2016 was the year where the impossible became possible. Beloved celebrities believed to be around for years to come passed away. Brexit was passed in a referendum. And a public misogynists became President of arguably the most powerful country in the world.
These were results many did not expect. It seems that the quieter voter, the unexpected outcome, has won the last few major elections. An Irish Times opinion piece expressed speculation that the same may arise when/if there is a referendum on abortion rights in the Irish Constitution.
One of the most talked about political movements today is the Repeal the Eighth movement. Over the last couple of years a media campaign, countless marches and a clothing line have pushed the message of replacing the Eighth Amendment of the constitution. But with every opinion comes a counter one. Many will remember when the referendum for same sex marriage in Ireland came around that there was many protests to it. Well, the same is said for the Repeal the Eighth campaign, only it seems that both sides are being louder this time.
Both sides are loud in their arguments; the pro-choice side emphasising a need for women to get to make their own decisions and pro-lifers expressing the need to protect the life of the unborn. Both campaigns are strong in their message. Yet, some will suggest that in pushing their side forward, pro-choice supporters are louder and leave those who are pro-life feeling intimidated, too shy to voice their opinions.
This is not a criticism of one side of the campaign but rather an issue of personal sensitivity. What usually occurs when there is a topic being widely discussed across the country is that people fall into one of three categories; strongly propose the motion, strongly oppose, or tick the ‘I don’t know/don’t care’ option.
Either way I don’t feel it’s fair to say one side has left the other feeling pushed to the side. It’s a political movement and we have the novelty of freedom of speech in this country; therefore everyone is entitled to have their arguments heard.
Who gets to decide though? Who is too loud? Who is too outspoken? Which is the weakling group, and should there be more done to protect the voices of both sides? But if this were to ever happen it would take away from the value of democracy in this state. We let the public decide, not one body. If one group are getting their message across more so than the other, then this is not the fault of the stronger group, it’s a flaw of the other side.
We have to protect our basic human right to freedom of speech. The day bodies decide what we should and shouldn’t hear and the amount we hear on a subject, is the day we as citizens are oppressed.
The campaign for abortion rights in Ireland has also highlighted another fundamental issue of Irish society; our news. Following the Strike for Repeal march, UCD students backed by the Repeal project and the head of Amnesty International protested outside RTÉ studios in criticism of the poor coverage of the march on the evening news.
This has occurred once before, which many may not have even been noticed. The student movement has always been a busy and powerful one, evident in the great number of students who went up to Dublin back in October to March for Education. A very poor amount of coverage was broadcasted of the march on both the six one and nine o’clock news. This begs the question; are RTÉ unsupportive of the student movement? And when did we give RTÉ the right to pick and choose what news we receive. Should it not be the case that despite what they believe in, this national news broadcasting channel should cover all stories, allowing the Irish citizen to develop their own unbiased opinions by gathering the true facts from watching the news?
The great changes that the world of politics has seen across the globe suggests that the group which is overlooked can most likely come out on top in the end. While the marches by the pro-choice side have been plenty and their social media campaign is going strong, along with a clothing campaign flying off the rails, this does not mean it’ll be an easy win when/if the referendum comes about. Being that Ireland is still a Catholic state, with religious influence in our constitution, it is a strong possibility that the pro-life side could see success.
The momentum of the pro-choice movement is something which has been building over the last forty years. It’s not a fad that has just recently come about. Like a lot of things, yes there may be some who have found themselves involved in the campaign because they like the black and white edgy jumpers, but still it’s a campaign which has made a lot of people sit back and really think about abortion from both sides.
It’s not a hip movement all about wearing a “cool” jumper. The pro-choice project has changed the way of campaigning for reform. They’ve pushed past tradition and this is why so many are aware of their campaign and arguments. It starts with the jumper – a starting point of conversation and leads to endless chatter with others, and the sharing of points from both sides.
People need to be informed. They need the exact facts. This is what we should get from watching our news. It should not be up to the major broadcasting channels to decide which campaign is worth more attention than the next. We also can’t allow for it to be said that the pro-choice side is too vocal making it too difficult for a supporter of the pro-life side to express their views. That’s a lazy explanation, and one that is arguably a childish excuse also.
-By Georgia Feeney
Image courtesy of Jack O’Donovan.