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  • October 2018: Referendum to change Irish constitution with regard to blasphemy

On 26th October 2018, a referendum will take place with regard to blasphemy. The amendment being put before the people involves removing the single reference to blasphemy in Article 40.6.1 of the constitution. To date, this referendum has motivated relatively little public debate. The referendum vote will coincide with the presidential election vote.

Recently, the Irish Catholic bishops addressed this issue in their autumn general meeting, where they noted that the constitutional reference to blasphemy was “largely obsolete” while also urging respect for freedom of religious expression. In addition, the issue was the subject of deliberation by the Irish Council of Churches/Irish Inter-Church Meeting.

For more detail, see Irish Catholic Bishop’s Conference, Irish Churches, Referendum Commission.

  • Mai 2018: Irish abortion vote

On Friday, May 25th 2018 the Irish electorate voted to repeal the Eight Amendment of the constitution, which gave equal constitutional protection to the right to life of the mother and the unborn child. The overall result was 66.4% in favour of repeal (“Yes” vote) and 33.6% against (“No” vote). A notable feature of the result (based on exit poll data) was the majority repeal vote across different social categories, such as age, gender and location. In only one county (of 32) – Donegal, in the north-west of the country – was there a majority No vote. Interestingly, the 2018 referendum vote pattern was the 1983 referendum (which put the amendment in the constitution in the first place) result flipped over.

This vote paves the way for the legislature to bring forward law providing abortion services in Ireland. While the timeframe and exact form this law will take is not yet clear, it will allow abortion on demand up to 12 weeks and abortion after 12 weeks on some other grounds, such as a threat to the life of the mother.

Religious groups such as the Catholic Church did not welcome the outcome of the referendum. While respecting the democratic process, the Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin pointed out that the referendum result will take away legal protection for the right to life of unborn children, a key tenet of Catholic teaching. Also, the Primate noted that the outcome meant that the pro-life movement would have to continue its efforts to protect unborn life from intentional destruction and to support women facing crisis pregnancies.

For more detail, see:
The Citizen’s Assembly, Thirty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution Exit Poll, Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

  • April 2018: Irish abortion debate

A referendum on the repeal of the Eight Amendment (dating to a referendum in 1983) of the constitution – recognising the equal right to life of the mother and unborn baby and upholding these rights in law – will take place on 25 May, 2018. In the event of the referendum passing, the government will legislate for the circumstances (set forth in the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018) – e.g. access to abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and provision for conscientious objection by medical professionals – under which abortion will be legal.

In the run up to the referendum vote, advocacy groups on both sides of the debate have been putting forward their respective positions. As in previous abortion debates, “pro-choice” and “pro-life” (also referred to as “anti-abortion”) groups have publicly mobilised.

The Catholic hierarchy has urged a No vote, by appealing to the Catholic prohibition against the intentional taking of human life. This position is supported by groups such as the Pro Life Campaign and Love Both. At the same time, other religious actors – including the Church of Ireland bishop of Limerick – have urged a Yes vote. Still other Church of Ireland bishops – including the archbishops of Armagh and Dublin – have rejected proposals to make abortion available on demand up to 12 weeks.

On the pro-repeal side, groups such as Abortion Rights Campaign and Together for Yes are also publicly campaigning and appealing to the human right of women to make their own reproductive choices, including access to abortion. Pro-repeal groups point out that Irish women already access abortion services in the UK, a service not currently available in Ireland. Also, pro-repeal groups argue that repeal would help protect the health of Irish women by reducing the likelihood of recourse to other interventions (e.g. abortion pills).

For more detail, see:
 Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018
 Message of the Irish Catholic Bishops, Two lives one love
 Statement of the Archbishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Dublin

D 19 October 2018    ABrian Conway

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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