Friday 20 October 2017

Torrid history of abortion votes shows how issue divides society

Fianna Fáil's then chief whip Bertie Ahern leaving the Dáil at the time of the 1983 abortion referendum Photo: Photocall Ireland
Fianna Fáil's then chief whip Bertie Ahern leaving the Dáil at the time of the 1983 abortion referendum Photo: Photocall Ireland
John Downing

John Downing

The last time we were asked to vote on the issue of abortion, it rained cats and dogs in the west, where more traditional voters are believed to reside. But the day held dry in the greater Dublin area, where there was a huge margin against the referendum, which had been endorsed by the Catholic bishops.

"Was this an act of God? If it was, whose side was She on?" the nationwide joke went at the time.

It was March 6, 2002, and the complicated proposition proposed by then-Health Minister Micheál Martin was defeated by a mere 10,556 votes, or less than one percentage point. In fact, the margin was a mere 1,500 votes more than the by-a-whisker referendum result that in November 1995 cleared the way for divorce.

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