Polls and the Citizens Assembly

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Irish Public Awakening to their Pro-Life Instincts

The colossal implications of the possible repeal of the Eighth Amendment, Ireland’s constitutional life-saving provision, appear to be dawning on the public-at-large as the referendum comes sharper into view.

Despite years of unabated media bias, the Repeal Lobby’s co-option of one-time credible human rights organisations, like Amnesty International, and continuous international political and financial pressure on the Irish people to rescind our pro-mother, pro-baby stance, Irish society may just have reached a point where the tide begins to turn.

Bias in Irish media (Students for Life)


Polls Setting a Positive Tone

Last weekend, two opinion polls (one by Kantar Millward Brown for the Sunday Independent and another by Behaviour and Attitudes for the Sunday Times) give much reassurance to the broad Pro-Life movement that, contrary to the broad media framing of the issue, it is well within our means to succeed in the forthcoming referendum to save the lives of future generations. In light of the reality that the Repeal Lobby has succeeded in effectively making the abortion referendum a full-on abortion-on-demand question, both polls measured feelings towards the unbalanced 8th Amendment Oireachtas Committee’s report recommending repeal of the Eighth to mean abortions for any and all reasons for up to three months of a baby’s life in the womb.

Kantar Millward Brown found that 40% of those surveyed agreed with abortion-on-demand for the first 12 weeks of human life; 33% were opposed and 19% were yet to make up their mind. 8% said three-months with no restrictions on abortion did not go far enough, meaning that 8% believe the pre-born should not even before afforded the most basic of theoretical protection. The Behaviour and Attitudes poll for the Sunday Times found that 48% support repeal of the Eighth, while 30% oppose such a prospect. 17% are unsure where they stand, and 4% won’t vote.

The Context for Pro-Life Optimism

The important point in all this is that even without the 50:50 broadcasting time that will be obligatory once the referendum is actually called and without anything remotely like a fair chance for the Pro-Life movement to argue the Pro-Mother, Pro-Baby case, Repealers cannot even muster beyond 48% of the public to their side. This referendum is certainly winnable for the Pro-Life cause.

Citizens’ Assembly Reputation in Tatters

Both polls were taken before news broke that has shattered beyond doubt the credibility of the Citizens’ Assembly, the institution the government and the Repeal Lobby at-large has hidden behind to push its agenda. It has emerged that rather than Citizens’ Assembly members being selected at random in a professional manner by Red-C polling, at least seven participants at the last Assembly gathering were present though the invitation of a friend who is a Red-C staff member. The Citizens’ Assembly cannot be viewed as an authoritative, impartial or disinterested party. It has been an active player with a pre-determined agenda from before it even met to discuss abortion for the first time. Prior to its first meeting on abortion, Fine Gael TDs, including Simon Harris said a referendum on the Eighth would be the outcome of the Assembly process. The Citizens’ Assembly was a mudguard buffer playing to a script to save politicians who had previously taken Pro-Life pledges, like Harris, from losing face while achieving their actual objective of abortion-on-demand.

    The Citizens’ Assembly.
Call Out Repeal Inconsistencies

A focus of the Pro-Life movement in the run-up to the referendum should be to target attention on the illogical stance of those supporting the ending of human life without restriction for the first three months, but opposing the taking of life thereafter. Why is it okay to end human life on a whim or employ abortion as a substitute for contraception up to twelve weeks after conception, but not beyond? In posing such a question, the Repeal Lobby will be strongly confronted by their already-existing difficulty of trying to present a friendly, ‘compassionate’, ‘middle-ground’ image to the public while also reassuring their own hardcore that ultimately removing every protection for babies in the womb at every stage of human development remains their end-goal, something far removed from where decent ‘middle-ground’ Irish people stand.

Speak Out for Those Who Cannot Speak Out for Themselves

The Pro-Life movement is duty-bound to speak the truth where babies diagnosed with life-limiting disabilities are concerned. The fact that in the event of the Eighth Amendment being repealed, some children, because of health conditions that they are identified as carrying while in the womb, will be placed outside of the protections of any twelve-weeks-only regime and may be aborted up until the point of birth is a shameful, brutal, and inherently anti-egalitarian and anti-republican prospect.

On the issue of the mother’s health, the Oireachtas Committee has deemed that mental health grounds, rather than an actual threat to the mother’s life – as dealt with in the 2013 Protection of Life Act, be sufficient reason for aborting her own child (children in the case of twins) at any stage of the child’s development in the womb. Rather than the killing of one’s own child being framed as a coping mechanism for mental health difficulties (and a twisted, non-sensical one at that), the powerful in our society and the government ought to fund mental healthcare provision adequately, provide capable and sustainable social services and undo a decade-long austerity attack on the poorest in Irish society, not create a situation where people are forced to pick between children and further impoverishment on the one hand, and a final death-knell to communitarian compassion in the form of neo-liberal, utilitarian abortion on the other.


About the Author:

Pádraig is an educator and republican activist based in County Wexford.
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