Old Ireland’s Last Stand; How the Irish Abortion Referendum could be our Brexit/Trump Moment

Ireland is increasingly being viewed as one of the most open, tolerant societies in the world, or at least we like telling ourselves so. There is no doubt that the Marriage Equality referendum in May 2015 was a watershed moment for our society. A chance to shake off some of the shackles of our Catholic past. A past which was often cold, brutal and closed off. This feeling that we have joined the upper echelon of socially liberal nations has been further magnified in the minds of many by two factors, one internal and one external.

Leo Varadkar’s ascent to become the Taoiseach of Ireland is undoubtedly an historic occasion in Ireland’s history. The fact that an openly gay man, who is the son of an Indian doctor can become the leader of the country is unquestionably a sign of progress. Irishness is no longer as monolithic as it once was. This trend has been taking place for a long time now and while Leo Varadkar is the current personification of this, there are plenty of other positive, grassroots examples of this throughout the country. A topic I would like to explore at a future date is that while the glass ceiling has been smashed for many with this appointment. We ,as a country, are still not doing enough to lessen inequality between the haves and have nots -if he was the son of an Indian factory worker or construction worker and not a doctor with a less polished South Dublin accent would this still have been possible?.

The decisions of our American and British neighbours to elect Donald Trump as President and vote for Brexit do seem to stand in stark contrast to our Yes result in the Marriage Equality Act. Both have been deemed by many in the mainstream media as backwards steps. Decisions underpinned by angry, old white men who yearn for the glory days of the past. Accusations of racism against supporters of both have been frequently levelled. Many social and political commentators have linked these two decisions as results of similar trends. Rapid changes in society, as well as the collapse of many industries and institutions that were formerly seen as the bedrock of the respective societies and national identities.

I think there is a certain truth to this. I also believe that these results were in part the responsibility of many of those who espouse views on the left of the political spectrum. Those who simply labelled trump supporters or pro- Brexiteers as ignorant, backwards, stupid or a combination of all three. There was so much dismissal of differing views and arrogance on the left. So little attempt at empathising with those whose views were different. I genuinely believe many people who were on the fence in both decisions could have been convinced with more conversation and less condescension.

This brings me to the upcoming abortion referendum in Ireland. The Appeal the 8th movement is already quite strong in Ireland and an all likelihood the referendum will be passed. However, there are many who believe in the right to life from the moment of conception. There is every chance that there plenty more who are uncertain and still on the fence. Many on the left and in the media see the result as a foregone conclusion. The recent government Public Assembly voted 79-12 in favour of abortion. Many on the pro life side believe this is not an accurate reflection of current public opinion.

There is a certain amount of hubris in Ireland at the moment. The economy is undoubtedly in the best place it has been in the last seven years. I have heard a lot of talk that we are “different to the British and Americans”. We would never make decisions as stupid as they have. While the referendum on abortion is a moral issue and not purely political like the other two shocks, many of the voting dynamics also exist in Ireland. Don’t be surprised if the day after the referendum in Ireland we wake to read that maybe we’re not so different after all. Maybe Ireland isn’t quite the bastion of liberalism we’ve come to believe…


  • Luke Hennessy

    Very good read and interesting take on a tough upcoming referendum!

  • “The fact that an openly gay man, who is the son of an Indian doctor can become the leader of the country is unquestionably a sign of progress.”

    Just as unquestionably Barack Obama becoming US President was…

  • JohnTheOptimist

    A good read. Ireland generally follows the trend of most Western countries, but often some years behind. The madness that is social liberalism has yet to peak in Ireland. But, its clear that in many Western countries peak liberalism has already occurred and the reaction against liberalism is setting in. In these countries the counter-revolution has begun. Its very likely that Ireland will eventually follow the same path. On the specific points made, I’d say:

    (1) Leo Varadakar was opposed by the vast majority of FG voters who voted 2:1 for Simon Coveney. Not because he was gay or half-Indian, but because of his smarmy Dublin 4 liberalism. It was the TDs and councillors who won it for him. Come the general election, FF have every chance of sending Leo packing.

    (2) Most of the socially liberal countries that Irish liberals wish to emulate are facing demographic collapse and are well on the way to having Muslin majorities by the end of the century. Many are already in a state of severe civil conflict, which can only get worse. Once-great cities like London, Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Stockholm are beginning to look like Belfast in the 1970s. The key element of modern liberalism in the West is the desire to abort as many as possible of the indigenous population, then when, surprise, surprise, the number of young people goes into freefall and there aren’t enough to support the increasingly geriatric population, import millions of immigrants from muslin North Africa, the Middle-East and the Indian subcontinent. The results of this insanity are now being seen increasingly throughout Europe. Who’d have thought 30 years ago that Belfast would be a safer city than Nice to Malmo?

    (3) There is a very good chance that the Repeal the 8th referendum will be defeated. If it is, that will be the ‘Trump moment’ for liberals in Ireland. Polls show a large majority of the Irish electorate against abortion on demand, the key element in the Repealers campaign. If the anti-Repealers can convince the electorate that Repealing the 8th will lead to abortion without restriction (as in, say, Canada) it has no chance of passing. Its only chance of success is if, in desperation, the government guarantees before the referendum to legalise abortion only for very limited cases. Even then it might be defeated if the electorate don’t trust the government.

