Lessons from an emphatic Yes in referendum

 

Sir, – Now that the result of the referendum is known, the legislators, along with the medical profession, have the responsibility of reflecting the decision of the majority of the electorate and of creating policy and practice to give effect to that decision. It is hoped that this will provide personal dignity and respect along with care and compassion for the women of Ireland and for the people of Ireland.

The Government decided to put the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution to the people because of escalating concern in many quarters about its effectiveness and about uncertain legal consequences and parameters relating to it.

Concepts, in and of themselves, rarely move people emotionally. Relationships and stories, however, do move people.

One of the factors that has come through consistently as having been a contributor to the discussions ahead of May 25th has been the telling of and the listening to stories “on both sides”.

This process of telling and listening to stories began in the context of the Citizens’ Assembly and continued thereafter, around kitchen tables and on the national airwaves, right up until, in the latter case, the moratorium on public broadcasting ahead of the referendum itself came into force.

Story is germane to community. Story shapes memory. Story gives individual and corporate identity. Telling and hearing story builds relationships of understanding across seemingly unbridgeable divides. People have found in the stories of lives lived for others the outworking of friendship and compassion with people who experience crisis and vulnerability. These are people like any of us – people who hold strong opinions, people whose values infuse their consciences while they continue to agree to disagree agreeably with one another.

We are all members of this human family of citizens. In the Jewish tradition, on which the Christian tradition is ever dependent, we can read of God saying in Isaiah 54.10: “But my loving kindness will not be removed from you. And my covenant of peace will not be shaken.”

Equally, contemporary women and men in the last days and weeks have been moved by stories and lives and, after reflecting on all they have heard, have decided as individuals to cast a vote, in personal conscience, in democratic freedom and in the privacy of the polling booth.

As a consequence of the decision of the people, the Constitution of Ireland is going to change. The citizens of Ireland are, as of now, called upon to show dignity and respect, care and compassion as we continue to co-operate and to collaborate at every level of our society in what will undoubtedly be onerous days and weeks of decision around policies and practices.

The national expectation now is that the promise of positive and proactive regulation will be put in place safely in regard to the termination of pregnancy locally within the 26 counties. This will be a powerful antidote to the reality of specific dangers such as currently exist for individual women who have felt stigmatised in countless ways for long decades.

A further hope will be that this outworking of democracy can initiate a real and lasting acknowledgement of the unborn in Irish society, an acknowledgement that needs to extend over many decades when stigmatisation has too often been the default setting of response.

We will all have to learn how to enable the private to be public, the intimate to be protected in a society too ready and adroit in quick-fire communication. It is a new situation for everyone.

Once again Ireland will need to dig deep, as we have done often in our long history, into words such as healing and reconciliation but in a new area of life.

My hope and prayer are that this will enable everyone, yet again around the kitchen table as well as in the Houses of the Oireachtas, to address the vital question – how are we all together to participate and to share in the fashioning and the sustaining of the common good, now that the will of the people has been expressed and now that we all together remain the people of Ireland? – Yours, etc,

Dr MICHAEL JACKSON,

Archbishop of Dublin,

(Church of Ireland),

Diocesan Office,

Church of Ireland House,

Rathmines Upper,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – If the No side is as committed to minimising abortion as it claims, I’m sure we’ll soon see the familiar faces of the Iona Institute and Love Both campaigns leading the charge against homelessness and poverty and campaigning for comprehensive sex education, ease of access to contraception and social supports for women in crisis pregnancy. – Yours, etc,

Dr ELIZABETH

AHERN-FLYNN,

Perth,

Australia.

Sir, – The result of last Friday’s referendum is not a cause for jubilation and celebration, but truly and more properly a cause for huge relief.

The women of Ireland, and the men who care for them, owe a great debt of gratitude to those who championed the cause of repealing the Eighth Amendment, to the many who travelled home to vote, sometimes from great distances, as well as to those who helped them to get home.

At this time, we should spare a thought for those who have had to take their problems abroad to be dealt with by foreigners, who must now feel a sense of retrospective vindication.

And spare a thought, especially, for those women who will find themselves, now and in the next few months, in a sort-of limbo with a crisis pregnancy they cannot yet have taken care of at home because legislation has not yet been enacted.

Thank goodness there seems to be a cross-party consensus about getting legislation in place as quickly as possible. – Yours, etc,

MARY HATCH,

Vancouver,

Canada.

Sir, – Now that an amendment to the Constitution that should never have been there in the first place has been repealed, I would hope that some of the energy and positivity that were brought to the campaign can be channelled into other causes that need attention. Our homelessness crisis and the mistreatment of asylum seekers in our direct provision system are two that spring to mind.

We can and should do better. – Yours, etc,

DONAL MOORE,

Ferrybank,

Co Waterford.

Sir, – The so-called silent majority has spoken in Saturday’s landslide referendum result – and said Yes.

A tranche of our elected representatives publicly called for a No vote. Many did not even want a referendum in the first place. It is now time for them to take stock of whether they truly represent their constituents. Are they fit for purpose? Only time, and the electorate, will tell. – Yours, etc,

ORLA BURKE,

Cork.

Sir, – I was surprised to see no mention of any plans by supporters of the Eighth Amendment for future campaigns to work towards what they referred to as “positive alternatives to abortion”.

As mentioned repeatedly by the No campaign throughout the referendum, these include rapid prioritising of housing and medical care for homeless pregnant women, and better services for families of disabled children.

Is it possible that rather than the “Love Both” that was promised on so many thousands of posters, the “love” does not include women experiencing crisis pregnancy, and the “resistance” means the continuation of shame and stigma for Irish women? – Yours, etc,

AF LYNAM,

Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – As one of the not insignificant minority who voted to defend the right to life of unborn babies, I find Miriam Lord’s condemnation (Analysis, May 28th) of “that tiresome class of pious people” offensive and unworthy of a superb journalist. – Yours, etc,

ANNE O’SULLIVAN.

Dunkerron,

Clogheen,

Co Cork.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien’s article “Anti-abortion movement has not given up and will not disappear” (Opinion & Analysis, May 28th) suggests that just as pro-choice activists didn’t stop campaigning over the last 35 years, the pro-life movement will continue to fight for the next 35 years.

I hate to be morbid, but given the demographics of the vote on the Eighth Amendment, the headline has it wrong. Since the only age group to vote No was the over-65s, they may not give up but it’s most likely that they will in fact have disappeared by the time 2053 comes around.

Those aged between 18 and 35 who voted overwhelmingly for Yes, on the other hand, will largely still be members of the voting public. – Is mise,

KATIE HARRINGTON,

Rathmines,

Dublin 6.