More than 70 organisations have come together to launch the #Together4Yes campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. 

Pictured at the launch of Together for Yes were guest speaker Judge Catherine McGuinness, co-directors Grainne Griffin, Orla O’Connor and Ailbhe Smyth. Photo:Barry Cronin

The national civil society will campaign to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Irish constitution ahead of the referendum. Together for Yes has united pro-repeal groups from across Ireland, including the Donegal branches of the Abortion Rights Campaign. More groups are expected to join in the coming weeks.

The official launch of Together for Yes heard from leading figures from the legal, medical, and political worlds. Health Minister Simon Harris showed his support for the group, saying “It’s about time we put in place structures to help women access terminations in a safe and compassionate manner.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and guest speaker Judge Catherine McGuinness. Photo: Barry Cronin

Retired Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness and consultant obstetrician Peter Boylan were key speakers at the event, which took place at the Rotunda Foundation in Dublin. Other speakers included Wicklow couple Gerry and Gaye Edwards, who have personal experience of fatal foetal anomaly, and the campaign’s three co-Directors, Orla O’Connor, Ailbhe Smyth and Grainne Griffin.

The launch was also attended by a range of cross-sectoral civil society groups including the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Women’s Aid, Irish Family Planning Association, the Union of Students in Ireland, the Well Woman Centre and One Family. It also attracted cross-party political support.

Delivering the keynote address, Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness spoke about the impact of the constitutional amendment on the lives of women in Ireland and the doctors who care for them. She said: “I opposed the amendment in 1983 and I am a determined supporter of the Yes campaign this time round.”

Photo: Barry Cronin

The three Co-Directors of Together For Yes looked ahead to the future of the movement.

Orla O’Connor said: “We are a movement which has support in every community, town and village in Ireland. We represent those people who believe that Ireland is a compassionate and contemporary country and that our laws should support, respect and protect women in their time of greatest need.”

Ailbhe Smyth said: “We know that people want to put an end to the suffering and distress, to the lonely journeys women have to make across the sea to England, an end to the bleakness of taking abortion pills on their own, in secret, because they can’t get the care they need here in Ireland. Our campaign believes that Irish women deserve care and compassion. We will only achieve this through change – by voting YES to remove the Eighth Amendment.”

Gráinne Griffin of the Abortion Rights Campaign added: “Ireland is ready to talk, and our people are ready to listen. We already have hundreds of volunteers ready to canvass and engage with people all around Ireland, and we look forward to welcoming many more in the coming weeks. We need everyone to talk to your neighbours, family and friends and explain to them why you will be voting YES and what it will mean to you.”

Actor Tara Flynn at the Together for Yes launch. Photo:Barry Cronin

Meanwhile in Dail Eireann this week, TDs voted by 97 to 25 to allow the referendum on the Eighth to proceed. The Bill will now be debated in the Seanad. 

Minister Simon Harris said Ireland is still on track for a referendum at the end of May 2018.