Referendum on the Eighth Amendment


A chara, – In reference to a letter published on April 11th, I wish to supplement the incomplete information that was given in relation to voting eligibility for Irish citizens living abroad. The Department of Foreign Affairs’s Global Irish website states: “a person who is temporarily absent from home but who intends to resume residence within 18 months after giving it up (ie of having left the address in Ireland at which that person is registered to vote) is not deemed to have given up ordinary residence”.

The Central Statistics Office estimates that in the year to April 2017, 30,800 Irish nationals emigrated, and 27,400 others arrived back to live in Ireland. If we assume there was similar movement in the past year, it means there are thousands of eligible voters living abroad. Citizens who qualify should be informed of their right to vote and be able to have their say.

The Home To Vote campaign is very clear about the law, quoting Section 11 (3) of the Electoral Act 1992 on its website. The amazing success of the campaign for the marriage equality referendum shows how connected and involved Irish citizens abroad are in issues at home – either going home to vote or, if disenfranchised, supporting others to do so.

Although I cannot vote, I am an Irish citizen, and I care about the removal of an amendment that violates the human rights of women in Ireland – my family and friends included. Although I cannot vote, I will travel over in solidarity with many others to be there on May 25th, to stand with women of Ireland because they – we – deserve better. – Is mise,



Sir, – I am concerned that recent statements are causing unnecessary fears for women. They suggest that obstetricians are curtailed in their ability to care for pregnant patients who are seriously ill.

Across the world only a tiny proportion of terminations of pregnancy are related to obstetrical care. Ireland’s law fully provides for the small number of cases relating to necessary obstetric interventions.

Where it arises, the duty to intervene to save the woman’s life is clear. Under the present law, we have full freedom and support for the requirements of ethical and safe practice. The threat to the woman’s life does not need to be imminent. We have the scope of practice needed to guarantee best international standards of care to women in pregnancy. Indeed, Ireland has an excellent record by any measure of performance, with very low numbers of women who tragically die in pregnancy. – Yours, etc,


Consultant Obstetrician

and Gynaecologist,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – I have two children aged seven and nine and am seriously frustrated with the referendum posters erected by the Life Institute for the Save the Eighth campaign. In particular the ones that have the wording “License to Kill” and “1 in 5 Babies are aborted in England”, as well as some with an ultrasound photo. I understand that I can’t shield them from the world, but I have found that these posters are so “in your face” that I am forced to give my children some explanations. I imagine there are many other parents who will struggle with this for the next few weeks.

By all means let’s have information and debate, but should there be an equivalent of the broadcast “watershed” on our streets? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – I write to comment on the opinion piece “Myths and lies about abortion must be debunked” (April 3rd). Dr Grimes details a list of “myths” propagated by the pro-life side of the abortion debate but identifies no myths on the pro-choice side. I write regarding a few pro-choice myths.

“The foetus is not a human being”. This pro-choice assertion is often heard and, indeed, if you are in favour of abortion you must believe it to be true. However, it is a biological fact that the foetus, from conception, is a human being. Conception is the start of a continuum of human development that ends eventually in death in old age. At every stage along this continuum the human being has the characteristics appropriate to that stage.

“My body, my choice”. This oft-heard pro-choice slogan is biologically incorrect. Although housed in and dependent on the mother’s body, the developing baby is not part of the mother’s body. It is a genetically unique human being entirely distinct from the mother. And, of course, this slogan offers no choice to the foetus.

“Abortion should be safe, legal and rare”. But abortion is not rare anywhere it is legally available. For example, 20 per cent of pregnancies are aborted in the UK, 20 per cent in the US, 25 per cent in Sweden and 14.5 per cent in the Netherlands. David Steel, who introduced the 1967 Abortion Act in the UK, later said that he never anticipated the current abortion rates when he introduced the legislation.

“Irish legislation would set a 12-week limit for abortion”. But how long would this limit last? Some prominent pro-choice campaigners have said that, if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, they will campaign for a longer limit, eg the UK-style draft legislation prepared by the Labour Party in 2016.

I have no doubt that most pro-choice advocates are sincere in their convictions and not interested in bolstering their case with exaggerated claims, and I know that the same holds for most pro-life supporters. I also acknowledge that false or exaggerated claims are made by minorities, but these minorities sit on both sides of the argument.

I am pro-life myself primarily because the foetus is human from conception. I believe that this biological fact should give everybody pause for thought, including pro-choice people. – Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor,

School of Biochemistry

and Cell Biology,

University College Cork.