The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – Children can ask the most direct questions. “What’s abortion? What happens to the little baby”? The pro-life posters on our streets have led to awkward moments as parents try to explain pregnancy “termination” to their innocent offspring.

Such discomfort has raised an angry response in pro-choice social media: “It was heart-breaking for me to have to explain to my kids what abortion is and that sometimes it is the right choice”. This painful challenge to pro-abortion parents is revealing. It is critically important to the success of the repeal campaign that they avoid genuine discussion of what abortion actually involves.

Yet, here are children cutting straight through the choice ideology and demanding a straightforward explanation.

The saying goes that “you never really understand something until you teach it”. If you have difficulty in articulating to your children why you think abortion is okay, it may be because you know in your heart that it is deeply wrong. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – I was dismayed to see posters claiming that abortions could be carried out at the six-month mark have been erected all over my area. Not only is it disturbing to see a pregnant bump separated from the rest of the woman but it’s simply not true. The proposed legislation does not allow for abortion care after 12 weeks unless there is a fatal foetal abnormality or a serious risk to the woman. Why are posters which contain outrageous lies allowed?

It’s time for Ireland to trust its women to make our own decisions and provide modern healthcare at home with compassion. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Posters and fundraising and Repeal jumpers are important and useful, but above all else it is conversations with people around us that influence our attitudes and belief systems (and voting intentions), and not enough of these conversations are taking place. If you and I are serious, we must clear our throats and talk to people about this vote, earnestly and honestly.

I read some weeks ago that the politics of bringing about a referendum are different to the politics of winning one: and this is true. The disposition of impatience and righteous anger must urgently be discarded and replaced with openness and inclusivity, and a determined resolve to engage with people and their concerns, one by one. In retrospect, talking three years ago to friends and grannies and strangers about our gay friend from college who wants to get married one day seems so easy. I am not proud to say that this time round I have been much more passive, partly because I am busy and partly because it is easy to be passive. For what it’s worth, I will be canvassing whenever I can between now and the end of May for this vote.

A few years ago, over coffee, I was given some rather astute advice by a politically savvy friend of mine, which stuck with me: the best way to win an argument with someone is not to persuade them to agree with you, but to show them how they already do. I believe that voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment is a vote for the values of compassion, tolerance and respect, values shared by the vast majority of Irish people. But we need to do more to say to people, in our own lives and on doorsteps: you can be a decent person and vote for this; you can live by Christian values and vote for this; you can love women and babies and vote for this.

The challenge of the next six weeks is to transcend the misinformation and fear and to show the majority of Irish people that a vote to repeal is the right and brave and decent thing to do. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 8.

A chara, – Every Irish citizen has equal ownership over our State’s Constitution.

Since the Eighth Amendment was enacted in 1983, the Constitution has, through Article 40.3.3, had the final say in every decision that could be made about every pregnancy in the State.

That means that I, as an Irish citizen, have a share in each of those decisions.

I didn’t want a say in these personal and private matters. I never sought out a stake in them. I don’t know many people who did.

On May 25th, I will ask the State to remove my share in these decisions. I will declare that I should not have any part in any decision about a pregnancy that is not my own.

I will vote Yes. – Is mise,



Sir, – As an Irish citizen and doctor working in the UK, I feel indignant that I cannot vote in the forthcoming referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

I accept the rationale that overseas Irish citizens should not be entitled to vote in elections that dictate taxation and other aspects of internal economic policy.

However, I do not accept that this principle applies to matters of core Irish identity, citizenship, rights and responsibilities as espoused in the Irish Constitution.

The views of the many Irish health professionals who work in the UK deserve to be heard as this country’s healthcare system has, for generations, provided safe therapeutic refuge for Irish women whose plight was immorally ignored by political and religious leaders.

It is disappointing that the referendum will not canvass the views of the wide diaspora of Irish citizens whose allegiance and identity is vitally Irish and who remain integrally connected to Ireland through family, economic and cultural ties. These citizens have a legitimate right to express a view about what it means to be an Irish citizen in the 21st century. – Yours, etc,


Professor of Psychiatry,

King’s College,