  • Ryan A

    I largely agree with a lot of that.

    This result could end up like Brexit – The Capital going one way and the rest of Ireland the other.

  • Brendan Kelly

    Old Ireland, when all the girls looked like Maureen O’Hara and the cows knew to sit down before it rained… we’ve lost so much.

  • Malteser

    Unfortunately we all slowly become followers with trends and we forget our past and religion. Do I think women should have the right to abort? Maybe, maybe not. I am not one to speak for another persons decision. However I do think that current society does try too hard to compete with eachother and prove points.
    I would like to think Ireland will not ever be linked to the likings of the British and Americans and their decisions. However only time will tell..

  • Brendan Kelly

    John the Optimist followed by a council of despair – strange. Apart from that – nonsense throughout.

  • Pang

    Where to start.
    1) Leo is a northsider (they don’t all speak like Mrs Brown’s Boys north of the Liffey you know)
    2) I believe the citizens convention agreed to abortion in the case of fatal fetal abnormality, not liberal abortion. Major difference ethically & numbers wise.
    3) The cost of Gay Marriage was loosing the traditional definition of marriage – an abstract social convention; the cost of abortion is stopping a beating human heart – easier to defend to religious & non- religious minds.
    4) We shouldn’t vote based on what liberals’ say is good – are they the new catholic bishops? We each gave a brain to make those decisions.

  • Old Mortality

    I’ve always harboured a suspicion that a good many Irish people reluctantly votes in favour of homosexual marriage in the hope that it would burnish the country’s ‘progressive’ credentials sufficiently for the abortion issue to be left alone. They were wrong, but it more likely to be a clear battle between Dublin and the rest if anything other than the most limited extension of abortion is proposed and this time Dublin would lose.

  • Korhomme

    The Citizens’ Assembly listened to argument over several weekends; it’s fair to say that they are better informed than the ‘average’ voter.

    You are also conflating multiple problems in today’s society; I really don’t think that Ireland will be overrun by Muslims as an unintended effect of an abortion policy. As for the numbers of kids, well, while abortion has some effect, it’s not as large as you imagine; rather, all over Europe family size has decreased over the last decades. Or do you wish to see a return to the days of at least a dozen kids, where so many have no choice but to emigrate? What does that say of your view of woman whose only role is to breed?

  • BravoBingo

    On your 3rd point, I think the referendum will be on an amendment to the
    8th rather than repealing the 8th because a repeal will never pass –
    The government will only want on a vote on a proposal they ‘know’ will
    be accepted.

    At the moment a large majority of people support a
    change to our abortion laws but I doubt that means a full repeal. The
    Yes vote in the marriage referendum was only 60% and it won’t take much
    for 5% of the electorate to decide they are liberal enough to support
    gay marriage but not liberal enough to support ‘on-demand abortion’-
    that’s how a full repeal will be framed by the pro-lifers

  • JohnTheOptimist

    It is a simple mathematical fact that when a country’s fertility rate goes below 2.0 (actually I think statisticians put the threshold at 2.1), then that country’s population will eventually start to decline (excluding any migration). And if it stays below 2.0 (or 2.1) indefinitely, then eventually its population will dwindle to virtually nothing (over a few centuries – again excluding any migration). Currently every country in Europe has a fertility rate < 2.0. Ireland's is one of the highest at 1.9. The European average is 1.5, which is catastrophic and will see Europe's population collapse over the next century. Migration within Europe (from one European country to another) will have no effect, as one country's gain is cancelled out by another's loss. As long as Europe's fertility rate remains at its current level (and its falling) the only way population collapse can be averted is by bringing in massive numbers of immigrants every year from outside Europe (effectively Muslim countries).

    We are now seeing the effects of this throughout Europe. Conflict is widespread and growing. Many cities in Europe are now virtual war zones. And unlike our own Troubles, there is no political solution available. As the Muslim population increases, the conflict can only get worse. In Barcelona ISIS original plan was to destroy the Cathedral. Its only a matter of time before they succeed in some European city, and then another, and another. During Christianity's 2,000 year reign Europe became the dominant region in the world for science, education, literature, human rights, rule of law. And throughout this time it was always able to reproduce itself and grow its population. After 50 years of militant anti-religion, Europe is well on the way to becoming a declining geriatric region, seeing increasing civil conflict, and ripe for a takeover by he Caliphate in a century or so. Currently Ireland is the least affected because of its relatively high fertility rate and relatively low Muslim population, so it will be the last to go under.

  • csb

    It’s the Repeal the 8th movement.

  • csb

    Some of us aren’t as worried about being overrun by Muslims as you clearly are.

  • DP Moran

    The Liberal chattering classes of both Belfast and Dublin are out of touch with the values of rural traditional Ireland. The anger from the grassroots is alive and real if only parties would tap into it.

  • Zorin001


    For accuracies sake there’s at least a 500 year period where Islam was head and shoulders above the West for culture and learning. The Mongols helped put paid to that.

