In the final episode of How The Yes Was Won, we cover the day of the referendum results. We talk about the mixed emotions from everyone on the day, and the infamous "quiet revolution" quote from Leo Varadkar. We also look at the failures of the current legislation, and how we now need to push for more as it comes up for review. We speak about some of the other areas of injustice in Ireland that we now need to focus on, and hope you agree. Links to additional resources are below.
We spoke with Anne Connolly, Alison Spillane, Anita Byrne, Cathie Shiels, Eddie Conlon, Emily Waszak, Ivana Bacik, Linda Kavanagh, Mary Gordon, Mary McAuliffe, Mary McDermott, Mary Ryder, Maeve Taylor, Niall Behan, Sam Blanckensee, Sarah Monaghan, Sean O’Brien, and Ursula Barry for this series.
If you would like to help increase access to abortion in Ireland and elsewhere, please consider donating to the Abortion Support Network.
Written and edited by Deirdre Kelly and Aisling Dolan. Narrated by Aisling Dolan. Produced by Deirdre Kelly, Aisling Dolan, Emma Callaghan, Tara Lonij, Davy Quinlivan
Music: A Dream
Written By Jessie Marie Villa, Matthew Wigton
Performed By Jessie Villa
Produced ByJessie Villa
Support the show (https://www.asn.org.uk/donate/)
Anita: Standing in the middle of a street, in a small rural town, in the midd.. [laughs] I’m getting emotional again, in the middle of conservative Ireland and asking people to vote Yes to allow abortion, is really not an easy thing at all, to say the least. Yet people are willing to do it, knowing that you may be ostracised from your community or lose friendships or respect from neighbours. So that was really, really hard and yet people did it.
*Intro starts and continues for 30 secs*
Narrator Aisling [00:00:25] : Welcome back to HowThe Yes Was Won, a podcast about the Eighth Amendment.
May 25th, 2018, the day GDPR became law.
No, JK it was the day Ireland voted to Repeal the 8th.
Together for Yes had been running their campaign for two months, as had the No side. For many of us, we'd been leafleting every morning and canvassing every night for so long that we'd forgotten what free time was. Now the day to actually vote had arrived. Under Irish law, it is illegal to campaign on the day of an election. So what could we do? Well, first of all, we had to vote and make sure everybody else voted too. Here's Linda Kavanagh from ARC.
Linda: The day of the vote, yeah, so I, you know, got a little bit later than usual, went to vote, got dressed up, nice makeup because it was important, you know, and then it.. was it was weird because I went to vote and I was on my own. And that was probably the first thing I'd done on my own in this whole campaign. It was so weird. It just didn't feel real. Like everything I've done in this has been a collective, collective of women mostly, working together towards a goal. And this was the first solo kind of thing that I'd done. It was really, really odd. It felt really surreal.
And then I went into.. so while there's a moratorium for traditional media, there's not for social media. So we had to still work. So we were in there. But it was really weird, because it was kind of not obvious, but it was like, it was a strong opening day, you know, like we knew a lot of people had got out, and it was the visibility was there. And we knew, we knew we had our jobs.. were like dogs at the polling booth, that's a big social media moment. You do that. There was also really, really lovely stories, Sarah Riordan, who postponed a breast cancer surgery so she could vote. People who were like, “I'm going to leg it from my daughter's wedding to go and vote and then head back up” those kind of stories. And people who had just given birth actually, was one!
Interviewer Deirdre: A woman in labour ?!
Linda: Yes! So all of these things were, were coming in and, you know, we're monitoring them and sharing them. And then people were coming in and out. We, we were in our “war room” as we called it, on the first floor of the... of the headquarters. And people were coming in and out, and they were canvassing and stuff. And I was like, you know, Get down... Because it was gorgeous day. And everyone in Dublin leaves Dublin when it's a really nice day. So I was like, “Get down the canal, if there’s anyone drinking!” And it was empty apparently! That was the thing! Like you should have known then! That was another indicator [laughs]
Narrator Aisling [00:03:20] Many of you listening, may have been on the Together For Yes mailing list, and maybe you received alarming emails on the evening of May 25th saying turnout was low and for people to do more to get out the vote. Linda told us more about that..
