Oliver Callan: To vote No is a special kind of unfairness
The referendum affects someone else’s life in a way that doesn’t affect you back
An anti-abortion campaigner holds a sign up in front of pro-choice campaigners outside Leinster House, Dublin, ahead of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
On May 25th, my 19-year-old niece Clara will vote for the first time. She has just reached the same age her mother, my sister, was when she gave birth to her in 1998. It was just two years after the last Magdalene laundry closed. Aoife raised her as a single mother, battling rejection, discrimination and all the loaded foulness that have scourged and judged single mothers in Ireland for a century.
Aged 19 and far from home in Galway, she cared for her baby, returning to and finishing college, creating a career and raising an incredible young woman. It was far from easy, at one point a welfare agent told her she would be better-off on State benefits but Aoife chose to work. She cleaned hotel rooms to pay the rent while pregnant, then cycled to lectures through Galway’s horizontal rain after Clara was born. All while bearing stigma. No man could have done it, because they have never had to. The lone parent upbringing did not diminish Clara, if anything, it made her more precocious and mature than her peers.