Reflecting on the referendum


Sir, – In a moving and generous speech to the Dáil, Clare Daly praised virtually everyone except herself for their role in the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment (“‘Ball and chain’ of Irish abortion ban finally gone, Clare Daly says”, News, May 29th).

She called the students who fought for a Yes vote “the legends out of this” and said she hoped “they make a better job of changing the world than we did”.

However, the Dublin Fingal TD is being far too modest. Along with similar left-wing TDs, like Ruth Coppinger and Bríd Smith, she was at the coalface of the battle for women’s reproductive rights in Ireland for years, when most other public representatives were not interested.

When the history of the repeal movement is written, Clare Daly will be, without doubt, one of its heroes. – Yours, etc,


Arbour Hill,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Triumphalism was the word that came to mind watching the celebrations at Dublin Castle on Saturday, and is echoed in many of the reactions since then. It is encapsulated in the phrase used by Miriam Lord (Analysis, May 29th) when referring to the No campaign as “the vanquished custodians of women’s reproductive choice”, and their “crushing defeat”. This is the language of war, not of democratic choice.

So much for tolerance and compassion. – Yours, etc,


Bayside, Dublin 13.

Sir, – It seems that in the brave new republic there’s to be no room for dissenters. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Affordable housing, a functioning public health service, and adequate support for people with special needs are synonymous with the right to life. These fundamentals should be enshrined in our Constitution and would certainly reduce the overall number of terminations. Only then can we say we have given all women the right to choose. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – As someone who voted against the Eighth Amendment in both 1983 and 2018, I have been reflecting a lot in recent days about the possible point or purpose of that constitutional provision. Instead of vindicating the so-called equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child, it has probably done more to jeopardise the right to life of both, but particularly that of the mother. All that I can conclude from these reflections is that the Eighth Amendment has for 35 years acted primarily and with ruthless legal efficiency to protect the rights of members of the Oireachtas not to have to deal with the abortion issue. – Yours, etc,


An Cheathrú Rua,

Co na Gaillimhe.

Sir, – When the result of the original Eighth Amendment referendum was announced on September 8th, 1983, Senator Mary Robinson described the 33 per cent No vote as “very encouraging”, the late Adrian Hardiman deemed one-third of the voters “a very large body of people”, and John MacMenamin even called the two-to-one defeat a “moral victory” for the No side. All commentators agreed that it highlighted the deep divisions in Ireland on the issue of abortion.

Roll forward 35 years and abortion still divides the electorate in the same proportions. So I don’t understand our Taoiseach’s claim last Saturday that we’re now “united” on this subject. The Yes vote was 66.9 per cent in 1983 and 66.4 per cent in 2018. So a pedant could even argue that, if anything, the country is a tiny bit more divided now. Many of the 723,632 who voted No last Friday regard the Eighth Amendment as sectarian and badly worded – a sledgehammer to crack a nut – yet saw its retention as the lesser of two evils when compared with Norwegian abortion laws.

Leo Varadkar is living in fantasy if he imagines Ireland is less divided on abortion than it was in 1983. – Yours, etc,


Leopardstown, Dublin 18.

Sir, – In this welcome new era of compassion and tolerance following the remarkable repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, apart from thanking all of the volunteers who worked so hard for its success, I suggest that we remember such pioneering figures as Dr Moira Woods, Senator Mary Henry, Mary Robinson and many others, as well as the many people who worked in Family Planning Clinics during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Doctors, nurses, students and lay people during those decades fought against the church, the majority of the political, medical and legal professions, and lay groups like the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (Spuc) and Youth Defence, for female reproductive rights. As this issue was only occasionally mentioned in recent debates around the referendum, are we to assume that all of these groups now approve of contraception? More importantly, it is crucial to remember the work done by so many courageous individuals in more difficult times. – Yours, etc,



(Former medical director

of Family Planning

Services, Dublin),

Dublin 8.