Linda: Yeah, this is bad form.. and I would apologise, but I'm actually not sorry at all. So we.. The plan was, the plan always is, is to say turnout is low, but we couldn't say that because turnout was records high and we knew it. [laughs] So we kind of were like, OK, well, what are you going to do? So then we were like, we had gotten some stuff in, like this was not made up. We had gotten some stuff in that it had been strong in the morning, and then it wasn't strong in the afternoon, in certain areas. So we decided to do the orange warning and the flashing red GIF, and maybe we should have told our supporters that this was a tactic, but we didn't. And we then, I will just say, that we bought our own bullshit and then we were panicking by the panic that WE had created. We were panicking. So literally, Sarah Clarkin was lying on the ground having a panic attack with coats over her head. I was like bent over, clutching my stomach going “oh, my God, the anxiety, the anxiety”. So Emma, who also worked with us, she had to go, for a couple of hours and she came back... And when she left, we were fine. And when she came back six hours later, we were dying! We were absolutely in bits, and she was like “Cop on!!” [laughs] We were like “No, we bought our own bullshit!!” [laughs] like we knew we had done this, but we still [laughs] still bought it! So, yeah, it was absolutely demented.
Interviewer Deirdre: So you're the person responsible for my mental breakdown at 5pm on a Friday afternoon
Linda: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…
Interviewer Deirdre: While reading those emails? “oh my god, turnout is low!” and I was like “I can’t…”
Linda: Listen lads, it worked ok? [everyone laughs]
Interviewer Deirdre: It did not work for me! [laughs]
Linda: I, I know... Some.. like I've been told. Like I know there was people crying... No, it's.. it's bad. But also, though I know people, I know some people lost their dang minds, they were going into pubs and like, you know, shoving people out the door. And then.. but then I know somebody who was like their dad kind of saw it, and was like he decided to down at like half nine. So, like, we'll just say... yeah, yeah, yeah.
Narrator Aisling [00:05:48] Polling stations were open from 7am until 10pm on the 25th. We knew there would be two exit polls, one from the Irish Times at 10pm and then one from RTE at about 11 on The Late Late Show.
Campaigners were preparing themselves to get the first indication of if we'd done enough.
Remember, this was a campaign that broke Irish political fundraising records. It was a campaign that baffled regular media and political outlets. You couldn't walk down any street in Ireland without, half the people you saw wearing Repeal jumpers. But still in our little Repeal-y bubbles, we didn't know if the Yes would win.
Linda: Coming into this, we were on the back of, you know, Trump winning and Brexit happening, so polls being.. not trusted. We knew that a poll was coming in at 10 o’clock and we, we were dreading it. Because I'll just say now, I kind of think it's horseshit when people say that they knew it was won, but maybe.. they did. But I thought maybe we had won by 51%, 50.5%, 52%?!. I thought it was going to be a scrappy, down to the wire. We’d go to the count the next day and it’d be like, Yes -one county, No - one county. It was going to be all down to the wire. I was dreading that poll because I was like, it's going to come in a 52, and you've got your margin of error - is three percent. We don't know. And we'll just spend the whole night being anxious, and be absolutely wrecked. It'll be awful.
And around 9 o'clock, Deirdre Duffy came up to us and she was like “Look. C'mon, downstairs. You know you’ve done..” Because we were sitting there waiting for the poll, and so we.. It was really nice. People were there with beers and pizzas, and there was a couple of speeches, like I remember Grainne Griffin kind of stood up and said “Look, no matter what happens now, we've changed the conversation. We've changed the country. Thank you so much. Everyone gave everything that they could”
And I remember it was Nikki Gallagher's voice, was the one going “It's a landslide!!” I remember her screeching! [laughs] and then Sarah Clarke was like “For which way??” [laughs] And like her now-husband was like “For you!” [laughs] And yeah. So we.. partied! [laughs] so basically that came in at 69% and we took a lot of photographs [laughs] with 69%. There was crying... So the first poll came out and some people were like “No.., this is, this is, this is the first poll guys. Just a poll guys, just chill out” but no way it was gone at that stage. And then the second poll came in. We're like, OK, you can't get it 18 points wrong. Like if if you're polling and you get it, eighteen points wrong, should be fired it’s polling.
So yeah.. So we partied and it was funny, because we were.. went out on a lot of the Abortion Rights Campaign people went out onto the steps, and we recorded a message, just to kind of.. for the people who were in other parts of the country. And so like, so I know Caoimhe was in Cork, and she.. you know, the first they went to the poll, but they were all kind of tense and silent. And then the poll came in and they were still like “No, I don’t believe it”” And we sent Caoimhe that message, and like we were drinking at.. you know, delighted with life at that stage. And she was like, “Well they're celebrating up in Dublin. So I think it might be OK.” [laughs]
Narrator Aisling [00:09:00] All over the country, people are coming together in front of TVs, in homes and pubs, waiting for the polls to come in. We asked Emily Waszak from MERJ where she was the evening of the vote.
