UCDSU & UCD for Choice laughed their Repeal campaign last night in the old student centre. The launch drew a fair size crowd with free Repeal t-shirts being given out to attendees by UCD for Choice.
The event consisted of a panel of guest speakers including Anna Cosgrave, founder of the Repeal project, Aoife Gray, Auditor of UCD for Choice and Ann Marie Hourihane, Irish Times journalist and long time activist.
The event began with UCDSU President Barry Murphy and UCDSU Welfare Officer Eoghan Mac Domhaill explaining why they were so passionate about repealing the 8th Amendment. Murphy emphasised the Union’s strong mandate to repeal stating the fact that UCD students had voted twice for their current mandate.
They also emphasised the importance of the rural vote in the referendum with Murphy saying “This referendum will be won in rural parishes and villages’. They emphasised the importance of appealing to the people who are in the middle of the spectrum regarding abortion saying ‘those are the minds we have to change’.
First to speak was Ann Marie Hourihane, famous for her speech on the Late Late Show in 1987 on AIDS and safe sex. Ms Hourihane focused on the differences between the referendum now and the referendum in 1983 where the 8th Amendment was enshrined in the Constitution. ‘We were reassured at the time that nobody would be stopped at airports but that same legislation lead to the X case and led to the death of Savita Halappanavar.’ Ms Hourihane explained that the viciousness of the campaign in 1983 ‘put me off politics for life’ and implored students that ‘Ireland is a very small country and abortion is a very divisive issue. Respect your homes. Let’s not have another repeat of that referendum in 1983.’
Ms Hourihane also mentioned that various reasons people might protest against abortion making particular reference to fears that if legalised, abortion would be used as a contraceptive. ‘These people know nothing about abortion’ she said. She continued ‘It’s so insulting to women for politicians to say “I’ve problems with the 12 week thing’ because women have been having problems with the ’12 week thing’ for 60 years. I say to them what I said in 1983. Abortion is not compulsory’
There were a number of poem readings from both Caoimhe Donnelly, auditor of UCD Lit Soc as well as Melissa Plunkett, mature students coordinator for the SU. Both women’s poems were emotive and powerful with Ms Plunkett dealing with the issue of consent and Ms Donnelly addressing the homesickness at being forced to travel for an abortion.
Anna Cosgrave, founder of the Repeal Project was next to speak. You didn’t have to look fair to see a number of her famous black jumpers throughout the hall and Ms Cosgrave’s speech was simple yet effective. ”All we are doing is asking for something that is already ours, the choice and the freedom for us and our own bodies’ she said.
She emphasised the number of women who have suffered under the 8th Amendment ‘When we move forward in this just remember that women have lost their lives because of the 8th Amendment. Don’t just campaign for me or people you’re in class with. Campaign for Savita, Ann Lovett, Sheila [Hodgers], Ms X, Ms Y this alphabet soup of women who have lost their lives’
During Ms Cosgrave’s speech several protesters wearing ‘Love Both’ hoodies arrived during Ms Cosgrave’s speech holding posters reading ‘debate not groupthink’. The group said they were not affiliated with the Love Both campaign and said “We understand the SU has this mandate, but we think good democracy allows the
other side to be here. We see that there is a right to life that is just being cast aside in this argument. People may not agree with this, but we think it would be good if there was a
respectful debate” explained Robert Lee, a member of the group.
The final speak was the Auditor for UCD for Choice, Aoife Gray. Her speech was short and sweet and focused on how it was an issue affecting everyone. She said she was proud to be elected Auditor this year and did not expect that it would be the year of the a referendum when she was elected. ‘Now is the time for conversation, now is the time for action, now is the time we will make history and repeal the 8th’ she concluded to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Overall the mood amongst the crowd was serious but upbeat. Apart from the occasional choral singing and blue’s band practice that could be heard, the launch went off pretty much without a hitch. However, there are many months to go in this campaign which means that upbeat attitude is going to become increasingly important for all involved.
Rachel O’Neill – Editor