Voting rules and the beginning of life

 

Sir, – Séamas de Barra, of the Alliance for the Defence of the Family and Marriage, has raised a number of interesting points (August 9th) with the possibility of changes to, or repeal of, the Eighth Amendment in mind.

First, he quotes existing law to support his position about the beginning of life, but what are referendums about, if not changing the law? This must be especially true if one legislative Act contradicts another, as he claims is the case at present.

Second, he seems to recognise something other than “private belief” when it comes to making decisions about human rights legislation. Unless one lives in an undemocratic state, such as a theocracy, and we are constantly being told that this is not the case in Ireland, then there is no kind of belief other than that which is private. And that is why only individuals, and not organisations of any sort, get to vote in referendums, and furthermore are entitled to do so in private.

His third contention, that the outcomes of referendums should not be at the whim of the most interested minority of registered voters, is one with which I would wholeheartedly agree.

We do indeed need a system that insists that plebiscites should only be regarded as carried if the number voting to do this exceeds 50 per cent of the total number on the voting register. It should not depend on a mere simple majority of those who were motivated, for whatever reason, to come out and vote. – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS MCKENNA,

Windy Arbour,

Dublin 14.