This is one of the happiest days of my life: Ireland has overwhelmingly rejected a culture of misogyny

The exit polls suggest a huge win for the campaign to change the law to give women in Ireland control over their own bodies

Guen Murroni
Saturday 26 May 2018 13:41 BST
Irish abortion referendum: Voters out in Temple Bar react to exit poll

This is probably one of the happiest days of my life.

I’ve been waiting in Dublin Castle for the final results after the exit poll was announced last night, which showed a 68 per cent majority in favour of repealing the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution. It’s been emotional to be back, interviewing people and filming the lead-up to this result, seeing the Yes campaign take over the streets.

Growing up here, all I remember was pro-life posters in O’Connell Street, so seeing women, and men, being vocal about legalising abortion to this extent has been quite a change in the landscape of Ireland.

If you want cultural change, this is it.

Contraceptives were illegal until the late Eighties; divorce became legal in the Nineties; the equality marriage referendum passed three years ago, giving a big push towards the progressive stance of the Irish people. It seems that Ireland is on the trajectory of separating church from state, after centuries of intertwined decision-making.

Aside from a clear emotional response to the result, which is likely to be confirmed this afternoon, there is a lot to take in.

Canvassing has been incredible. A pro-choice campaigner in Leitrim said she was surprised at how much people just wanted to talk, get advice, share their experience. People want to talk – and the Irish are not always well known to talk about their feelings.

This campaign was full of misinformation with advertising made possible by foreign funding, so what does the result of the vote actually mean? It means that the people made their mind up a while ago and that this referendum was long overdue. But also that the Irish believe their vote matters.

Young campaigners celebrate exit poll suggesting victory for campaign to legalise abortion in Ireland
Young campaigners celebrate exit poll suggesting victory for campaign to legalise abortion in Ireland (Guen Murroni)

It also means that there has been a great effort to maintain transparency and to talk about paid online advertising. As Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole tweeted, “Another reason to be cheerful is that Ireland is the first Anglophone country to face the full panoply of Trump/Brexit/Bannon tactics and withstand that onslaught.”

Organisations like the Transparent Referendum Initiative – an impartial analysis of the campaign – have an online database of all published ads, collected by a plugin called “Who Targets Me” that anyone can download to keep track of targeted ads and share them with the database.

Can we learn from Ireland? Yes (another yes).

How much work is there to do if the “Yes” vote is confirmed and we move to legislation? Loads. Our medical staff have to be trained, and safe spaces have to be created for an issue that has so far been met by stigma. The Irish constitution still states that a woman’s place is in the home.

Campaigners celebrate victory in Irish referendum to legalise abortion
Campaigners celebrate victory in Irish referendum to legalise abortion (Guen Murroni)

A line I will never forget from a pro-life male campaigner was this: “If women don’t want a child, we should offer them €10,000 to continue the pregnancy and give that baby to the many couples who want children and can’t adopt.” Irish women are still prone to discrimination, as a percentage of their kinsmen believe they are killing a human.

Women have had to put themselves in a vulnerable position for this to happen. There is clearly still a lot to fight for to change a culture of misogyny.

Lastly, what does this mean for Northern Ireland and can the South help?

This result will definitely shake things up in the North too. Northern Ireland is part of the UK but it does not have the same abortion laws as the rest of the UK. Terminations there are illegal unless conditions of the pregnancy are extreme, so pretty much the same as what the South has been. It’s a great time in history to start this conversation, so let’s do it.

The official result will be out this afternoon, and everyone: have a Guinness for Ireland no matter what.

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