A more progressive Ireland: fantasy or reality

Sally Dobie

A photo of a protester at the I believe her March in Dublin City Centre earlier this year.

Ireland has had its fair share of modernising in recent years. Last year we saw the Eighth Amendment referendum legalise abortion and not long before in 2015 same-sex marriage was legalised. But is this enough?

The Social Progress Index takes into account a wide range of issues such as a country’s GDP, environmental quality, tolerance and inclusion, and health and wellness, and then decides how progressive that country is. In 2017 Ireland came 11th out of 128 countries. Pretty good, right?

In some ways, Ireland is more progressive than in many places. Having an openly gay Taoiseach is definitely something that wouldn’t happen in Brunei, where it has recently been decided that homosexuality is a crime punishable by stoning to death. There are another 72 countries where homosexuality is also still illegal.

There are also a lot more businesses moving into Ireland. With the looming threat of Brexit, many companies are moving their offices out of Britain into cities like Dublin to stay within the EU, which means an increase in trade through the city.

As someone who only moved to Ireland two years ago, I’ve seen a lot of changes in that time alone. Ireland seems to be trying to make up for its mistakes in the past by creating a brighter future for all its residents, including immigrants like me.

That being said, it has taken Ireland a long time to get to this point. When most of the western world had sped into the 21st Century, Ireland was following behind at a crawl. Despite the modern, evolving voting population in Ireland, there are certain demographics within Irish society that consistently oppose change.

Either way, it seems to be the older generations deciding the fate of the youth. Over 60% of males and females over the age of 50 voted to leave in the Brexit referendum in 2016, while a vast majority of the youth voted to remain in the EU.

If we compare this to the Blasphemy referendum that took place in Ireland last year, the only demographic close to voting to keep it in the constitution was the over 65s, with only 52% in favor.

So, and this is a very general observation, it seems like it is the older generations that are against change. It could be the Catholic upbringings and the belief that we shouldn’t lose the traditions that have been preserved for so long. Or, it could simply be a fear of change. Either way, it seems that certain numbers within the population aren’t ready to accept it just yet.

Yet, it seems there’s still more change planned for this year. Referendums are taking place to liberalise divorce laws, giving Irish citizens living abroad a presidential vote, and to change the constitution in relation to women’s place in the home.

So it seems like Ireland is catching up, and progressive Ireland is not a fantasy. It’s up to us to welcome change and be the deciding factor in the new referendums. We have a say in our futures, and we should use it.

By Sally Dobie

Image credit: Sonja Tutty