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Thursday 28 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# Referendum
Harris takes his message to Moore Street: 'Men need to talk to the women in their lives about the Eighth Amendment'
Health Minister Simon Harris stopped by Moore Street today to launch the ‘It’s Time to Talk’ referendum campaign.

MEN SHOULD BE speaking to the women in their lives about the Eighth Amendment, according to Health Minister Simon Harris.

This morning, Harris joined Senator Lynn Ruane and Amnesty International’s Colm O’Gorman to launch the ‘It’s Time to Talk’ campaign.

Why Moore Street for the press call? The street is known for its banter with traders, and today proved it is still the hotbed where societal issues play out.

As photographers, journalists and the minister gathered around one fruit and veg stall, a passer-by shouted “pro-repeal”, while another shouted “save Moore Street” (highlighting the ongoing controversy over the 1916 buildings).

At the end of the event, one homeless man said the minister should be here to talk about homelessness. He spoke about how not so far away one person is in a sleeping bag with their partner who is six months pregnant. “I’m all for voting for abortion, but what about homelessness?” he asked.

0140 Amnesty YES Campaign_90541844 Caroline Alwright fruit vendor on More Street and Minister for Health Simon Harris visit Dublin’s Moore Street

Caroline Alwright, a fruit vendor on Moore Street, told Harris that a lot of conversations have taken place on Moore Street about the referendum. She has also spoken to her own family about the issue.

“The fellas are in it as much as the women, they have a say,” she said.

“I think it is more modern now, the kids, the boys are talking about it as much as anybody else. My boys are for it, like they think it is up to the woman, it is her body, she decides, no one else can tell you how you feel inside. They’re for it anyway,” added Alwright.

“Good to hear,” replied the minister.

Encouraging men to get involved

Women are commonplace at the recent referendum events the minister has attended. “Which is great, but men obviously have a vote as well,” he added.

“I would encourage, particularly men, not just to think of this as a women’s issue – it is obviously an issue for women – but they have a vote in this referendum too. Talk to the women in your life, talk to your mother, your sister your partner, your wife, your daughter about what the Eighth Amendment means to them and why they want to see the Eighth Amendment repealed,” said Harris.

Alwright said she has also spoken to other traders on Moore Street.

“I think it is going to be yes and I think it is only right that it should be – it is up to the woman, it is her body.

“We are pushing them [women] away…  They should have a right to have it done in their own country,” she said.

“Many of them feel the same way I feel,” added Alwright, who said many locals have had personal experiences around the issue.

“They know people who have had to go through it. Like myself, I know people who have gone through it, so I think it is only right that people have the choice, who can tell you how any woman feels, it is her body, you can’t tell me how I feel inside,” she said.

“Behind every door, behind every home, there is a story,” said the minister.

0189 Amnesty YES Campaign_90541855 Minister for Health Simon Harris, independent Senator Lynn Ruane and Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director Colm O’Gorman.

Ruane said the Amnesty International campaign is about taking the abortion conversation “deep into communities” and “not being afraid of what we are going to be met with”.

“Not everyone is going to agree with us,” said the senator.

She said the conversations surround the issues can be very academic and this is pushing marginalised groups out of the debate.

Starting a conversation 

The senator urged people to begin a conversation about the issue of abortion with the people that they know.

“Basic conversations around kitchen tables, in the workplace, when you are out for dinner – just one conversation can have a massive impact,” she said.

O’Gorman said the whole idea of their campaign is to get “ordinary people” talking about the referendum.

The minister agreed that it is now time for the general public to engage with the subject matter, stating that politicians have been discussing the issue for decades, but it’s time for the people to have their say.

Harris said his party will be actively campaigning for a yes vote in the referendum.

Speaking about having a respectful debate, he recalled how he recently used the quote:

When they go low, we go high.

“Everybody laughed and said that is a Michelle Obama quote – but I meant it. We are going to have an awful lot of people put out comments that I believe are offensive, comments I believe will be upsetting, comments I don’t believe will reflect the reality facing Irish women.

“Do you know what we are going to keep doing on this side of the campaign? We are going to keep on explaining to people what the Eighth Amendment means to women, what it means to doctors and the chilling effect it has had on medical practices in this country,” he said.

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