Belfast Telegraph

Mixed emotions as Donegal comes to terms with abortion referendum vote

By Donna Deeney

Donegal alone prevented a clean sweep of counties in the Republic voting Yes to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Determined campaigners who visited every isolated inch of Ireland's most northern county combined with Donegal's conservative Catholicism to ensure that it would be the only one of the 26 counties to say No to reform of the abortion laws.

The turnout in Donegal was 57%, lower than the national rate of 64.5%.

And when the final tally was in, its result stood apart from the rest of the country - 52% said No and 48% voted Yes.

This was reflected on the streets of Buncrana yesterday where opinion was still divided.

Dr Ann McCloskey from Cherish All The Children Equally, an organisation inspired by the Irish Proclamation, thinks the No vote in Donegal came as a result of hard work from the Save the Eighth campaign.

She said: "A bunch of very determined volunteers led by Donegal Pro-Life canvassed every part of Donegal and worked tirelessly, getting the facts about what was at stake to people.

"All people were hearing in the media were the stories of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormalities, and were being told women were denied cancer treatment during pregnancy which is a total lie.

"We fought hard and informed people that this is about abortion on demand to 12 weeks."

Dr McCloskey continued: "The whole of the county was canvassed - in fact someone realised Fanad Head hadn't been covered so we went there on the day before the election.

"I do think there could also be an element of Donegal people not kowtowing to Dublin because they have a history of voting against the government in a referendum, because they have been so badly neglected by the Irish government for so long now."

Cathie Shiels from Together for Yes also thinks Donegal's No vote came as a result of a successful pro-life campaign. She said: "We had very much the same campaign as the people in Clare and Mayo.

"Obviously Donegal voted No but it was very tight.

"I think Donegal Pro-Life, a group that has been around for quite a while, are very efficient.

"This group had ads running in the nine local newspapers since January so we were up against a machine.

"Donegal has one of the highest Mass-going populations of any county in Ireland and I think that was a factor too.

"People had a lot of concerns and it was hard to address them. There were a lot of posters up and they were designed to play on people's emotion. I wish they hadn't won but they did a grand job and that was disappointing.

"Obviously the overall outcome was to repeal and that is the main thing."

People not directly involved in the campaign are now waiting to see the changes the referendum result will bring.

Joleen Brannigan voted No and was disappointed with the final outcome.

She said: "I voted No so obviously I was pleased that the majority of people in my county did the same. But at the end of the day the overall vote wasn't No so that was disappointing.

"What concerned me was the lies being told and people didn't know what it was they were voting on which was the problem.

"I spent a lot of time to find out exactly what was at stake, and I listened to both sides, but I think abortion for disabled children up to six months and abortion on demand for 12 weeks is not acceptable."

Eugene McDonnell voted Yes.

"This is for the young people, for a woman's chance to turn around and say 'give us what we want' rather than go overseas.

"The next step I think should be if there is a Yes vote for Northern Ireland too. I wasn't disappointed that Donegal voted No but I was disappointed this wasn't a 32-county vote," he said.

Christine O'Kane wasn't at home in Donegal to vote but she wasn't surprised by the outcome. She said: "I am not for abortion per se, but for those cases where people are in a crisis pregnancy or in cases of rape or incest it's not for me to dictate to those people what they should do.

"If we had left things the way they were, it doesn't allow for those hard cases, but if you ask me if I believe in free abortions, then I wouldn't say I do.

"I was surprised by the outcome, I didn't think it would be such a wide margin but at least with a Yes vote things change."

Seamus Campbell didn't vote because he didn't feel it was a man's issue. He explained: "I'm not the one who is going to be having babies so it isn't going to apply to me. I didn't vote but I think it was a good result."

Mary Doherty voted No but had a fair idea ahead of the final tally that most people would not have shared her views.

She said: "Too many people don't want to take their responsibilities seriously these days. They want the cake and eat it.

"Abortion will allow them to have fun and games and not take responsibility for their actions.

"I worry about the parents of disabled babies who will be put under extreme pressure to have an abortion because they cost the government more - they are no better than Hitler."

Patrick Crossan didn't vote but thought the overall outcome was the right one. He commented: "I wasn't surprised Donegal voted No but I can't explain the reasons for that - maybe it's because there are more older people here or maybe there are more practising Catholics here.

"But we are just one county so it won't make any difference to what happens after this."

Belfast Telegraph

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