The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) today warmly welcomed the overwhelming referendum vote to repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution (the Eighth Amendment). Liam Herrick, executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), said:
“This resounding and emphatic vote by the Irish people to repeal the 8th Amendment is an historic victory for women’s rights. This vote demonstrates that Ireland in 2018 is a more caring and compassionate society that recognises the harm and terrible injustice that has been caused by this constitutional provision. Ireland will now be able for the first time to introduce nuanced legislation which can address the full complexity of pregnancy in a manner compatible with the rights and dignity of Irish women.”
Mr Herrick was speaking as news rolled in of a yes majority in the referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment. The ICCL campaigned against the insertion of the 8th into the Constitution in 1983, is a member of the Coalition to the Repeal the Eighth and Together For Yes and has been running a human rights-based campaign for its repeal since March. Paying tribute to those who had fought for this result over the past 35 years, Liam Herrick said:
“This referendum result was won through the leadership of a powerful grassroots movement which fought hard to secure a referendum vote over many years, and which evolved into an effective and focused Together For Yes political campaign over the past few months. ICCL is especially proud of the role our members have played in fighting against this referendum since 1983 – including our founder Mary Robinson and our former Board members Ivana Bacik and Ailbhe Smyth.
Most of all this vote is the victory of the courageous women who put their personal stories before the Irish people at great personal cost. It was the sharing of their lives and their suffering that convinced the Irish people that change was necessary and urgent.”
However, Mr. Herrick also cautioned against thinking that repeal of the 8th was the end point of the journey, highlighting that it is rather a staging point in the ongoing struggle for equality. Mr. Herrick continued:
“We must also remember that women in Ireland face many other obstacles to full equality – including physical and sexual violence inside and outside the home; the gender pay gap, and underlying societal assumptions about women’s bodily autonomy. We only need to look to two very recent murders of young women for this to become all too apparent”.
ICCL also recognises that this referendum campaign has disclosed wider issues about our political and democratic process, including restrictions on freedom of expression, the need for greater transparency regarding campaign financing, and a wider lack of clarity regarding how elections should be regulated in the digital age. In the coming months, ICCL will call for a wider review of how Ireland addresses these complex issues and we intend to work with civil society partners to call for a review of the existing law in this area.