Belfast Telegraph

Orange Order stands in No camp with GAA's Harte as stars say Yes

By Gillian Halliday

Northern Ireland's high-profile stars, politicians and institutions did not shy away from revealing what side of the debate they supported in the lead-up to yesterday's abortion referendum in the Republic.

The result of the historic vote to remove the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution will be known today, but in the months, weeks and days leading up to the decision, many public figures were vocal on whether they were in the #Savethe8th or the #Together4Yes camp.

Backing the former, one of the campaign's most vocal supporters has been Tyrone GAA manager, Mickey Harte, who helped launch the GAA Athletes for a No Vote campaign in the run-up to yesterday's vote.

That campaign was joined in the anti-abortion lobby by the Orange Order - perhaps not the most natural of bedfellows.

The Order voiced its opposition to abortion reform, calling on all of its "members, supporters and friends" to vote No, adding in an official statement: "All those voting on this sensitive issue reflect on what abortion is and read what God says about the sanctity of human life".

However, the Yes campaign had some significant backers as well, with Ballymena-born Hollywood actor Liam Neeson urging Irish men to vote Yes to repeal the Eighth. In a powerful article written for The Irish Independent, the action movie star said: "There are times when we must stand for what is right. When the obvious injustice of a situation demands that we do so. For me, the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment is one of those times. A time to stand up and be counted."

He was joined by fellow actor James Nesbitt and BBC Radio Ulster presenter Lynette Faye. They both used social media to urge voters to back abortion reform.

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey had been busy tweeting and retweeting messages in support of repealing the Eighth Amendment up until polling stations closed at 10pm, using Twitter to thank campaigners.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the DUP's Jim Wells threw his weight behind the pro-life movement by attending a 'Save the Eighth' rally in Dublin in March.

"I was proud to take part in it," he said at the time. "If I was in the Irish Republic I would be the first person in the queue to defend the Eighth Amendment.

"If it is lost it will have a profound impact on Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph

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