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Repealing the Eighth: Those who have been campaigning for repeal long before the referendum was announced


LONG-TIME CAMPAIGNER: Ivana Bacik in the upper yard of Dublin Castle where activists met to mark the referendum result.  Photo: Gerry Mooney

LONG-TIME CAMPAIGNER: Ivana Bacik in the upper yard of Dublin Castle where activists met to mark the referendum result. Photo: Gerry Mooney

LONG-TIME CAMPAIGNER: Ivana Bacik in the upper yard of Dublin Castle where activists met to mark the referendum result. Photo: Gerry Mooney

As the country considers the seismic shift recorded on the history books on Saturday with the announcement of the landslide vote in favour of repeal, Independent.ie looks at some of the most prolific people in the campaign for repeal down through the years.

Ivana Bacik

The repeal of the Eighth Amendment has been a long-standing aim of the Labour Party, having campaigned against its insertion into the constitution in 1983. Party leader Brendan Howlin pointed out on a number of occasions throughout the campaign that his was a party where repeal was backed by all members. Among the most prolific campaigners in recent decades, was Labour Senator Ivana Bacik. Ms Bacik has been synonymous with the campaign for repeal long before there were jumpers with that logo or an appetite among the majority in Leinster House.

Ms Bacik became active in the pro-choice campaign as President of the Student’s Union in Trinity College. In 1989 the pro-life lobby Spuc (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) sought to have union officers imprisoned for for providing information on abortion.

Mary Robinson represented the group and kept them out of prison. A number of years later the right to distribute information on abortion and to travel was passed by referendum.

Katherine Zappone

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone was instrumental in ensuring that Friday’s referendum took place.

As negotiations to form the current Government were underway Ms Zappone made it clear that the issue of a referendum on the Eighth Amendment was a redline issue for her.

She also raised the issue with Leo Varadkar prior to his election as Taoiseach, urging that work get underway on the framework which would underpin the holding of the poll.  

Earlier this year when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the much-anticipated referendum he did so flanked by Minister Zappone on one side and Health Minister Simon Harris on the other.

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Dr Mary Favier

Cork city GP Mary Favier is a founding member of Doctors for Choice and emerged as a key voice in the campaign to liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws.

She set up the group in 2002 with only a handful of members. Her experience as a GP fuelled her decision to advocate for change, having encountered women from all walks of life who needed to access abortion services, she said. Dr Favier played a prominent role in this campaign alongside doctors such as former Master of Holles Street Dr Peter Boylan and Dr Rhona Mahony, current Master of Holles Street.

Amanda Mellet and the co-founders of Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR)

On Saturday as he walked into the RDS during the count Minister Simon Harris was wearing a Termination for Medical Reasons badge - and it was fitting. While much debate centred on the so-called hard cases throughout the campaign the stories of the families forced to access terminations abroad following a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality resonated with people nationwide.

Amanda Mellet, who received such a diagnosis in 2011 and travelled abroad for a termination, joined with a number of other women in 2012 and formed the group. In addition to providing support for women and couples who received such a diagnosis the group also began to campaign for a change in Ireland’s laws.

Ms Mellet separately took a case to the UN’s Human Rights Committee and in a significant decision the committee found that the State had inflicted trauma on Ms Mellet by forcing her to travel abroad. The State subsequently compensated Ms Mellet.

On Saturday just ahead of the final result teh women of TFMR made an emotional statement in the RDS.

“Never again will any Irish woman or couple be treated the way that we were, tragedy will no longer be punished. Today compassion, understanding and common sense have prevailed,” she said.

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