James Joyce described ‘yes’ as the female word. The famous Irish writer bookended Molly Bloom’s soliloquy with it and ended his most famous publication, Ulysses, with this phrase: “and yes I said yes I will yes”. I’m urging those in Ireland who can, to vote ‘yes’ for female rights.
I’ve been out of Ireland for over twenty years and am no longer eligible to vote in referenda or general elections there. Tomorrow sees Ireland go to the polls to vote on whether or not women should have access to legal abortion in Ireland. As it stands, those who decide to terminate an unwanted pregnancy have to make a very lonely and scary and potentially dangerous journey abroad. Ireland needs to stop exporting its problems and to grow up and provide women with the rights enjoyed by pretty much every other western nation.
Here in the UK, where I live, whenever discussing this situation, my English friends will usually draw on the refrain, “yes, but I suppose you’re such a Catholic nation”. I find this understanding of Ireland wearisome, glib and uninformed (and to be fair to the English, some Irish liberals draw on similar reasonings). We are a nation which, I’m proud to say, delivered a resounding ‘Yes’ (62%) in a popular vote to legalise gay marriage in 2015. This is not the result a staunchly Catholic nation would provide. It is however, a result you might find unsurprising in a particularly patriarchal culture. Ireland is far more patriarchal than it is Catholic (the Catholic Church pretty much lost its influence in Ireland in the 1980s/1990s). Whilst in its heyday, Catholicism certainly bolstered the native patriarchal culture, it is important to not to conflate the two. It is patriarchy that remains prevalent and far reaching in Ireland. One needs to know what one is fighting.
The polls tell us this is too tight to call, if ‘yes’ succeeds, it’ll be by a hair’s breadth. I’m dreading a ‘Trump’ or ‘Brexit’ result here. If you care about the rights of women and can vote in this referendum, please do.