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'No' side say proposals too extreme, while 'Yes' calls this a 'once-in-a-generation' chance

Both sides held their last press events on the eve of the Eighth Amendment referendum.

pjimage (8) Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha

CAMPAIGNS FROM THE two opposing sides of the Eighth Amendment debate have held their last media briefings in Dublin city centre ahead of tomorrow’s referendum.

With controversial TV debates behind them, weeknight canvasses by teams in every county, and a moratorium to kick in at 2pm today, the campaigns have pushed out their final messages urging people to vote to repeal or retain the Eighth Amendment.

The ‘Yes’ side focused on the message that if the Eighth remains, nothing would change for women faced with crisis pregnancies, and women at the centre of cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities (what some campaigners are calling the ‘hard cases’).

The ‘No’ campaign’s final message was that what is proposed is too extreme, and that the government could propose legislation that would allow for terminations in those hard cases.

Both campaigns stressed the importance of people going out to exercise their right to vote on “one of the most important issues of our time”.

At a Love Both press event held on Kildare Street, barrister Benedict Ó Floinn, Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler, and a number of other TDs answered questions and gave statements on the eve of the referendum.

When asked to respond to how the ‘No’ campaign is reacting to the general consensus that the ‘Yes’ side are ahead (according to a number of opinion polls), Benedict Ó Floinn told journalists that “it wasn’t a question of turning it around”.

“We’ve always met slogans with facts, and the fact of the matter is that the government is proposing something that is extreme.”

Ó Floinn and encouraged people to read the legislation that’s been put forward by the government in the

He it is possible to legislate for hard cases, and that although he wouldn’t personally support such a proposal, many pro-life supporters would. Addressing comments made by Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty on TV3 last night that this was “a stunt” by the No side, he said:

“I can assure you I have 200 colleagues plus, some of the most eminent lawyers in the country, many of them have gone on the record saying that they would have voted ‘Yes’ if it wasn’t for the extreme nature of these proposals.”

Ó Floinn also criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for not taking part in any televised debates on the subject, and called for him to answer questions.

At a Fine Gael event held after the Love Both press conference, Ó Floinn tried to ask Varadkar some of those questions he had.

Health Minister Simon Harris has taken part in a televised debate on Tuesday, which drew attention after Love Both spokesperson Cora Sherlock pulled out of the programme hours before it was due to air (she says she didn’t pull out).

Following that incident, speculation arose that there had been a disagreement between Save The 8th and Love Both just days before the referendum.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie about those rumours, prominent ‘No’ campaigner and former UCD student president Katie Ascough said that they were united in their call for a ‘No’ vote tomorrow.

“All campaigns on the ‘No’ side are united in our goal that the Irish people are informed and that they vote ‘No’ for abortion on demand. We are united and we all want to see the same thing, we want to see women and children protected in Ireland, we want to see an Ireland where we do not have abortion for healthy mothers with healthy babies.”

I think it’s important that there are people out there who do want abortion in those very hard cases, but our message to those people is, we are not voting for those hard cases, we are voting for abortion on demand.
This is a very extreme proposal, we need to force the government to go back to the drawing board because this proposal simply goes too far.

At a media event held in Merrion Square, Together for Yes said that tomorrow’s vote was a “once in a generation opportunity”.

Responding to the suggestion that the government could legislate for the hard cases without legislating for abortion without restriction, co-director of Together for Yes Orla O’Connor said:

“In the last two weeks, that has been an issue put out by the ‘No’ side, and we know that there is no other way. the Eighth has to be removed for abortion to be provided for couples who experience a fatal foetal anomaly.

That’s absolutely certain and it’s misinformation to say that there is another way – there isn’t. The Taoiseach has made it clear, the Attorney General has made it clear, the vast a majority of lawyers have made it clear that there is no other way.

She said that when the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was brought in, the people who want to retain the Eighth Amendment now are “the same people who opposed that legislation which was about protecting a woman’s life”.

O’Connor told TheJournal.ie that no matter what the result of the vote was, that the debate on abortion would continue.

She said that the fact that women in Ireland have abortions has been acknowledged: ”The lid has been lifted on abortion in Ireland.”

“We can never go back from the national conversation that’s just happened. The lid has been lifted on abortion. The issues around secrecy – everyone knows abortion happens in Ireland, we can’t put our heads in the sand any longer. No matter what the result is, that’s out there now.

We need a way to provide care for women in Ireland, there’s also a whole generation of young women who have become mobalised and are part of this campaign, and they’re not going away either.

She added that “turnout is absolutely critical for a ‘Yes’ vote”.

Together for Yes spokesperson Sarah Monaghan said that the plan for the next few hours would be to get people out to vote.

“Turnout is vital, it’s so so important, at this stage every single vote will be crucial in this referendum. It will be close, this has been a long campaign for all of us.”

This lunchtime, a plane with a banner that read “Save Babies, Save Both” flew over Dublin city; last week a plane with the message “Vote Yes on Friday 25th of May” was circulating around Dublin.

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