In February this year DCU students voted in a reproductive rights referendum. Among the 1,496 students who voted, 1,057 voted pro-choice and a further 146 voted for legislation and amendment, while a total of 189 voted pro-life. This meant that DCU as a union, will take a pro-choice stance.
Students’ views on this issue on this can be compared to the Marriage equality referendum of last year in which 93% of DCU students voted in favour of same sex marriage. We are an understanding, non-judgemental and open generation.
However, it is not just students who see this as an important issue. A recent Amnesty International and Red C Research & Markets poll found that 80% of people would vote yes if a referendum were held, and 87% of the public want access to abortion expanded.
While many remain vocal on the issue, it seems to be far from priority for our government, or whatever we may call it at this stage in formation discussions, and scarcely covered by the media. Students have had their say and others have made it clear that this is important, but what use is a student union referendum which yielded such results if the government ignores this issue, making our referendum in DCU, USI and other polls in which people voiced their concern, somewhat pointless and certainly ineffective.
This is why the world’s leading human rights organisation Amnesty International is currently staging a two week protest outside government buildings.
The organisation are hoping the protest will bring the Eighth Amendment to the forefront of discussion between any potential coalition.
During the 14 days, an addition of 12 people will be made each day to represent the number of women and girls who travel to the UK for abortions each day.
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International explains that the addition of 12 people to the protest each day does not represent the extent of those who are seeking abortions and that this is the minimum per day “This doesn’t include the countless others who don’t give Irish addresses, or who travel to other countries. The parties to the negotiations need to recognise that women will not stop travelling for abortions, and this issue will not be going away, during their time in government. A new government, whatever its composition, must not turn its back on the human rights of women and girls here in Ireland.”
“It has been over a month since the election and we still do not have a government.” O’ Gorman said.
“Over the next two weeks, efforts towards forming a government will ramp up. We will be here during lunchtime every day of those two weeks to demand that repealing the Eighth Amendment is on the table during those discussions.”
The Union of Students in Ireland are also joining the protest outside government buildings each day.
“USI has been pro-choice and campaigning for Irish abortion services since the early 80s. We are proud to stand alongside and fully support Amnesty International in this campaign.” Said Union of Students in Ireland President, Kevin Donoghue.
“We are urging the next Government to repeal the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 as a matter of utmost urgency and replace it with laws that legalise free, safe and legal abortions in Ireland, at a minimum, in cases of rape, incest, risk to health or fatal foetal impairment; and to repeal the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for the Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995 and any related censorship laws. Legalising abortions in Ireland is critical to advancing gender equality, human rights and the position of women in Irish society. USI is calling on the next government to put this to a referendum and let the Irish people decide.”
Pro Life Campaigners are also protesting outside the Government buildings in opposition to Amnesty’s protest. Deputy Chairperson of The Pro Life campaign ,Cora Sherlock, said she was there to ‘highlight the inconsistencies in Amnesty’s campaign’
While each side of the argument continue to protest, the majority of the media remain silent on the controversial topic.
“It’s something that we noticed ourselves” said Annie Hoey, vice president of USI on the media’s lack of coverage.
“I think the media is very nervous to actually cover anything to do with repeal the 8th in case they are accused of being unbalanced, a referendum hasn’t come up so you can’t be unbalanced in your reporting”
“There’s just a huge media fear at the moment around reporting on activities about the 8th amendment ”
Claire Prenty reports live from the first day of protesting