Emily: I had met someone after work for some pints, and then all the MERJ people were meeting up at one of our members house for a pasta party, and then we.. I don't think any of us could vote, actually, maybe maybe one or two of us, had voted. And then we were meeting a bunch of comrades over at the Hop House in town. And so was like a five minute walk from the gaff, and we were a little bit drunk.. and we were walking down the street. So we just decided, like “Let's take the street!” So we took the street like we marched like, you know, 15 of us at most, marching through the street, down Dominic Street, like down Parnell Street to get to the Hop House. We passed a church, and they were all very like cross with us. They were all wearing their No you know, Save the 8th kind of things. And we were just like chanting and singing. Yeah. Singing Bella Ciao... oh, god. it was it was, it was the best.
We were just, because we were just so.. there needs to be some cathar...catharsis for us as well, because we couldn't vote. I think that was for a lot of people. Like ticking that box was just like [takes a big breath] , this kind of like relief, OK, and then a little bit of anxiety, whereas we didn't really have that necessarily. So we needed something. So, yeah, we we marched, we chanted, we, we chanted all the way into the bar, and then I remember the the smoking area, we were marching out to the smoking area and I just heard, cause they could hear us, and I heard someone like one of our pals be like, “Oh shit, MERJ in the house!” because they, you know, you could hear us from anywhere and know that it's us, which was really like exciting and like it felt like this really great kind of like camaraderie, and also this acknowledgement of our role in the referendum that had not existed.
Narrator Aisling [00:10:57] After the Irish Times poll came in, there was a slight disbelief that we'd be ahead by so much. So for the first time in many of our lives, young people all over Ireland tuned in to watch “The Late Late Show” to have the results confirmed by the RTE poll, here's Cathie Shiels.
Cathie: The exit polls? I was saying, I went into this wee pub in my hometown, called Farren’s, that I've sort of started, started drinking in and it's just this very small country pub. But the guy, the family who own it, they're very nice. And I went in and was like “Charlie, would you put on the Late Late for me?” He's like, “Aye no bother” So I was there with like me and my mum. And I just like watching, like with disbelief. I, I really didn't expect them to be that high. Like, up until the day before, I wasn't even sure that we were going to win. D’you know, I mean. There's just this mad fear, that's just based on being a woman in Ireland all my life, like “No, they'll never, ever let us do anything that's good for us. So don't get your hopes up!” And then I drank far more pints than I should have, because I was like, “Well, they like us! They really like us! Mum isn't this great!”
Narrator Aisling [00:12:05] : As you've heard, it was an incredible relief to hear the two exit polls, to think that, yes, we had done enough. For us, it had been about six years of campaigning, but for a small few, this fight had been going on for over 35 years. Here's Mary Gordon, who you'll remember from episode one
Mary Gordon: My experience on the day of the result.. I was with the Women's Information Network. We had a reunion the night of the vote, and the poll
Interviewer Tara: This time around you mean?
Mary Gordon: Yeah. And I have 2018.. the exit poll. And we were sitting, having dinner, feeling very nervous when the exit poll results came out. And Janey, I've never enjoyed myself as much, as in that company that night. It was just magnificent!
So in a way, over my lifetime, a lot of my lifetime, to have come.. to have seen the day when Irish people, as a just as a population, are now so liberal compared to the Ireland I grew up in, is still feels like a great thing, I have to say.
Narrator Aisling [00:13:07] By May 26, we knew we had won, but we still had to count the votes. Conference centres and sports halls all over the country became count centres, where the votes for each constituency were counted up and reported to the main count centre at Dublin Castle. Together For Yes, had booked a function room in the hotel opposite the RDS, which was the central count centre for Dublin. Here's Linda again.
