The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has today issued a letter to all members of Cabinet, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, asking that a referendum on the repeal of the eighth amendment be held by the end of May 2018.
The USI is calling for a May date on the basis of allowing the participation of students in the referendum. The letter outlines that holding the vote during later summer months may alienate students.
Among the groups identified as being potentially adversely impacted by a summer vote are those who will work abroad on J1 visas and those on work placements away from family homes as part of college curriculums. Additionally, a referendum extending past May could coincide with second-level state examinations and thus impede candidates who are sitting the exams in voting, the USI noted.
USI president Michael Kerrigan noted that “it is imperative that young people and students are given the opportunity to vote on the eighth amendment. We should not create barriers in young people’s role in being active citizens in this country”.
The Cabinet will hold a meeting this evening at 5:30pm at which it is expected that ministers will formally agree to hold a referendum on the eighth amendment. Minister for Health Simon Harris will brief ministers that the ideal date would be May 25. June 8 will also be considered as an option.
The eighth amendment enacted in 1983, concerns “the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”. Changes to the Eighth Amendment were last brought to a referendum in 1992.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) is mandated to support the repeal movement following a vote by the union. In February 2014, 73% of Trinity students voted for TCDSU to adopt a pro-choice mandate and actively campaign for access to safe and legal abortions for women in Ireland. A number of Trinity students gathered outside the Dáil on January 17, where politicians debated a repeal of the amendment. While the debate was occuring, video footage of the proceedings inside the Dáil chamber was projected onto the walls outside for those demonstrating and those observing to see.