High turnout to repeal the Eighth solidifies Ireland's move left

By George Khalaf

The Republic of Ireland sparked worldwide debate as its citizens voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment last Friday.  Added to their Constitution in 1983, 4 years after the visit of Pope John Paul II, the amendment secured an “equal right to life” for both women and their preborn children.  At the time, a lethal push to legalize abortion swept the globe, prompting the Catholic church and conservative politicians in Ireland to join together in opposition.  Their proposed legislation allowed a mother to terminate her pregnancy only if it threatened her own life, barring it under every other circumstance – including rape, incest, or fetal abnormality.  67% of Irish voters passed the amendment, but they have deserted their pro-life roots in the most recent decision. 

On May 25, 2018, the Republic rescinded the Eighth by a landslide, 66.4% to 33.6%. Only a single county, Donegal, voted to preserve the current law.  Countering 39 other counties, 51.9% of its residents said “No” to legalizing abortion, but this failed to stop the national movement. 

Ireland Referendum on the Eighth Vote Outcome.png

Out of 3.3 million registered voters, 2,153,613 voiced their opinions at the polls, with 1,429,981 in support of repeal and 723,632 in opposition.  This amounts to a notable 64.5% turnout, the third most in Ireland’s referendum history since the 1937 adoption of its Constitution.  The counties that topped the list for turnout include urban areas like Wicklow (74.5%), Dublin Bay North (71.6%), Dublin Fingal (70.3%) and Dublin Rathdown (70.1%).  Overall, the country’s turnout average trails only the 1972 proposal to join the European Economic Community and a cluster of other abortion ballots in 1992.  It even surpasses the 60.5% turnout during the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum.  Interestingly, Roscommon-Galway, the only county to oppose gay marriage at the time, backed the repeal with a majority of 57.2%.  Clearly, the Republic of Ireland is continuing its move to the left.

Ireland Referendum on the Eighth Top Four Referendum Turnouts.png

For the most part, the opinions of Irish officials mirror those of the electorate majority.  Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, praised the people’s “quiet revolution,” noting that they “trust and respect women to make the right choices and decisions about their own healthcare.”  He also suggested that modern times call for new, evolving legislation for social justice.  Similarly, Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s minister for women and equality, applauded Ireland’s progressivism and alluded to even more reform in the future.  She labeled Friday a “historic and great day for Ireland and a hopeful one for Northern Ireland,” encouraging the latter to adopt similar changes.  Still, although British Prime Minister Theresa May applauds the “successful campaign” of Southern Ireland, she reserves the right to further legislation for each region’s local representatives.  Either way, current trends point to a new era of “feminism” and “human rights” at the cost of life for the most vulnerable.

George Khalaf is president of Data Orbital where he leverages his data expertise, political instincts and strategic relationships for clients and causes throughout Arizona and a growing number of states. 

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