The Donegal Together for Yes campaign team was officially launched last night to drive forward a vote for repeal in the 8th amendment referendum.
Adopting a very local hashtag – #DonegalSaysAye – the group brought together over 100 supporters, public and political representatives from across Donegal to discuss the campaign.
Orla O’Connor, national Co-Director of Together for Yes, reminded the group that there are five weeks to go to campaign for a repeal. Former Donegal GAA star Eamon McGee led the launch, and said he is confident that a Yes vote will be achieved in Donegal if the group teams up for a common goal.
Eamon said: “There’s nothing more powerful than the power of the collective.
“When I was playing for Donegal and we had 30 lads all on the one wavelength working night after night. There’s a peace of mind that if things didn’t work out I was able to say that the group gave it their all. Very rarely we failed.
“What Donegal Together for Yes should remember is that, collectively, if everybody is driving forward and giving it their everything I’d be very confident that we’d get a Yes vote.”
The Jackson’s Hotel launch event heard from Donegal mother Nicola Cavanagh, who spoke about her personal experience of dealing with the diagnosis of a fatal foetal anomaly. Nicola wanted to seek a termination, but doctors could not allow this under the 8th Amendment. Nicola has to continue with her pregnancy, and five weeks later her son died in the womb. You can read Nicola’s story here: http://www.donegalwoman.ie/2018/04/12/im-sorry-nicola-cant-not-ireland/
Eamon McGee said he has faced negative online comments against his pro-choice stance this week, but the online backlash was in no comparison to the ‘hypocrisy’ Irish women such as Nicola face every day.
He said: “The last week has been fairly tight in terms of people ‘challenging’ me and I say I’m putting the hand out to women, I’m putting the hand out to my sisters, to my daughters, to the people around me with compassion.”
“I’m ashamed that Nicola has to tell her story. People pat me on the back and say fair play to you for getting involved, but this is easy. This is no bother to me. I smile for a photo, I say a few words, it’s people like Nicola and a lot of good people, strong women, that are putting their stories out there and they demand respect.”
Eamon championed the importance of a yes vote for Donegal: “We see Donegal as the forgotten county. Women who find themselves in the situations where they have to travel or they have to order abortion pills online unsupervised – they’re forgotten, so we can relate to it.
He told women at the campaign launch: “We’ll stand with you, we’ll offer our hand and we’ll use compassion.”
“I’m a lucky man that I have a loving partner, I have two beautiful daughters but I’ve been in a situation where I know someone who has had an abortion. I know the travel they’ve had to make. I know the women that have been disrespected.”
Eamon and his partner Joanne welcomed two new arrivals last month, and their twin babies and one-year-old girl are keeping them more than busy. Between changing nappies and feeds and working on the management team of the Donegal U20s, Eamon said he will be an ambassador for the repeal campaign in Donegal for the next five weeks.
“The main thing is that I just want people to go and have that conversation and education themselves. If we get the information out then the majority of people will land in a position for Repeal.”
Nora Newell, Donegal Together for Yes campaign leader, said “I did not want the Eighth Amendment to be in the Constitution in the first place. I campaigned for a No vote in 1983 as Donegal Women for Choice. We were only a small but challenging group. We were a little drop in the ocean of the combined alliances of church, politics, media and legislators. We were insignificant, but we were there.”
Nora called on the group to talk to their communities about why they are voting Yes in order to swing a Yes vote for the entire county.
Thomas Pringle TD for Donegal said, “Voting Yes is the necessary first step to ensure that safe, legal and compassionate medical care is afforded to all women on an equal basis across Ireland.
“People are ready to repeal the Eighth Amendment because they are free to be more compassionate now and, unlike at any other time in our past, we are beginning to understand the principles of equality and equal rights.”
The Independent TD condemned the tactics of the pro-life poster and media campaign:
He said: “Abortion is still treated as a dirty word because public discourse on the issue has been suppressed for so long.
“It is important that a safe place is create for people who want to engage when we are canvassing because it will be the undecided who determine the outcome of this referendum.”
He said mistruths and fake news from the pro-life campaign is already a challenge:
“How can someone present false statistics, such as those on Down Syndrome in the UK and Ireland, and be quoted in the media without any fact-checking? How can someone be allowed to stand in front of a school with grotesque imagery that does not portray the truth of abortion and causes distress to vulnerable persons?”
Thomas called for dignity and respect in all conversations on abortion.
Donegal’s Sinn Fein party members and Independent Councillors Thomas Pringle and Micheál Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig came out in a show of support for the campaign.
The event was followed by a public information meeting to explain political and medical facts on the referendum and answer audience questions.