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Submission to the Citizens’ Assembly regarding the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution


November 26, 2016 by Fiachra

To the Honourable Madam Justice Lafoy, esteemed assembly members and citizens,

I write to you as a concerned Irish citizen, both excited and nervous by the deliberations on amending or repealing Art. 40.3.3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann. I would like to begin my submission with the elementary observation that the abortion debate is one which periodically reoccurs. This is not limited to Ireland – indeed Spain and Poland rank among the countries which have had national debates on abortion in recent times.

These national debates have often led to access to abortion widened or restricted, depending on the make-up of the government and the mood of the citizens. Furthermore, citizens have had the right to involve themselves in these national discussions. Should they have felt that their concerns were not duly noted, they had the right to vote their government out of power at the next election.

It is my conviction that Oireachtas na hÉireann should be left free to decide what abortion regime best suits Ireland in accordance with the will of the people. While the aim of the Abortion Rights Campaign in pushing for the complete erasure of Art. 40.3.3 is to pave the way for a very permissive abortion regime, it must be recognised that the Oireachtas could conceivably pass extremely strict legislation. Removing Art. 40.3.3 is a risky proposition to both sides of the debate. If the composition of the Oireachtas is overwhelmingly pro-life, the access to abortion might be tightened While Art. 40.3.3 is no doubt symbolically important to the pro-life movement, they also should accept that its removal represents an opportunity to revert to the regime that existed before Attorney General v. X.

Many liberals believe, and some conservatives fear, that society is becoming ever more liberal, and that repealing the 8th Amendment to Bunreacht na hÉireann will result in an extremely permissive abortion regime. This is certainly possible, but it is far from inevitable. Society’s moral and religious convictions are always changing and evolving, but so too is the direction of change.

The nature of the discourse on abortion that has prevailed since 1983 however proves the folly of putting such measures in the constitution. Bunreacht na hÉireann should allow a space for citizens to debate and decide what regime we want, in accordance with the zeitgeist. This is only fair and equitable to people of all convictions and points of view.

Thank you for considering my submission.

Sincere regards,
Fiachra Ó Raghallaigh


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