Belfast Telegraph

Irish pro-choice campaigners on list of world’s most influential people

The former co-directors of Together for Yes have said they are ‘honoured’ to be included on the Time 100 list

The three former co-directors of Together For Yes (left to right) Ailbhe Smyth, Grainne Griffin and Orla O’Connor (Niall Carson/PA)
The three former co-directors of Together For Yes (left to right) Ailbhe Smyth, Grainne Griffin and Orla O’Connor (Niall Carson/PA)

Three Irish pro-choice campaigners in the abortion debate have been included in a list of the world’s most influential people.

The former co-directors of Together for Yes have said they are “honoured” to be included on the Time 100 list, Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Grainne Griffin, a founding member of the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), Orla O’Connor, director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and Ailbhe Smyth, convener of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, appear on the 2019 list in recognition of their work leading the Together for Yes campaign, leading up to Ireland’s historic referendum last year.

Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, Ailbhe Smyth said the accolade was evidence of the significant international “ripple” impact of the Together for Yes campaign.

“The referendum result here in Ireland was a real boost for the morale of pro-choice campaigners throughout the word and we hope it can be a beacon of light wherever and whenever abortion rights are denied, restricted or under severe threat,” she said.

“Where abortion is concerned, Ireland has moved from virtually total prohibition to a relatively pro-choice position – although, it must be acknowledged, that move took all of 35 hard, bleak years.

“Nonetheless, the referendum result marked a resounding defeat for misogyny and extreme right-wing forces.”

Grainne Griffin thanked the thousands of volunteer campaigners and organisations across Ireland, whose “dedication, hard work and commitment over months and, in some cases, years, ensured the success of Together for Yes.

“This was a movement that really demonstrated the extent to which organised individuals can shape and influence the world we live in. ”

Orla O’Connor said the award was an accumulation of 35 years of work.

“The Eighth Amendment was a cruel and restrictive law and, through the honesty and the lived experience of women and families who suffered, the Irish public listened,” she said.

“The Yes vote in Ireland had an immediate knock-on effect for women in Northern Ireland, who are currently denied the rights women have in Britain and now here in the South.

“Activists and campaigners in the North say they are seeing a groundswell of support, especially from young people, since the Repeal referendum.

“The NWCI, ARC and all of the many organisations that were involved in Together for Yes will continue to do whatever we can to support them in their struggle.”

The issue of the lack of abortion services for women across the world, particularly in Northern Ireland, was noted a number of times during the press conference.

Approximately 25 million unsafe abortions are carried out every year globally, a number that Ailbhe Smyth says is unacceptable.

The ARC works closely with Alliance for Choice, an abortion rights campaign group set up in Northern Ireland, which says that 28 Northern Irish women a week are currently travelling for terminations and face barriers to accessing care, most notably the three-day mandatory waiting period for an abortion.

Women from Northern Ireland must also pay 450 euro (£390)  to access abortion services in the Republic of Ireland, however if they travel to England, the service is free.

The National Women’s Council says that securing abortion rights for Northern Ireland is of the highest priority.

Orla O’Connor added: “We’ve formed a new abortion working group, and Alliance for Choice is part of that, the fight for reproductive rights is not over.”

The three women also said that their next goal will be forcing the Government to enforce exclusion zones outside healthcare centres to protect women from protesters, a promise which was made by the minister for health last year, but is unlikely to be introduced in 2019.

They also wish to see the three-day mandatory waiting period to access termination services removed under the next review of the law.

Ireland voted by 66.4% to 33.6% to remove the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution, which outlawed abortion, in May 2018 after a 35-year campaign, with more than two million votes cast.

Other people on Time’s 2019 list include Michelle Obama, Christine Blasey Ford, Nancy Pelosi and Taylor Swift.

PA

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