Wednesday 18 September 2019

It's important to vote, otherwise others will decide for you

In an intense debate, it is important to check the facts, writes Judge Isobel Kennedy, chair of the Referendum Commission

'Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm on Friday, May 25.' Stock photo
'Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm on Friday, May 25.' Stock photo

Isobel Kennedy

There are five days of debate left - five days in which those urging you to vote Yes or to vote No will make their final appeals to you.

Then on Friday, voters will make an important decision on what for many years has been a keenly contested issue in Ireland. Amid the intensity of the debate, it is really important to ensure you are familiar with what you are actually being asked to vote upon on Friday.

The Referendum Commission explains this in a neutral and independent way on our website at and in a guide distributed to all homes in the State.

The present legal position is that in Ireland it is lawful for a pregnancy to be terminated only where it poses a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including a risk of suicide.

If there is a Yes vote on Friday, the Constitution will be amended to allow the Oireachtas to pass laws allowing the termination of pregnancy in circumstances other than this. If there is a No vote, then the current situation remains unchanged.

The Government has outlined the proposals it intends to put to the Oireachtas in the event of a Yes vote.

In recent weeks, there has been much public discussion of the merits, or otherwise, of allowing terminations of pregnancy in certain circumstances, or up to certain time limits.

However, you are not being asked to vote on any particular law on Friday. You are being asked whether or not to allow the Oireachtas to pass new laws allowing terminations in circumstances other than a risk to the life of the mother. If you vote Yes it can. If you vote No it cannot.

Everyone who is eligible is encouraged to vote, but it is surprising how many people, who intend to vote, end up not doing so.

Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm on Friday, May 25. Voter research and indeed common sense suggest that people who plan in advance what time of day they are going to vote are more likely to actually do it than those who don't.

So look at your daily timetable, decide what time of day suits you best, and then stick to your plan.

Otherwise you may find yourself after 10pm realising you didn't turn up. This is an important decision and if you don't vote, other people will decide for you.

Voters should receive a polling card delivered to their home. But if you registered to vote in the referendum but you haven't received a polling card, bring some valid of photo ID. You are given your ballot paper, you put an X in the box beside either Yes or No, depending on how you want to vote. You put the paper into the ballot box and that's it.

Before you vote, visit or read the independent guide that has been delivered to all households in the State. Get the facts.

Sunday Independent

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