‘Savita!’: The abortion vote gives meaning to a death at the hands of an old madness

Ireland has said no to a regime of pale male authoritarianism

‘Of all the tears shed over the referendum, could there have been a greater sea than the one created in Halappanavar’s memory.’ Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

‘Of all the tears shed over the referendum, could there have been a greater sea than the one created in Halappanavar’s memory.’ Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

The photograph from the Irish referendum that brought me undone was of white-haired men in the street holding a yellow banner. It read “Grandfathers for Yes”. It came across my phone as I traversed Melbourne in the 86 tram only a couple of days before the vote, like a lobbed bomb of hope and love, relief and change. I sobbed aloud.

It struck with specific weight because there’d been another photo circulating a week earlier of Irish men the same age in a sadly more familiar scenario. “Vote NO” read their own pink signs, “Support women, protect babies, save lives.” That one had left me not in hot tears but a cold rage.

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