Comment & Analysis
Jan 22, 2018

Why Strike 4 Repeal Needs Its Own Message

Those advocating for a one-message repeal campaign are wrong. An ad hoc, unaffiliated activist group has its own benefits, write Sadhbh Sheeran and Aine Palmer.

Sadhbh Sheeran and Aine Palmer
Ivan Rakhmanin for The University Times

A referendum campaign requires a single key message, unified strategy and collaborative structures. And it appears that the efforts of reproductive rights campaigners are nearly there – a referendum campaign is in sight, even if it is not yet upon us. There is no date, there is no question, and this is not yet a referendum campaign.

At this moment, without a referendum ballot question definitely decided upon, we are as of yet uncertain as to what we will be campaigning for. We hope however that a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment from the Constitution will be called. We hope that voters will be offered a “repeal simplicitor” ballot that lets citizens simply vote “yes” or “no” on whether the eighth amendment should be repealed and will permit the Oireachtas to legislate for access to abortion. If this is the case we will campaign for a “yes” vote.

Reducing activism to a single message before the announcement of a specific referendum is not an effective strategy


A coherent, cohesive civil society campaign for a “yes” vote in a repeal referendum will be critical to its success. However, reducing activism to a single message before the announcement of a specific referendum is not an effective strategy. We are not yet campaigning on a single question – we are and have been campaigning to get a referendum, in hopes of seeing free, safe and legal abortion access, to disseminate information on the abortion pill and abortion access, and we are campaigning to make the government listen to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee and Citizens’ Assembly.

This is a multi-stranded campaign, that demands diverse approaches. The important role of creative and dynamic activism at this interim stage of the campaign should not be overlooked.

Strike 4 Repeal had a distinct request last week, which was that the government provide a simple yes/no repeal referendum in May for full and accessible abortion rights.

The banner drops carried out by Trinity Strike 4 Repeal aimed to specifically encourage participation in last week’s Strike Assembly, to remind students and commuters of the event and to spark conversation online and in student media. The lightning strike symbol featured on our banner served to remind people of one specific event, and one specific campaign, that serves as a tool of a much larger cause.

If or when that referendum is called, the coalition can begin its campaign to repeal

One of the greatest strengths of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment is found in its diversity. The coalition consists of a vast range of groups coming from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances, all of which are campaigning to repeal the eighth amendment. This includes Strike 4 Repeal, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union, the Abortion Rights Campaign, and Termination for Medical Reasons, to name but a few. When the referendum is called, we can continue to work together on a coherent campaign strategy, as happened in the 2015 marriage equality referendum.

Until then, Strike 4 Repeal will continue to play its individual role within the campaign – that of an ad hoc, unaffiliated activist group that seeks to put pressure on the government through radical action. At the moment, the threat of a strike is a tool we are using to try and ensure we get the repeal referendum question recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee. If or when that referendum is called, the coalition can begin its campaign to repeal.

Sadhbh Sheeran and Aine Palmer are members of Trinity Strike 4 Repeal.

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