Linda: I didn't go to the count.. because I thought it was going to be that scrappy down to the bar thing. I just couldn't face anti-choice people. I just was absolutely like, I'm not going to be able to do this. Now other people love the count, so like literally there was fights over, you know, and all kinds of politics, game of thrones stuff happened over who got to go to the count. I had no interest, so I was happy to go... We had the Intercontinental, big ballroom of the Intercontinental and there was a little room, that was little media room at the side because we had a plan for social media if it went No, we had a plan for if it went scrappy down to the wire and we had absolutely no plan for a landslide. So we didn't know what to do. But it was just mad. So there was a couple of people looking at the counts, and kind of tallying up all that kind of stuff digitally. And then we were looking at the different counties, because the idea was that if a county came in for No, we would post photos of them and we would say thanks to the to the campaigners there “you got seventy thousand Yes votes. Unbelievable achievement.” But then it was all bloody Yeses! Bar the one which was the last one, you know.
Cathie: The morning of the count, I was very hung over getting to like.. cos the count centre was like an hour and 10 minutes away from where I'm from, d’you know Donegal is big like that. The Late Late poll the night before, it was like 69% or something like “Jesus If It’s 69%, maybe even Donegal voted Yes!” But up until that, I hadn't really thought the Donegal would vote Yes. But I had always hoped, you know, like but it was still like.. and I suppose from being out like canvassing and stuff. It was just.. it was really disappointing. And as soon as the Inishowen came back - No, because Inishowen had come by quite, quite strongly in support of marriage equality. And as soon that came back - No, I was like “Fuck. Well, That’s that then.” And we sat around all day knowing that it was a No, but waiting because, I think, lik.. Basically HQ didn't want any No’s coming out until later in the evening. You know, it was like and then Tim Jackson and I had been interviewed beside each other so many times over, you know, the year previously.
Narrator Aisling [00:15:38] : Tim Jackson is an anti-choice politician from Donegal who went on fake hunger strike to stop Repeal.
Cathie: Whenever it was over, I was like, “Well Tim, I'm sure you must be pleased with how that went to Donegal. And he was like, “I'm just sad about all the babies that are going to die.” [laughs] And I can't tell if that was a line or if he meant it, I really can't! So, yeah, I still have loads of mixed feelings about the day of the count, because I was mostly just dejected, even though, like, we'd won. And this is like, you know, the fruits of like six years of like constant volunteering. And I just I don't know. I just didn't I didn't really sink in like, well, that's that's not really the way to describe it, because it did sink in. I knew that we'd won, but it was just.. I was just walking around, like, not happy.
There was a few comments made in the days afterwards, but there was a couple of really strong rebuttals. There is like a young doctor, Noel Sharkey, who is involved with the Marriage Equality campaign and who also spoke, you know, as you know, Doctor for Choice in Donegal. And he he just wrote like a thread on, on Twitter that was like, you know, “Before you get smart!” you know, and he just broke down all of the different reasons, you know, why it was such a difficult campaign in Donegal compared to other parts of the country, which isn't to say that it wasn't difficult elsewhere, but there's just there's just there is just a lot of challenges in Donegal. And I think we did really well, to be honest, like they were so close. It wasn't like it was a, you know, a really big discrepancy between the Yes’s and the No’s. And women in Donegal now have abortion, whether they voted for it or not. So you're welcome! Yeah! You know, I hope that you never need to access one, but if you do, you'll be able to.
Narrator Aisling [00:17:21]: Thanks to the incredible work of volunteers like Cathie, it was a landslide.
Ireland voted to Repeal the 8th by 66.4%. 1,429,981 people voted Yes, and the turnout was 64%. The official results would be announced from Dublin Castle later in the afternoon. Just like with Marriage Equality, people descended on the castle courtyard to be there to hear the official results being read out and celebrate together.
One of the people there was Mary McDermott. She's a co-founder of Voices 4 Choice, a pro-choice choir who were regularly heard around the campaign and at Marches for Choice.
Mary Mc: It was just a big bag of mixed emotions for me. The morning of the results, so the Saturday of the results, we pretty much knew we'd won based on the exit polls or we were very hopeful that we would win. There was people crying... Those people like shouting. There was a woman walking around handing out there After Eight mints because we were after eight! You know, there was a good craic about like the “I fancy Simon Harris!” signs going on. So it was just as a mixed bag of emotion whereby, it was one minute you're like “Oh my God, I'm so happy my fellow citizens think I'm equal, and I deserve human rights. Yesterday, I was afraid that people thought I didn't deserve human rights. Now I know, they want me to have human rights!” So you're so happy, but then you're bawling, crying because it's almost like in that day I felt, oh, my God, I haven't realised all this stress that I've had as well. So you just bawling, crying. But you're with the people who did it with you as well.
