On the 8th - #PartitionSucks

Today is a historic day in Irish history.

Millions across the state are voting to repeal the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, which places an effective ban on abortion in the 26 Counties. Thousands more are boarding planes, trains and boats and are coming home to vote in this crucial referendum.

The respective campaigns have been run completely different. The No side has been regressive, hurtful, fear-mongering & generally negative. Whereas the Yes campaign had been vibrant, inclusive, positive and women-centred.

Today’s vote is about removing the shackle placed on Irish people and society by a male dominated church & state.

The Catholic Church who locked single mothers in homes and opposed the introduction of basic rights issues such as; access to contraception, the right to a divorce, and marriage equality, speaks with no moral authority on this issue.

Ireland is now a more diverse country than it has been in any point in our history. There must be a complete separation of church & state to reflect a rapidly changing Irish society  

What I still struggle to understand is how a No side, which acknowledges that the 8th amendment doesn’t prevent abortions from happening, think it acceptable to force women to avail of healthcare abroad. It is unacceptable that, over 100 years after the proclamation of the Republic, Irish women have to rely on an English system to access basic healthcare when in need.

In this context, the 8th amendment turns abortion into a class issue. Only women from less well-off backgrounds have to worry about the costs of travelling abroad for a termination.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Irish women deserve access to the most basic healthcare here at home, in a compassionate environment.

Ógra Shinn Féin activists have been at the forefront of the campaign to Repeal the 8th amendment. Despise this being a very challenging time of the year for young people with exams & coursework, many have given up whatever free time they’ve had.

Many activists that have dedicated countless hours to the Repeal campaign are unable to vote because of their age. 16 and 17 year olds have more often than not been the most vocal throughout the campaign. They should also be able to vote today, on an issue that directly affects their future.

The historical injustice of partition prevents many of us from voting to correct another injustice today.

I’ve never seen a City so engaged as Belfast has been throughout this referendum campaign. You can’t walk down a street without seeing a Repeal jumper, a Tá badge, or someone commenting positively on yours.

That citizens in the 6 counties have been so engaged in what truly has been a national campaign, yet are unable to vote today, has led many to again question the logic of partition.

Recent political developments, including Brexit & the potential reemergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland had also shone much needed light of the impracticality of partition also.

Partition is illogical, and impractical. It remains the single barrier to a more progressive, inclusive and fair Ireland. It stifles our collective progress, whether economic, political our social. It stands square against equality, justice and prosperity on our island.

Once the polls have closed and the 8th has hopefully been consigned to the dustbin of history, we must re-ignite the debate around partition.

Hopefully then, by the time the next crucially important referendum, presidential election or indeed general election rolls around, Irish citizens in the north will be able to vote.

Ógra Shinn Féin