Eighth Amendment debate becomes part of championship mix

The Pro-Life Campaign has taken a stand at ploughing championships for the first time

From the competitive side of ploughing to the President and sheep-shearing the Ploughing Championships has it all in Tullamore this year.

 
National Ploughing Championships

They are in the corner because they cannot afford a more prominent place, Eilís Mulroy a prominent anti-abortion campaigner said.

It is the first time the Pro-Life Campaign has taken a stand at the National Ploughing Championships. The campaign said it has done so because of the real possibility a referendum will be called to repeal the Eighth Amendment presently. It is the first item on the agenda of the citizens’ assembly which is due to meet next month.

A steady stream of people pass the stand during the day. Some tarry long enough to avail of the free home-made cookies. Two teenage girls, who declined to give their names, linger to ask questions of some of the volunteers. They are undecided on the issue but leaning towards being pro-life.

“Hearing both sides of the argument I would be in opposition of ending a pregnancy in the middle of it,” said one, “but it depends on the situation. My view is definitely not settled. I’m open to other opinions if they come to me.”

‘Pro-life but neutral’

John MurphyFermoy

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen is also in Screggan where he greets Ms Mulroy. But he says he is not at the ploughing for the Pro-Life Campaign, but to support his brother Ivan who has a vintage tractor display at the championships.

“This is where Irish culture is at,” he said, “Irish people are in flux on these issues. Get out into the middle of the market place and sell it.

“It’s about culture, where people are at in their hearts and their minds.”

There is no equivalent stand advocating for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment . The Abortion Rights Campaign said it could not afford to take a stall at the ploughing.

However, the cause of the repeal movement was taken up by Rebecca Flynn from Terenure, Dublin, who wore a black-and-white Repeal T-shirt. “Sometimes I think I live in an echo chamber,” she said, “and that maybe a lot of people don’t know about repealing the Eighth. That’s why I wear the T-shirt.”

Tractors

An Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association survey last year found farmers were more liberal on the issue of abortion than some might assume, with 64 per cent in favour of a liberalising of the laws. Ms Flynn agrees: “I don’t think it is nice or respectful to think that just because somebody is from rural Ireland that they would be conservative or anti-women.”