The 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution guarantees the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn and makes abortion illegal, but also puts doctors in a very tricky situation if they expect that they can only safe the life of one of the two in disastrous circumstances. The clause was added to the Irish constitution after a referendum in 1983 and many people think that a lot has happened in these 33 years and that the 8th amendment should be repealed (deleted from the constitution.
The supporters of the clause are not overly interested in a referendum because there is the possibility that the opponents will win the referendum. The opponents want to have a referendum as soon as possible to stop the odd situation that women need to travel to the UK to get an abortion that is illegal in Ireland.
So how could we find out what the majority of citizens in Ireland really wants? Let me think? Hmmmm?? Maybe put the head in the sand and pretend that there is no issue? – That seems to be the government’s approach once again! Enda Kenny and his gang are not the most decisive crowd at best of times.
In a true democracy, you would give the citizens a chance to voice their opinion and you would run a referendum if there is evidence that the public opinion could have changed drastically. There is no guarantee that the 8th amendment will be repealed if a referendum happens, but at least we would know then.
Last week the alliance of Anti Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit (AAA-PBP) has asked the government to run a referendum, but that was rejected and the government explains that in the usual way and I will paraphrase VERY VERY freely here:
“We will not ask for the real opinion of the people because we have put in place an artificial structure of a Citizens Assembly that will allow us to delay any decision as long as possible. We gave them loads ot time until half way through 2017 and we hope that they will take that time. Then this Citizen Assembly will come back to us with an opinion. We secretly hope that they will say that no referendum is needed, because then we can blame them. But if they tell us we should hold a referendum, then we will first need to discuss that and at some time later vote on it. Because once the Citizen Assembly comes back with an opinion we will first give that opinion to a Special Oireachtas Committee as this will give us a chance to delay the process further. That Special Oireachtas Committee will be also given six months to decide. So it will be well over a year before we even think about a referendum and we hope that the Irish citizens will have forgotten by then! If the Special Oireachtas Committee ALSO says we should have a referendum then we will CONSIDER to have one and will schedule it for as far away from today as we can. because we are extremely afraid of the outcome and hope that we have won the next election by then so that that referendum will not screw our chances. All in all, we don’t care about the opinion of the Irish Citizens anyway. We only care about our position in power and to maintain that we will do whatever possible to block and delay anything that interfere with our power in the slightest way.”
So with that in mind – and I stress that this is MY interpretation of the situation, but it is based on the government’s official statement as you can find it through this Tweet – there won’t be a referendum for the next 2.5 – 3 years AT LEAST!
In the last 33 years, the opinion in large parts of the population certainly has changed and they have a right to ask for a new vote. Keep in mind that neither side has a guarantee that they will win or lose and that’s not what this opinion here is about. Sure I have an opinion about the 8th amendment, but my opinion is so irrelevant (I am not even allowed to vote in a referendum!) that I just want to focus on the undemocratic-ness of the government’s decision.
We don’t need a Citizens Assembly or a Special Oireachtas Committee! We have clear evidence that there is a ground swell that could indicate that the opinion has changed. That should be enough to ask for the opinion again!