Repeal protest urges spring 2018 vote on Eighth Amendment

Repeal movement must ‘listen to the people of Ireland’, says campaigner Ailbhe Smyth

Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Ailbhe Smyth: “We have a lot of work to do.”

Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Ailbhe Smyth: “We have a lot of work to do.”


Several hundreds of protesters gathered for a Repeal the Eighth rally in Dublin city centre on Saturday, calling for a referendum on the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment to be held early next year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed on Wednesday in the Dáil that a referendum on the contentious amendment would be held in 2018.

Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth, said the polling date should be set for February or March. Ms Smyth was speaking at the protest, which was held on Dame Street outside the old Central Bank building in the city centre.

“We have a lot of work to do, we have to get out there and talk with and listen to the people of Ireland. We have to explain to them, we have to appeal to them” she said.

“You wouldn’t want this in your family, you would not put up with cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment for one of your own” she said.

“I called for a Repeal of the Eighth in 1983 when it was brought in in the first place. I fought first for myself, then I fought for my daughter in 1992 and 2002. And now I fight for my daughter and my granddaughter. The lives of girls and women must come first, our lives matter” Ms Smyth said.

The Citizens’ Assembly recommended in April this year that abortion should be legal in Ireland across a wide range of circumstances, including where there was a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother, or where the unborn child had a fatal foetal abnormality that would likely result in it’s death before or shortly after birth.

No restrictions

Some 64 per cent of the Citizens’ Assembly voted in favour of the “pro choice” proposal that there should be no restrictions on the reasons for allowing a woman to have an abortion. The recommendations of the assembly are to be reviewed and considered by an Oireachtas committee over the coming months.

Several hundred demonstrators attended the rally which began at 3pm in the afternoon, the demonstration also included a performance from a “Repeal the Eighth” choir.

Solidarity Party TD Ruth Coppinger said the proposals of the Citizens’ Assembly should not be toned down by the Oireachtas committee before being put to the people in a referendum on the issue.

“The Citizens’ Assembly listened for several months to rational arguments, and as an ordinary group of people they decided that it had to be the choice of the pregnant person, and that person should be trusted to make that choice” Ms Coppinger said.

“We know how conservative Leinster House is, they won’t legislate for the type of legislation that we need unless we force them. I would argue alongside the referendum, why not have a plebiscite, on the type of legislation that should follow should the referendum be passed” she said.

A plebiscite is similar to a referendum, but it is a recommendation to parliament rather than a binding change to the Constitution. Under the proposal a choice, or series of choices could be put to a national vote. But the system to hold a national plebiscite on an issue has not been used since the introduction of the 1937 Constitution.