Leading Irish artists call for repeal of 8th amendment

Novelists, poets and painters state abortion amendment is ‘ongoing cause of shame’

 

More than 240 Irish artists including actors, authors, painters and poets have signed a petition to the Government to repeal the 8th amendment to the Constitution, which gives effect to the State’s ban on abortion.

Artists Cecily Brennan, Eithne Jordan, Alice Maher and poet Paula Meehan, all members of Aosdána, announced the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment at a press conference in Dublin on Tuesday. They appealed to other artists to sign the statement.

The statement says the amendment, inserted into the Constitution following a referendum in 1983, has “prevented our doctors and our legislators from providing proper care to women in Ireland”.

“The resulting physical and emotional trauma inflicted on women is inexcusable and an ongoing cause of shame for Irish citizens,” it states.

It goes on to say the eighth amendment undermines the status of the Constitution.

Human rights

“It is a key source of Ireland’s failure to reach international human rights standards and of the State’s failure to meet its obligations to vindicate women’s human rights,” it adds.

The artists also call for action by legislators “to provide women in Ireland with modern reproductive health services in line with best medical practice and international human rights norms”.

Maher said the amendment had to be repealed as it had led to much suffering among Irish women.

In the forthcoming general election, the artists would be voting “for those who have the courage to right this wrong”.

Brennan said the amendment undermined the constitutional guarantee of equality between the sexes.

It also undermined access to equal rights for pregnant women and impacted upon women’s right to make autonomous decisions about their healthcare.

Paula Meehan read the statement, signed by over 240 artists “living in all corners of Ireland, from all class backgrounds, from a variety of cultural outlooks”.

“The signatories work out, as it happens, 50/50 male and female,” she said.

It represented artists of all ages - the youngest in their 20s and the most senior of them now in their late 80s.

Asked what they would replace the 8th amendment with should it be repealed, Brennan said the campaign was aimed solely at repeal.

‘We are not lawyers’

“We have no idea. We want it removed and then whatever conversations happen, happen after that. We are not lawyers, we are not doctors. But I think it definitely has to be repealed before a real conversation happens.”

Eithne Jordan said the artists had given their time voluntarily and were not aligned to any other groups or political parties.

“Our aim is to communicate to the public, to the political parties, and in particular to the relevant Ministers that the artists who have attached their names to this statement believe the amendment has been extremely damaging for women and must be repealed.”

Signatories include John Banville, Edna O’Brien, Theo Dorgan, Christy Moore, Marian Keyes, Jim Sheridan, Conor McPherson, Dorothy Cross, Julia O’Faolain, Dónal Lunny, Anne Enright, Colm Tóibín, Cillian Murphy, Pauline Bewick, William Trevor, Jennifer Johnston, Enda Walsh, Olwen Fouéré, Camille Souter and Neil Jordan.

The artists launched the artistsrepealthe8th.com website to allow fellow artists to sign the statement.