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Thursday 27 October 2016

A generation thwarted by retired old farts...

John Masterson

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

Repealing the Eighth Amendment remains a burning issue.
Repealing the Eighth Amendment remains a burning issue.

Listen to your elders' advice, not because they are always right, but because they have more experience in being wrong. A lot more.

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I have been in the company of 20-somethings a lot recently. They are very angry about the generations that went before and the strictures that the elder lemons are putting on them. I am slightly flattered that they discuss these things with me as a sort of honorary young person. It is all about referenda, or referendums as they are calling them these days. I am all for sensible social change, I am still resolutely opposed to bad grammar. A referendum is now seen as a democratic device for old people to stop young people having the society they want.

Brexit was the first source of rage. Our 8th Amendment was the second. This mixture of young English and Irish people working in London felt European. Like I do. They think in terms of hopping over to Amsterdam or Dublin or Berlin for the weekend. They were apoplectic that all this is seriously jeopardised because retired 'farts' who "fantasise about some past England that never even existed" had voted to exit the EC.

It is not that long ago, 1973, that 85 pc of us voted to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. That would be back in the days when contraception was illegal in Ireland but try telling that to anyone under 30 and they will look at you as if you had two heads. In 1983 the 8th Amendment, to 'copperfasten' against abortion, was voted in by 67pc to 33pc following a referendum that craven politicians had agreed to hold. No woman of child-bearing age in Ireland has voted on this. You can say with certainty that if the decision were left up to that group of people we would have abortion legislation rather like that in the UK whose services Irish women have to use. Try telling these women that as recently as 1992, 38pc voted against this right to travel, and 40 pc against the right to information.

It is hard to explain to young people that in 1986 the ban on divorce was upheld by 63pc and that it took a further ten years before it squeaked through by 50.3pc to 49.7pc.

Tell them about the Nice Treaty which we got 'wrong' in 2001, only to be given a second chance to vote a year later. Why oh why, they ask me, can the same not be done with Brexit.

The most recent poll I have read shows that only one age group, those over 65, are opposed to repealing the 8th Amendment. And our Taoiseach still kicks it to touch.

The referendum exception that proves the rule is, of course, the way the Irish voted for marriage equality last year by almost two to one. And do you remember all the young people who flew home to vote? There is hope.

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