On the 26th of May 2018, Ireland changed forever. The referendum of a lifetime saw millions of Irish citizens get out and vote to Repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution. This has been a long and exhausting road that so many people have fought on to see the landslide victory for the YES campaign. The amendment was originally placed into the constitution in 1983. There are people that fought against the amendment and they are the same people who ran the national campaign, Together for Yes and fought in 2018 to repeal it.
Students and Students’ Unions have always played a massive part of this campaign, whether that be marching at the annual Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) March, disseminating information about the UK to students or registering thousands of students to vote ahead of the referendum. The Union of Student’s of Ireland (USI) had reports of over 27,000 students registering throughout the year by SU’s all across the country. According to USI, 18,000 students were registered last semester, with 8,000 voters registered in the last few weeks before the deadline. This massive influx of people registering to vote across all ages soared past previous stats including the marriage equality referendum in 2015.
Canvassing and campaigning have been a huge part of the campaign, with local Together for Yes groups in every town across Ireland, StudentsforChoice (USI) super canvassing town and other organisations setting up stands also. The amount of people who were on the ground volunteering their time and effort to this campaign really needs to be recognised and remembered by all. Day in and day out, people were out having those extremely important conversations and that is what really made the campaign so successful.
Exit polls began to show a huge victory for the YES campaign on Friday evening, with RTÉ and The Irish Times both predicting a 68% to 69% win. Tensions were extremely high as these polls generally have a margin error of 1.6% to 2%. Campaigners and canvassers across the country started to silently celebrate this victory ahead of the actual count.
On the 26th of May at 9am, ballot boxes were opened and the yes votes began to really show what the exit polls had predicted. Some boxes and constituencies began to show as high as 81% YES and one box even showed a 100% YES vote. The energy was clear in the count centres across the country that the YES side were getting the win they wanted and more. No one could have predicted the sheer volume of YES votes and the landslide victory. Below are the ten highest YES votes across the country.
People began to gather in Dublin Castle awaiting the official numbers in the afternoon alongside many TD’s who supported the Repeal campaign, news broadcasters and the Taoiseach. The energy kept steadily building throughout the day, with different TD’s arriving and sing a longs taking place. Signs like ‘I FANCY SIMON HARRIS’ and ‘THE NORTH IS NEXT’ could be spotted throughout the crowd and the emotions began to ran high as the last few boxes were being tallied. A woman was handing out After Eights for after the 8th.
The final result of the referendum came in just after 6pm, the crowd became silent as the final numbers and official declaration were read out. The sense of relief and gratitude in the crowd was extremely palpable and emotions were very high. Friends and family cried, hugged and comforted one another, knowing that Ireland now recognises and supports people who can get pregnant in this country. Celebrations were had all across the city and country as tired campaigners got to have some well deserved fun.
The official numbers show an Ireland that is more than ready for change and really gives the TD’s and Senators the power to run with the proposed legislation and get it done before the end of the year. This is where us as campaigners need to really keep going with this momentum, reminding our government what we voted for and how much we need this legislation as soon as possible.
9 women/people still traveled on the 26th of May and 3 women/people still took illegal abortion pills in Ireland. The Repeal of the 8th Amendment is a massive step in the right direction but now we need to keep our government accountable to their promises. We can not let up on our efforts and energy and we need to keep pushing forward. Forward with this campaign and with tackling other areas of inequality in Ireland.
Ireland really made us proud on the 26th of May and really showed the shift in the new generations to come. Now is our chance to make the absolute most of this little island, to really make a great difference, and with this landslide victory under our belts, it really shows what a grassroots movement can do.