And then there was just chaos in Dublin Castle because the choir went in based on the fact on the day of the Marriage Equality, you had to get in early or else you weren't going to get a spot. So we arrived in, the place was still fairly empty, apart from a lot of media, and it was still fairly empty. And so we were like “Oh, will we just start singing here in the courtyard?” So we started singing in the courtyard and within 30 seconds, there must have been like nearly a hundred photographers in front of us or film crews or TV crews. And it was just one of the most insane.. we felt like we were the Beatles or something. All of a sudden, this is all these people rushing over towards us. And it was just so bizarre. And you'd go from that and then somebody would want to interview you and then you'd yeah.. it was it was a mismatch of of every kind of emotion.
And obviously, like I think a lot of people found the choir so quirky, because we were singing about abortion rights. We were singing about Repealing the 8th. We were singing about women's autonomy and how people need to stand in unity with women. And so a lot of people found it kind of quirky because we'd also done it... We just changed the lyrics to existing popular known songs. So we had Spice Girls, and we had Taylor Swift, we had Tracy Chapman, we had Don’t.. instead of “Don't Stop Believing”, it was “Don't Stop Repealing”. So I think for us almost, we'd been doing at that stage nearly two years. So for us, these songs we were so used to them and a lot of people got to hear them for the first time that day and it just really got picked up on. And it was just very strange, because it almost felt to me like “Oh my God, the work is done now. We can relax.” But then in that moment, there was such media focus on the Choir that it was just like “Whoa, everything's just amped up like ten thousand times again.” And in reality, the reason that happened is because it was so quiet at that stage in Dublin Castle, and that's where all the press were waiting. So when something like this cacophony of sound and, you know, joy and just overflowing emotion arrived in, the media were like delighted. And, you know, it was just it was really it was I think it was quite overwhelming for a lot of us as well to end up the next day on the front of The New York Times and The Guardian, The Observer, to be on the RTE news for five or six days in a roll, to.. like I had friends, messaging me from Australia, from Mexico, from Argentina - All these places and were like “I just saw you on the television!” So it was it was quite overwhelming.
Narrator Aisling [00:21:28] : The eyes of the world were on Ireland, there was a big presence from international media outlets in the run up to the vote, all covering so-called Catholic Ireland, voting for abortion access, missing the nuances, and the journey the country had been on. Politicians and campaigners stood on a temporary dais in Dublin Castle courtyard and smiled, waved and applauded to the crowd. The then-Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, addressed the media that afternoon. He described the campaign as a “quiet revolution”. We put that claim to every single person we interviewed and here are some of our favourite responses
Alison: And I always think of it actually, when you know after the vote Varadkar, this whole thing about a quiet revolution, like I was like I just felt this, like cacophony of noise, like there was so much going on, like a. he’s like a quiet revolution? you just weren’t listening, like there was loads of us!
Anita: He obviously hasn’t been listen to women for the previous 35 years, and it's not surprising he ignored the years of work done by grassroots groups who were all shouting very loudly about this.
Sarah: Am I allowed to swear? It was out-rageous. I actually like, to think that one irritating sod of a man could take the good out of the moment like that. I like, I was shocked to my core was like, oh my God, you even ruined this. Like I cannot believe that this has just happened, like on national television. oh, you fucking bollocks. So it's like, yeah, ra.. Raging. Absolutely raging. There was nothing quiet about it. He just wasn't listening. None of them were listening until they were made to listen. And they were made listen by loud, shrill, angry feminists shouting over and over and over again until it was suddenly on their agenda and became something they wanted to be part of. So, yeah, you can shove it up your hole
Emily: Oh god, Leo Varadkar is especially infuriating for me. I'm mixed race, I'm the same age as him. I'm the daughter of a migrant as well. But it's.. it's absolutely outrageous for him to say this, because he was the one who was silencing us for so long. He has a long track record of flip-flopping anyway... But, yeah, it's absolutely fuckin patronising. And it was always going to happen that way. But at the same time, we kind of let that happen when we sort of gave over the reins, when we are like taking pictures of politicians and like asking Fine Gael, like, join to us in strategy and whatever. So like it's his prerogative to say it, man. Like, we kind of gave him the keys to the castle in a way, but still fuck him. Like it wasn't a quiet revolution. It was really loud. It was quiet-ish for a long time. I think there is a lot of self-censorship that happened because of like deep, dark histories of oppression. But.. like, I think his idea of quiet is different to mine.