    And which Caliphate is going to take over Europe, the one that just collapsed in Mosul?

  • DP Moran

    A new pious cult of liberalism has infected Irish society and uses the scandals of the Catholic Church and the cloak of “modernity” “progressivism” and “equality” to push its agenda. People were shamed as backwards and perpetrators of abuse in the last referendum if they kept their traditionally held beliefs.

    As with the rest of Western Europe that is fighting back I do not see Ireland being any different this time and the elite will not get their way again.

  • Korhomme

    The rate is 2.1.

    There’s far more to all this; what of robotisation and the squeeze on skilled workers? We are seeing the early stages of an elite and an underdog, much as described in ‘The Time Machine’ — and there weren’t any Muslim hordes in that.

    What of pensions? That’s a very large problem in the making.

    Don’t forget, if it wasn’t for Islam, we’d know next to nothing about ancient Greece. And Christianity wasn’t dominant in all of Europe for 2 millennia, far from it.

  • harmlessdrudge

    Equality is such an elitist concept. Got it.

  • harmlessdrudge

    We don’t know the wording of the referendum yet. I think that will matter a great deal, far more than any considerations of what Ireland’s image or self-image is. Does anyone seriously believe that Irish people voted for marriage equality to be hip? That is ludicrous. The story of how the referendum was won has been documented pretty clearly, and it was very much about families sharing their stories and being very determined that their gay children deserved equality.

  • El Daddy

    Could you explain the Islam and ancient Greece thing please? Not doubting, just curious.

  • Jim M

    As others have said, the wording of any upcoming referendum is going to be crucial. I also think the RT8 movement needs to rethink its rhetoric if it wants any chance of success. There are a lot of people who could accept that, for pragmatic reasons, it would be better to legalise abortion (albeit in more restrictive circumstances than in other countries), even if they themselves find the idea of abortion abhorrent. However, what I see on social media is ‘a woman has an inalienable right to terminate a pregnancy at any stage, for any reason, and if you suggest otherwise you’re an evil misogynist/religious zealot.’ Pursuing this line is going to result in RT8 being trounced at the polls.

  • Korhomme

    The House of Wisdom in Baghdad was a major centre of learning in the Arab world. They collected and translated many of the works of the ancient Greeks. There were similar centres in other parts of the Islamic world. See:



  • Claire Mitchell

    Totally agree, lots of conservative social values still in Ireland. But unlike the farces of Brexit and Trump, abortion and choice seem to have become a proper civic conversation. Of course there are the reductionist headlines. But it feels to me that there’s a sincere effort to humanise women’s experiences and encourage people to emphathise, even if they wouldn’t personally make the same decisions. Citizen’s Assembly was astonishingly humane. I think this makes it different.

  • jporter

    It is and always has been a naive mistake to extrapolate current events into the future. If you think this is the major problem facing Europe in the next few decades then you are badly misinformed.

  • El Daddy

    Those links don’t work for some reason, they get cutoff halfway through.

    Would the teachings of the Ancient Greeks not have been preserved by the Byzantine Empire that was around til 1453?

  • Korhomme

    If so, it seems there wasn’t much. Try searching for

    “Transmission of the Greek Classics” and

    “House of Wisdom”

    Both are on Wikipedia. Sorry about the links, I don’t know what happened.

  • El Daddy


  • Dominic Hendron

    Cowardliness and emotionalism are big factors in the “liberalisation” of Irish life along with corruption within the Church and State who pursued power and privilege. The Church in particular forgot it’s purpose and was rightly chastened. The image of pantybliss as representative of the new liberal Ireland and Leo Varadkar’s sexuality rather than his capabilities being fourgrounded is a deceit. In the scheme of things what does it matter and where is it going. Martin Luther King said let a man be judged by the content of his character rather than the colour of his skin, or who he loves, or the way he dresses. And now we interfere with the greatest gift we have: the gift of life itself and think we are qualified to decide who should live and who should die.

  • Ryan A

    No point getting stuck into Vardakar on this. He’s largely pro-life from his remarks.

  • Ryan A

    Nonsense. Count Susan Anne White’s votes in West Tyrone.

  • Dominic Hendron

    I wasn’t getting stuck into anyone, just making a general point about where Irish life is going. There is a lot being lost due to immediacy of issues blinding people to basic truths that have stood the test of time: Faith based and well grounded; we have to rediscover what was lost when the stream became polluted. The source is still pure.

  • Jim Kim

    The Middle East is a side show as the stage gets set in Europe!

    The so called Golden Age of Islam was still based on western ideals and not the highpoint of liberty that the left thinks.

    Any religion spread by the sword is not a great one for the converts or dead alike.

  • Christopher Mc Camley

    Electing Trump and voting for Brexit were signs of an electorate moving away from the fairly narrow consensus of the establishment. Having Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach is a sign of very little. He was elected by by his own parliamentary party, rejected by ordinary party members and hasn’t yet won a general election.

  • Damien Murphy

    The Assembly was incredibly humane? Overwhelmingly voting to kill the unborn child in every circumstance doesn’t sound very humane to me.