Thursday 21 November 2019

Final Results

Repeal the Eighth Amendment?

Yes 66.40% 1,429,981

No 33.60% 723,632

  • Constituencies declared: 40/40

Referendum Hub

There are still votes to win - the challenge is getting undecideds to cast them

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Change can be a difficult concept for a lot of people. It involves challenging long-held views, saluting an uncertain future, and ultimately making peace with the abandonment of the status quo.

The polls suggest Ireland is on the brink of significant social change with the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

For 35 years, we have lived with a single sentence in the Constitution that acknowledged the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.

It was a noble ambition but one Repeal campaigners have long argued was never practical.

Led by senior ministers and the masters of the national maternity hospitals, they say doctors have been forced to "take pause" when treating seriously ill women.

But opponents of Friday's referendum are clear the amendment has saved the lives of countless babies.

They are on a mission to protect Ireland from "one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world".

Over recent weeks and indeed months, the facts have often become blurred and the at times the debate has been hostile.

But the battle for the minds and hearts of Irish voters is entering the final countdown - with a cohort of undecideds set to determine the outcome.

Much has been made about the people who have yet to pick a side, leading to a very real possibility many won't vote at all. It is possible not to have an opinion on abortion.

Likewise, the heart and mind can conflict, leading potential voters to simply avoid the awkward question on the ballot paper.

So the final push is perhaps more important than ever. And tonight's televised debate on RTÉ offers a perfect opportunity to sway the middle ground.

While last week's effort turned into a cross between Dr Phil, Oprah and Jerry Springer, RTÉ has a chance to redeem itself by keeping a tighter rein on the 'Prime Time' audience.

Unsurprisingly, both sides want to put their best foot forward.

Together for Yes has naturally opted for Health Minister Simon Harris alongside the well-spoken but lesser known consultant obstetrician Professor Mary Higgins.

The No campaign ise understood to have wanted to nominate Maria Steen of the Iona Institute, who all sides agreed stood out above the din at the 'Claire Byrne Live' version last week.

However, Savethe8th's John McGuirk says it was met with "reluctance" from RTÉ because its star performer had already had her night on the TV.

"That's the debate the public want to see. Maria was very strong last week and Simon Harris is Cicero-like in his debating," Mr McGuirk said.

Instead, though, it has settled for a team of Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín and solicitor Cora Sherlock.

Their strategies are likely to follow a now-familiar pattern. So you can expect Mr Harris to appeal to younger voters with his warning that this is a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" for change.

He will tell viewers to set aside their concerns about what comes next and focus on the fact abortion is already a reality in Ireland. The Government wants to make it safe and regulated.

But Ms Sherlock will counter by noting this is about the State trying to take the easy option rather than create a proper healthcare system for women and their babies.

She will describe the regime being proposed by the Government as "abortion on demand".

The arguments are well rehearsed so the delivery will be important. Both sides believe this is about compassion and care - but who will be more convincing?

The real challenge facing the Yes and No camps in the hours and days ahead is not to change the minds of those who have already committed their vote.

It's to appeal to those who never saw a problem with the Eighth but are now wavering.

It's to engage the young men in rural Ireland who never really thought about it one way or the other.

The votes that will decide the referendum are still out there to be won - but there's no guarantee they'll be cast.

Irish Independent

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