Does the abortion referendum prove that Ireland is no longer solely influenced by the Catholic church?
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. these are the repeal angels. they stood outside maternity hospitals blocking women from being subjected to graphic imagery. they also held me as we cried with relief. #together4yes A post shared by zoë (@zoehlmnphoto) on May 27, 2018 at 3:16am PDT Read More: "EVERYTHING has changed" - Irish people react to historic landslide voting in favor of Repeal the Eighth 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." We said YES #together4yes A post shared by Together for Yes (@together4yes) on May 26, 2018 at 8:29am PDT 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". Read More: How will Ireland's abortion laws change after the referendum? 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. It is widely documented how the Irish Catholic Church has been marred with scandals and this has undoubtedly impacted the current generation's tendencies towards abstaining from mass. Four damning reports (Ferns in 2005; Ryan in 2009; Murphy in 2009; and Cloyne in 2011) made headlines across the world and caused a noticeable shift in people's attitude towards the Church. Upon news breaking of the abortion referendum result, Eamon Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, confirmed he was "deeply saddened" as he added that Irish culture has changed and that people have drifted away from the church. This weekend at Mass I will give thanks in prayer for the many courageous “missionaries for life” who made such a huge effort to remind us that in pregnancy we are dealing with two lives - both in need of love, respect and protection. pic.twitter.com/gcWw6KIN7G— Eamon Martin (@ArchbishopEamon) May 26, 2018 Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, also told his congregation that the results would be seen as a sign of the marginal role of religion in today’s society. In a homily at mass, he noted that many see the Catholic Church as "weak in compassion". Pope Francis, who is due to make his first visit to Ireland later this summer, remained silent on the referendum at this morning's address in St. Peter's Square, Rome. Can't wait for the Pope to get here now...— Philly McMahon (@McMahonPhilly) May 25, 2018 More than 350 international journalists from media outlets across the globe were accredited to attend the official count in Dublin Castle yesterday. Unsurprisingly, the relationship between the landslide Yes vote and Ireland's traditionally Catholic identity was a major hook for many covering the story. An article that ran in The Japan Times today featured the headline, "Some Irish Catholics worries, dismayed after abortion referendum" while closer to the issue, the Irish Independent splashed, "Abortion vote shows Catholic Church is losing influence in Ireland". The Iona Institute's David Quinn, a prominent No campaigner and religious commentator, said in the wake of the results that the Pro-Life movement gained hundreds more young members. Although, this seems in stark contrast with evidence from RTE that 87.6% of 18-24 year olds votes Yes. An Irish Times Abroad survey also revealed that an incredible 91% of 11,000 expats living abroad were in favor of a Yes vote. No matter what happens today hundreds of thousands of people will vote to retain the 8th and have NO major party to represent them. #8thRef— David Quinn (@DavQuinn) May 25, 2018 As Quinn was one of the most vocal and relentless campaigners on the Pro-Life side, after the official result was announced, social media users were quick to point out that his beliefs are no longer aligned with modern day Ireland. I was just waiting for the RTE one to be sure but now that it's out, I'd like to offer my heartiest fuck yous to John Waters, Declan Ganley, David Quinn and, especially, Rónán Mullen.Ireland isn't for you anymore.— Tara Whelan (@taraannosaur) May 25, 2018 Ireland cares about its women. From this day forth, women will no longer be shamed. People like Cora Sherlock, John McGurk, David Quinn, John Waters, Maria Steen and their type do not have a mandate to speak about issues anymore. It is their views, that are now unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/b3HP0ix0Qz— Psychologists4Choice (@Psychs4Choice) May 25, 2018 Now if Declan Ganley, John McGuirk, David Quinn, the Sherlock’s, Maria Steen, Caroline Simons and the rest of the Christian fascists could kindly fuck off and live in John Waters house in Torremolinos, that would be just great. You’re no longer welcome in our Ireland.— Leo (@leoie) May 25, 2018 David QuinnRonan Mullen John McGuirk John WatersDeclan Ganley Youth DefenceCora Sherlock Leo Sherlock Breda O'Brien& the rest of the Irish Taliban have been outed as the fringe extremists we know they are. Can the media now stop giving these vile people a platform?— Ciaran (@ciaranmg) May 26, 2018 Here’s a list of people I never want to see on my TV again:John Waters John McGuirkRonan MullenMaria SteenCora Sherlock Declan GanleyDavid QuinnThe Ireland they want is full of secrets,shame & under the thumb of the church & IT NO LONGER EXISTS. Get in the sea, yer done.— Van-YES-sa Noone (@VanessaNoone) May 26, 2018 Whether it can be simplified as a Catholic bone of contention or not, the abortion referendum was constantly referred to as the most divisive issue to ever emerge in Ireland. Ironically, it seemed one of the more unifying movements of our age when you consider that diverse groups from rural farmers to urbanites, college students to grandparents rallied together in support of a Yes vote. The result sent a message loud and clear that Irish women should and will be trusted. Terminations will no longer be treated as Ireland's dirty little secret, hidden in fear of judgement whether it's on a religious or societal basis. To dismiss a landslide decision to enact abortion legislation as a rebuttal to our staunchly Catholic country would be to misunderstand the nuanced and complicated beliefs of those on the Yes side. Abortion isn't a religious issue, it's a human rights issue. To identify with the pro-abortion side shouldn't mean you must turn your back on your faith, and the broader population of Ireland won't decease being Catholic overnight as a result of new healthcare legislation. That being said, rallying cries like "get your rosaries off my ovaries" did not originate in a vacuum. If the Catholic Church hears one thing loud and clear, it should be to not ignore the sense of disillusionment which is growing increasingly audible. On the night before the referendum I just wanted to share this video from the march on International Women’s Day again. It gives me chills every time. #Repealthe8h pic.twitter.com/ntGEKUbKFk— peeTÁ (@peetapoo) May 24, 2018