Eoin Stynes reports on the outcome of the Students Union referendum in one of Ireland’s oldest Catholic institutions
With referendum day looming, students at one of the oldest Catholic universities in Ireland are making their voices heard in support of repealing the Eighth Amendment on May 25.
The Students’ Union in St. Patrick’s Carlow College recently held an internal referendum to decide whether they would campaign to support the repeal campaign, campaign to protect the Eighth Amendment or adopt a no stance on the question.
“We are one of the last [colleges] to actually finalise a stance on it given that we are one of the oldest Catholic institutions in Ireland,” said Student Union President Adam Clarke. “So [the result] was a bit up in the air to be honest.”
According to Clarke, in spite of increased “internal politics” in the college, the vote recorded one of the highest turnout rates of students in the country with approximately a quarter of the student body turning out to lend their voice to the debate.
“That’s 111 students in a college of about 430,” said Clarke. “That’s about 25 per cent of our student body and when you count that students are getting ready to break for the summer, students that have exams and are on placement at the minute.”
The option to “campaign for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution” came out on top receiving 65 per cent of the overall vote count, with nearly double the quota needed.
“We are one of the last ones to actually finalise a stance on it given that we are one of the oldest Catholic institutions in Ireland. So [the result] was a bit up in the air to be honest.”
The option to “protect the Eighth Amendment” received 10 per cent, with the remaining 29 per cent of students voting for a “no stance” position to be adopted by the SU.
Clarke added the decision to hold their referendum was “a movement fully driven by the students themselves” to urge the SU to have its position officially recognised.
“A group of students got together and presented us with a petition of 100 signatures. Which, by our own SU constitution, means that we have to hold a referendum on the issue,” Clarke said. “I am very proud of our students in that regard. It was the result of an entirely student driven movement.”
However, when questioned specifically about whether there was much support from voters urging to protect the Eighth Amendment in the run up to their internal vote, Clarke said that the SU had “reached out to students encouraging them to form campaign teams for the result that they wanted to see. But we never saw anyone from the Vote No side of the debate as it happens”.
The Union of Students Ireland [USI] welcomed the result of the votes held by the Carlow students and hailed the work which has been undertaken by students across the country.
“In the last couple of years, 15 Students’ Unions have held referendums asking whether or not the Students’ Union should campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. All 15 referendums were passed by a large majority,” said USI President Michael Kerrigan.
“We welcome both institutes in Carlow joining the national campaign, informing students, and the wider society of the harm the Eighth Amendment has had on pregnant people, but also encouraging students and young people to register to vote before the May 8 deadline.”
This interest from young people has been mirrored around the country. Nationwide, the electoral register has already seen a surge of over 80,000 new voter registrations which is overwhelmingly made up of young people set to vote for the first time.
Carlow College President Fr Conn Ó Maoldhomhnaigh did not respond to comment on the outcome of the student vote.
St. Patrick’s Carlow College first accepted students in 1793 and served exclusively as a seminary for the education of priests from 1892 to 1989.