Mary Ryder: It's just a history of activism.
Interviewer Deirdre: Yeah, yeah,
Mary Ryder: And when, like you were the ones who brought it up, quiet revolution? It was no more a quiet revolution; We've been screeching and roaring and shouting and placarding and, you know, being arrested and being.. you know, that kind of thing. So there was no way quiet. It just happened to be not on their agenda.
Narrator Aisling [00:24:46] : And we agree. And after nine episodes, we hope you do, too.
Linda: The really amazing thing about this campaign is, that it is owned by so many people, like it's not.. like I have ownership of it being in headquarters, but it also is that mam in Mayo who took her buggy and a handful of leaflets, and canvassed her street on her own, because she knew it wasn't gonna happen otherwise. She owns the campaign as much as I do. And I hope people know that, like they're not written out of it, like
Narrator Aisling [00:25:21] : The campaign to Repeal the 8th was owned by everyone involved. And everyone has their own story to tell about how they Repealed the 8th.
This podcast is just one story of Repeal, it doesn't cover everything, and it's not the only story. We've already heard lots of other stories, in films, podcasts, blog posts and books, and we look forward to hearing even more.
So, what's next? Well, Ireland's not fixed, the 8th Amendment was repealed and there is legislation for abortion access now, but it's not good enough. The people who were most affected by the 8th Amendment are still the same people who struggle to access care today. We have a 12 week gestational limit, which needs to be increased. We also have a completely clinically unnecessary 3 day waiting period between requesting and receiving an abortion, which means that people need to travel to their GP twice and limits access to the service, especially in rural areas.
Anita: It's fine to be free, safe, legal if you're somewhere that you can access it, but there's no point in us having free, safe, legal if it's the case that you can't access it locally and we still have that problem in Tipperary, we still don't have enough access. We don't have enough GP’s that are offering the services. We don't.. we just don't have the access for us. You still have situations where we'll take, for example, a woman that's in an abusive relationship that lives in a small village outside of town, and might only go to that main town once a week for her to do her weekly shopping. How does she explain to her partner? Well, instead of doing my usual Thursday or Friday trip for to go to the local Tesco or Aldi, I'm going on a Monday or Tuesday and then having to repeat that again, because you have to go back after a couple of days because you need two visits to a GP. So that negatively impacts more in rural in Ireland than it would do in an urban areas.
Narrator Aisling [00:27:15] The legislation also doesn't cover any exclusion zones outside of clinics or protection for doctors, which means protesters can and do, ring GPs who they suspect of providing abortions to pressure them to stop. Together for Safety is a new national campaign that is calling for the implementation of safe access zones around family planning centres, maternity hospitals and health care facilities.
Emily: Yeah, it was.. it was good, but of course, like I mean, to be honest, like we were celebrating, but in the back of our heads the whole time was like... “There's still a lot to go. We still have a lot of work to do” Because we knew conscientious objection was there. We knew people were trusting doctors. We knew that doctors were not our friends, because they had come out in support of conscientious objection. We knew that that was going to be like, pretty much the biggest barrier, that and term limits were going to be kind of the biggest barriers for us. And, of course, like our work doesn't end. Like we still have problems in maternity services. We still have a housing crisis. We still have racism and the rise of the far right. So, yes, so it's kind of like a whoop up like, yeah, but ok, now we know how much work we're going to have to do.
Narrator Aisling [00:28:32] Maternity care in Ireland is not fixed.
In Her Shoes was an online phenomenon that told the stories of people affected by the 8th Amendment. There’s now a new online account In Our Shoes - Covid Pregnancy which aims to raise awareness of the strict regulations that have been in place since March 2020 which forces people to use Irish maternity services alone, separated from partners during appointments, inductions, full labour and in-patient stays. Pubs, shops and restaurants are reopening, but there is no movement on allowing the partners of pregnant people into hospitals, regardless of vaccine or test status. Once again we’re hearing about the poor and sometimes traumatising treatment of pregnant people in Irish hospitals.
We’re also facing the very real threat that the new National Maternity Hospital will be owned by The Sisters of Charity. I don’t think we need to go into too much more detail on why the Church needs to be kept as far away from people who can get pregnant bodies' as possible. There’s a growing movement to oppose this, and we encourage you to get involved however you can. Dun Laoghaire Together for Yes have rebranded as Dun Laoghaire Together for Choice and Equality, and can be found on Instagram and Twitter campaigning to keep the state-funded hospital in state hands.
