One notable feature of the recent referendum on removing Article Eight of Bunreacht na hÉireann was the adoption of American-style campaigning by those organisations opposed to the introduction of public and private abortion services in Ireland. A wide range of electoral tactics employed by “pro-life” activists in the United States was on display throughout the plebiscite debate, often gaining adverse comment. If press reports are correct, these tactics came with the advice and labour of a small but significant coterie of veteran anti-choice campaigners who arrived in the country from the US, Britain and further afield.
Having lost the public debate, one would imagine that the groups making up the No side would at least take a step back, and observe a moment of contemplation at the sheer scale of their defeat at the polls, before turning to the proposed shape of legislation due to pass through the Oireachtas later this year.
Yet, far from acting with a modicum of humility, some notable voices in the anti-choice campaign have seized upon a bizarre, Trump-like conspiracy theory focusing on the supposed existence of widespread electoral fraud during the referendum vote. This, of course, is complete nonsense. Ireland maintains one of the most respected – and arguably democratic – polling systems in the world, where voting irregularities are negligible. However, such accusations are frequently made by pro-life campaigners in the United States when anti-abortion candidates or propositions are rejected at the polls. It is worrying to see such “culture war” values being promulgated in this nation, even if just among a minority of a minority.