a Catholic Church which, in the wake of child abuse revelations spanning 20 years, has lost all moral authority.
As the results of the referendum came in, it was clear that something politically and culturally profound has been taking place in the country once written off as a hopelessly conservative, priest-ridden culture still languishing in the dark politics of the Republic of Ireland’s violent birth. Only in County Donegal did the No Campaign prevail – and only by a single percentage point. Throughout the rest of Ireland, most noticeably in Dublin and the larger cities, but also in the rural counties and provincial towns, clear and decisive votes were cast for repeal.
The patient and respectful campaigning of a coalition of moderate and radical women’s groups had done its work. Not even the presence of “Pro-Life” campaigners shipped in from the United States could withstand the clear and incontrovertible evidence of the costs: physical, psychological and economic; of the legal denial of Irish women’s right to exercise control over their own bodies.
By the end of the year the two political parties commanding a majority in the Irish parliament are pledged to introduce and pass reform legislation that will propel Ireland well ahead of New Zealand on abortion rights.
It’s a grand tale which will, no doubt, grow grander in the telling. How the women of Ireland and their upright brothers brought home the Goddess to Erin’s green isle.
This essay is exclusive to Bowalley Road.