Updated: 30/01/18 : 06:20:06
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Back when I voted in the Bishop’s backyard

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

BISHOP DORAN’S hometown of Dun Laoire was where I lived and voted on the Eighth Amendment.

Votes were cast just yards from the main local Catholic chapel, St Michaels; the Bishop’s backyard you might say.

No Neutrals

It was late 1983 but the country had been bullin’ for the ballot “on abortion” for three years at that stage.

The country, all of it, everyone, no neutrals. Some of it was hand to hand combat, real physical hits went in. 

I got a belt, not of a crozier, but a dig pinned up against a wall in Dublin’s Liberty Hall. 

The venue could hardly have been less appropriately named for the times that were in the Eighties era, a referendum which deeply divided people.

Million Miles

In 1983, Leo Varadkar had finished his potty training and was probably waiting to shine in infant school.

In the adult world, there were 100% prigs to be had on BOTH sides of that Eighties era debate and vote on the Eighth Amendment. 

Though the incident described happened in Dublin, some of the ‘diggers’ possibly knew I was writing a particular narrative every week in Longford.

That was was 100 miles away, before the age of mobiles, Facebook, Snapchats, tweets, internet, emails or even faxes. 

When the votes were counted the distance was closer to a million miles away.

That is, the outcome was a million miles from my viewpoint at that time; most of Dublin and Ireland was no different than the midlands. Clearcut in a muddy way.

Our second civil (civil?) war ended much like the first one did, ‘the blueshirts’ stayed in power but the Catholic Church stayed in control. 

Important Role

So it has stayed for 35 years.....and none of the citizenry, not even the paid opinion pollsters, can predict the 2018 outcome with 100% certainty, just yet.

Those who recall the excellent book written by my ex Sunday Tribune colleague Emily O’Reilly will know the important role Dun Laoire played in framing that Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

But there might never have been such an amendment had it not been for the passing concerns expressed at an annual conference in Longford in 1980.

The Irish Medical Union (IMU), representing chemists etc, was concerned at the (growing) number of journalists and their union in pushing, forcing some IMU felt, abortion onto the national agenda.

Both Arguments

Times change. Just as Leo Varadkar’s views have changed, my own have greatly changed, too. 

In 2018 I belong with the ‘undecideds,’ likely to vote against the proposed Government package.

But still open to persuasion; determined (a) to hear and (b) be let hear both arguments. 

Unmistakably, Leo Varadkar wins Round One because he called the colour correctly in his launch yesterday, Monday.

He sees ‘grey’ in this complex debate whereas fundamentalists on BOTH sides are likely to say ‘black and white’ are the (only) options. 

A big political test down the road will be how effectively Varadkar and his Cabinet colleagues can meaningfully bind the (inevitable) ‘wounds’ in the campaign to come.

A narrative thread which may yet emerge from this campaign — on both sides — is of (potential) supporters ‘turned off’ by the nature, content, drift, of their side’s campaign.

Already, the signs are not encouraging but I’d be happy to be wrong over the next Hundred Days War.