Those who plan to campaign to repeal the eighth amendment should not assume that the quest to do so will go as smoothly as it did for the Yes Equality campaign. While the country has made huge strides in the last year when it comes to social issues, including trans* rights and employment equality, this momentum will not necessarily transfer directly to the pro-choice movement. Minister for Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has even stated his belief that a referendum to repeal the amendment would be “trounced” if held now.
The momentum gained from these victories was apparent in the thoroughly well-attended March for Choice last week, where Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union were in attendance. Back in 2013, two meetings of TCDSU Council were dedicated to the issue of whether the union should take a stance on abortion, which it later did by way of referendum. The debates that these steps revealed, however, revealed the many different stances that exist within the student population. Two and a half years on, a repeal the eighth committee of almost fifty students was set up by the union, and their first campaign event will take place early next week.
In terms of student support, however, levels of support and enthusiasm are not as high as they were for marriage equality, and it must be remembered that students are a societal group which would have a quite liberal attitude towards the issue. There is discord among the student population as to whether the union should be campaigning at all on the issue, never mind what stance it should take. The union’s strategy should take into account those who identify as pro-life, and be cautious not to present their stance as a Trinity-wide consensus, which it is plainly not. This differs with marriage equality, which the vast majority of students supported.
The campaign, with an impressive panel and a strong showing at the march, has a strong chance of seeing through its aims. But it will not be an unqualified success if it completely neglects those unhappy with the union’s stance, and the battle may be more difficult than the organisers believe.