Monday 16 September 2019

Dear Mary: Abortion vote has split our family

Campaign posters outside Government Buildings in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
Campaign posters outside Government Buildings in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Mary O'Conor

I am incredibly disappointed and upset at the moment. I live abroad and unfortunately wasn't able to return home to vote in the referendum on May 25. I am the only daughter in a family of five. Yesterday I found out that both of my parents had voted No in the referendum. This does not align with my views as I was firmly in support of a Yes vote.

I also found out that my mother had advised my two younger brothers that they should not vote. She put this down to the fact that they were both 'unsure' of how to vote and 'lacked the life experience' to make an informed decision. I know that she only advised them to do this because she knew that they would likely vote Yes.

I had told her that she should be encouraging them to read up on the topic and educate themselves so that they could make their own decision on the subject, whatever that may be. I also offered to share a number of unbiased sources on the subject of abortion.

I don't know what to do. I have asked them to speak to me about the referendum result on FaceTime so that I can share my opinions on the subject, but I worry that they won't listen to me.

I'm not sure that I am able to continue my relationship with them because of the fact that they voted No. I am very close to my brothers and feel so let down by them in particular.

I feel like they all let me down when I couldn't vote myself and essentially voted against my rights when I am the only one in my direct family that this referendum will ever impact on.

Mary replies: You are no doubt relieved by the resounding Yes result of the recent referendum given your viewpoint.

I agree with you that your brothers should have been encouraged to vote no matter what, but I am very concerned that the way your parents voted may significantly change your relationship with them. They were voting according to their own set of values and beliefs, just as you would have been if you were able to vote. They made their choice, as they were entitled to, and you would have made yours.

Nobody should be made accountable for their vote and it is wrong of you to hold it against them, no matter how much you may disagree with their views.

So why not agree to differ even though I know it will be difficult for you, make sure that your brothers vote on whatever the next occasion is, and get on with your life safe in the knowledge that you got the result that you hoped for.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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