The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – Miriam Lord characterises the votes of the 32 TDs who opposed the second stage of the Referendum Bill as “a vote against democracy” (Dáil Sketch, March 22nd). I don’t know what model of democracy she has in mind but it would be a poor sort of democracy indeed that allowed only one possible way to vote on every legislative proposal. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – I was very disappointed to learn that 32 TDs voted against the staging of a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment in the Dáil this week. As a woman born in 1990, I had no say in the first referendum on the Eighth Amendment in 1983. I find it appalling that TDs, whose purpose it is to represent their constituents in the Dáil, would try to block this referendum from happening. Whatever your views on abortion may be, I am galled at the fact that they would try to ensure that their constituents would not get to vote on an issue that affects 12 women every single day in Ireland.

My democratic right to vote is something I do not take for granted, and I certainly would never try to deprive a fellow citizen of that right. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Miriam Lord’s sarcastic piece in Thursday’s Irish Times is, I suggest, a disingenuous misinterpretation of the motivation of those TDs who voted against the proposed referendum in deciding to vote as they did. Our Constitution was designed to make our nation a true republic: the people are the rulers of the State, not the State the ruler of the people. If the Eighth Amendment is repealed by the people, any future Government will be able to legislate for abortion right up to birth, with no restrictions. The question will never have to be referred back to the people again.

Following the recent Supreme Court judgment, it is now unequivocally clear that what is being proposed to the people by the Government is to strip the unborn of all constitutional protection and to entrust them to the truck of politicians, to the wheeling and dealing and selling of souls that happens when, after an election, parties negotiate programmes for government and individuals vie for office. It is then that all the promises made by parties and individual politicians, with a small minority of honourable exceptions, are abrogated for power. It is for this reason that it is no more than a truism to state that, as a generalisation politicians cannot be trusted.

I, for one, appreciate and am grateful for the honesty of those politicians in casting their votes as they did, knowing the realities of political power. – Yours, etc,


Sandymount,Dublin 4.

Sir, – I sincerely hope that those of our parliamentarians who voted against the Eighth Amendment did so as a matter of conscience and not because it might prove future electoral hemlock. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – Katherine Zappone (“Why 12 weeks is the right limit for abortion”, Opinion & Analysis, March 23rd) confirms that, if the Constitution is changed to remove legal protection for unborn babies, the Oireachtas will not merely be entitled, but constitutionally obliged, to introduce legislation providing for abortion on demand.

Ms Zappone chooses not to describe the legislation in this way, but it is a fair description for terminating the lives of babies up to birth on grounds that, in practice, are open-ended. The experience of countries such as England confirms this beyond any argument.

The Minister for Children does not refer to babies before birth as children. The best she can do is “foetal life”. If only Jonathan Swift were here today to capture the irony of a Minister for Children proposing the intentional ending of their lives. – Yours, etc,


Adjunct Professor of Law,

Law School,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – Thomas Ryan (March 18th) describes Ailbhe Smyth as the self-anointed leader of the campaign for repeal. Might I enquire who anointed, appointed or elected the leaders of the campaign against repreal? – Is mise,



Co Leitrim.