Pro-choice campaigners in Sligo confident about referendum

‘Out of hundreds of houses, I reckon we came across six negatives’


Sligo artist Paul Murray canvassed homes in the town on Wednesday night in search of votes to repeal the Eighth Amendment, just as many people settled down to watch the Liverpool vs Manchester City Champions League clash.

“In fairness it was getting close to kick-off,” he said, “so they may have been saying anything to get rid of us.” However, he insisted that the pro-choice camp was meeting very little hostility.

“Out of hundreds of houses, I reckon we came across six negatives. Two of those did use the M-word – ‘murderers’ – and they were both men,” Mr Murray told The Irish Times, on the margins of a meeting of Together for Yes.

Ali Hayes and Lorri Kelly, who had handed out leaflets from stalls on Sligo’s main streets and at a farmer’s market, said they, too, had met little hostility.

However, Ms Hayes accepted they may have “a skewed view”; while people were engaging in discussions, the duo were not always sure about the voting intentions of those they met.

“I get the impression it is more our side, but then maybe we are not meeting the people who might vote against us, so it is very hard to tell,” said Ms Hayes, a 32-year-old pharmacist.

Attitude of the elderly

So far, she has been struck by the attitude of the elderly: “It could be my own bias that I just expected that elderly people would not be onside with us, but I have been pleasantly surprised.

“It’s mainly women, over the age of 60, who have been through pregnancies. They have seen their own kids being pregnant, who have seen things which were difficult for other people [or] had experiences themselves.

“I guess that illustrates to them that there are different needs in different pregnancies and that the current legislation isn’t really meeting those needs. So, therefore, they seem to be very in favour of change,” she went on.

However, 37-year-old Ms Kelly, a social care worker, is taking nothing for granted: “I think it is tight but we are doing everything we possibly can to give people the right information.”

The plans to legalise abortion up to 12 weeks was “a talking point”, she acknowledged, a point that was echoed by Denise O’Toole, national co-convenor of the Abortion Rights Campaign.

Ms O’Toole said it was clear that people were following the debate closely in the media: “People are listening to the radio debates and have questions that are very current.

“They are following what the politicians are saying. They are not being emotive. They want information,” she said, adding that voters were interested, too, in finding out whether doctors and nurses would be able to conscientiously object.

“There has not been hostility. If they do not agree, they just say, ‘No, thank you.’ Some say, ‘I have my mind made up already,’ and you know,” Ms O’Toole added, although one woman did slam the front-door in her face.