After an overwhelming majority of the Irish electorate voted in favor of the repealing the current abortion legislation, what does this signify for Ireland's traditionally Roman Catholic identity?
In the last three years, the people of Ireland have banded together to legalize same-sex marriage and democratize abortion laws: two milestones which could be considered by many as blows to the once-dominant force that was Irish Catholicism.
After this weekend's landslide victory in favor of Repealing the Eighth Amendment, the news media is rife with opinion pieces as to whether the omnipresent religion is near-defunct. While the Church largely opted to remain absent from the divisive Yes/No debate, many people's individual stance on abortion was often intertwined with their personal faith.
The Church's historical treatment of women facing crisis pregnancies was a point of contention raised frequently by the Pro-Choice side. Campaigners pointed to Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene laundries, and a culture of shame and secrecy that vilified vulnerable pregnant women over the last century.
In an article that ran on the front page of Sunday's edition of The New York Times, journalist Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura writes, "The Church was, in fact, largely absent from the referendum campaign. Anti-abortion campaigners actively discouraged its participation, preferring to emphasize moral values and human rights rather than religion, possibly to avoid being tarnished by the Church-related scandals."
The article also quoted Gail McElroy, a professor of politics at Trinity College Dublin, who deemed the Yes vote victory as the "final nail in the coffin" for the Church.
“This is devastating for the Roman Catholic hierarchy. They’re no longer the pillar of society, and their hopes of re-establishing themselves are gone," she said.
A recent census highlighted that 78% of Irish people identified as Catholic (a fall from the 84% figure documented in 2011). This reflects roughly 3.7 million people - and the next largest group after Catholic was "no religion".
Yet, when the Eight Amendment was originally voted in to the constitution in 1983, some 80-90% of Irish people purported to attend weekly mass - today, below 30% claim to step foot inside a church on the same basis.