In the lead-up to this week’s abortion referendum, SU presidential candidates, Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne and Jasper Pickersgill, have both been hesitant to align themselves with a particular side of the debate. This comes despite the union potentially being mandated to campaign for legislation for abortion to be upon request of the woman if the referendum is passed by a majority of students.
When asked in an interview last week with Trinity News about his opinion on the issue of abortion, Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne said he “didn’t run to discuss abortion” and “genuinely [didn’t] know”. He said, “I haven’t got [my stance on the issue] entirely sorted in my head”. He later went on to say that he would take time to “mull over the issue” before the polling. He also explained his concerns about the referendum, stating the importance of “striking a balance” between acting on behalf of the students and alienating those who do not agree with the abortion referendum’s outcome, citing the “profound tension” pervading the issue. However, he said that he “would be comfortable” campaigning in favour of the “yes” stance, were that the prevailing stance in the referendum vote.
Jasper Pickersgill meanwhile told Trinity News that he “personally won’t take a stance” in advance of the referendum as he feels he would be “misrepresenting students”. He also said that, even in the event of a “yes” vote, he could “be actively campaigning for the ‘yes’ campaign and actively campaigning for the ‘no’ campaign”. When asked whether he felt campaigning for the “no” side in the event of a prevailing “yes” vote would be railing against the referendum’s mandate, he explained that he “would be going against what the majority decided, but we can’t forget about the minority”. He acknowledged that he “would have to make a decision” regarding his official stance on abortion at some point and explained that he “would definitely be campaigning for whatever the majority of students decided”, but also explained that he “would be campaigning for the other side as well”. However, he appeared to later retract this statement in conceding that campaigning simultaneously for both sides would be “impossible to do”.
Neither candidate in the race expressed enthusiasm for the referendum in general, with Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne deeming the abortion debate “a uniquely emotive issue” which has “deep ramifications” for the SU and the students within it. Jasper Pickersgill expressed similar sentiments, saying that many students are “very adamant” on the topic and that the referendum could potentially “split the students”. Pickersgill also said that he does not “think [this referendum] was a good idea in the first place”