Tara McCamley reports on student efforts and stances surrounding the referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment in Ireland
With a referendum on the repeal of the eighth amendment confirmed campaigns are firmly underway on both sides to ensure a win.
Student involvement on both sides of the debate has been a crucial component to moving the decision to hold a referendum in May, with the likes of UCD and Trinity College becoming hotbeds for debates on the issues.
In past months these campaigns have been brought to national attention with the impeachment of UCD Student Union president Katie Ascough for retracting information on abortion from student guide books, a campaign led by the UCD for choice movement.
Most colleges have held referendums to determine their public stance on repeal, a large percentage of them adopting a pro-choice stance.
Katie Cundelan speaking on behalf of UCD for Choice told the city.ie “we aim to provide support for students who want to canvas for repeal, and educate students on the facts of abortion” and they plan to do so through events such as open meetings, panel discussions and marches.
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The Irish government has announced plans for a referendum on the 8th amendment, 35 years after it was enshrined into the constitution. The referendum, to take place in May, will ask people if the 8th amendment should be repealed and replaced with a provision that gives full power to the Oireachtas to legislate Ireland's abortion laws. This could not have been possible without the tireless activists in the pro-choice movement and the brave people who shared their stories of being affected by the 8th, forcing the government to take notice and ultimately have the empathy and vision to change our laws. Strike 4 Repeal thanks our supporters and comrades who have fought with us on the journey so far ⚡⚡⚡#strike4repeal
Similarly in a statement to the city.ie a spokesperson for UCD for Life told us “the primary aim of our campaign will be to inform and activate as many UCD students to not only vote to save the 8th Amendment, but to campaign as part of the wider conversation.”
They also shared that they have a strong online presence aimed at creating videos and discussions in order to open and widen the debate surrounding the repeal movement, “we will be doing what we can to have events on campus to discuss the issue and initiate a dialogue to allow people to make up their own minds.”
The Union of students in Ireland issued an open letter to the Taoiseach on January 29 2018 appealing for a May date for the referendum in order to benefit from the youth vote/ in order to allow young people/students to vote.
A later date would deny thousands of students sitting state exams or who are away on J1 visas or college placements from voting on the matter.
Similar to the marriage referendum vote in 2015 where 68,000 people newly registered to vote, the majority of them young and first time voters, there is a strong belief that the results of the referendum will be swayed by the student vote.
“It cannot be overemphasised how important the student vote is in this referendum” said Cundelan “Women aged 16-24 made up 31% of those travelling overseas in 2016 to access abortion services that aren’t available to them at home, the 8th amendment is affecting young people in this country every day.”
“If you are a student who wants their voice heard in this referendum, we encourage you to visit your local TD, or send them an email and encourage them to push for a May referendum” she continued.
“Every citizen has an equal vote and as such no person’s vote is more important than anyone else” said the spokesperson for UCD for Life.
“We are a small part of a much larger movement and we recognise that in order for any campaign to win, it needs to target everyone, not just students like ourselves.”
Finishing off her statement Cundelan said that “now is the time for change in Ireland, and that we won’t tolerate another 35 years of ignoring the problem, of 10 women a day having to travel to access healthcare, of women dying at the hands of the 8th amendment.”