There is also Northern Ireland. In Dublin Castle on the day of the count. People were already holding signs saying “The north is next! and “Now for NI!” reflecting the long standing solidarity between pro-choice and feminist groups on the whole island of Ireland. In May 2018, Northern Ireland still only permitted abortion if a pregnant person's life was at risk or if there was a risk of permanent and serious damage to their mental or physical health. Abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland in October 2019. However, the Minister for Health, Robin Swan, and the Department of Health have failed to commission services now required by law. This has resulted in women and pregnant people continuing to travel to seek abortion care that is technically legal there. During a pandemic!
Reproductive freedom will always be used as a political tool. And speaking of body autonomy, trans health care in Ireland is abysmal. Trans people were a key part of the campaign to Repeal the 8th. What about them? Trans people in Ireland today are still travelling for health care. There is a three year waiting list, for initial referrals to the National Gender Service. Trans people cannot wait this long. There's no specific trans health care service for youth or adolescents. The system we have uses psychiatric evaluations, which is an outdated model of care and not best practise. Trans activists want this to be replaced with the informed consent model. Trans people now are travelling abroad for medical procedures and then not receiving aftercare support when they get back. They just want to be treated at home, to receive health care at home. Does this sound familiar? So what about lessons learnt for next time?
Sam: There's nothing like... Kind of those two mornings, one in one in 2015 and one in 2018, and I don't want to go through it again. [Laughs] I kind of said when we when we kind of a couple of weeks later when we kind of gotten out of referendum mode slightly. But I still wanted to fight for something because I think, we, one of the easiest ways for us to actually see change in Ireland, is now through referendum. And I guess, we need to probably look at putting things in. Because I think we've managed to mobilise people twice now and we need to look at how we keep mobilising, and keep mobilising for human rights. And I think we probably need to look at putting things into the Constitution, not taking them out, so putting in the right to housing, putting in like human rights, actually embedding human rights into the Constitution, looking at how we can.. we can include people.
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Narrator Aisling [00:31:54] We have to have a lot more national conversations. What about the right for all children born in Ireland to automatically be Irish citizens? In 2004 we voted against that in a referendum. The Constitution states that we can legislate for this, so thankfully we shouldn’t have to drag ourselves all over the country to beg for human rights again. But we do need to put pressure on the government to change this law. Already we’ve seen multiple cases of children facing deportation to countries they’ve never lived in. It’s horrendous, it’s racist, and we need to fix it.
We've had 21-years of direct provision, essentially internment for asylum seekers. That needs to END.
We haven't even begun to acknowledge the harm done to women in Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby institutions. We've just had the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby homes earlier this year, and it has been met with widespread derision by survivors, many of whom statements were misrepresented or “lost”. They were promised so much and given so little.
Together For Yes followed the handbook of YesEquality. Both were huge campaigns which captured the hearts of young people all over the country, but both also excluded people as part of their strategy. Young people in Ireland now are used to winning, but we need to try winning together.
Many thanks to Anne Connolly, Alison Spillane, Anita Byrne, Cathie Shiels, Eddie Conlon, Emily Waszak, Ivana Bacik, Linda Kavanagh, Mary Gordon, Mary McAuliffe, Mary McDermott, Mary Ryder, Maeve Taylor, Niall Behan, Sam Blanckensee, Sarah Monaghan, Sean O’Brien, and Ursula Barry for speaking to us for this series. Icons only.
We are so, so grateful to everyone who spoke to us for this project. We couldn’t get over people’s willingness to meet with us, and share their stories and experiences with us. Many thanks to them all.
This podcast was made on less than a shoestring, and was only possible with people’s generosity and support. Absolute thanks to Noreen and Noel Kelly who let us use their dining room as a podcast studio so often, we truly couldn’t have made this without you. Also thanks for Clodagh Leonard for being so quiet while I record this. Thanks to Fin Dwyer for the loan of his podcast mic, you can have it back now Fin!
Many thanks to our family and friends who have listened to us talk about making a podcast for the last three years. It’s finally here and we hope you love it as much as we do. Next week, we’re going to share some of our favourite stories that didn’t make the cut. We hope you like them.
How The Yes Was Won was researched, produced and edited by Deirdre Kelly, Aisling Dolan, that's me, Emma Callaghan, Davy Quinlivan, and Tara Lonji. Additional recording support from Fin Dwyer. Thanks for listening.