Most analysis of the repeal referendum has commented on the polarisation that has marked the campaign, the yes sides’ message of trusting women and facing the reality of abortion in Ireland has been meet by the dishonesty of a vote no campaign who have dileberatly attempted to mislead people in favour of ignoring the 10 Irish women who are forced to travel to England everyday.
A lot of the coverage of the referendum has pointed to a potential urban rural divide. Focusing on this does a diservice to various local groups campaigning for a yes vote in rural Ireland. While many rural constituencies tend to be more conservative, as we saw durng the marriage equality referendum with the largest no vote coming from rural constiuencies in the west of Ireland, this is more a reflection of the demographic differances between rural and urban Ireland and not an inate rural urban divide.
The youth migration caused by austerity and a lack of investment in rural communites which has forced thousands of young working class people to leave rural Ireland, has resulted in the socio economic group most supportive of repeal being the most likely to have left rural Ireland for economic reasons. Despite this the repeal campaign is well represented throughout rural Ireland with local together for yes groups ensuring that the no campaign is not left unopposed in a single constituency.
As it should be, the eight ammendment effects rural and urban women equally, rural women are just as often forced to travel to England and face the same restriction to healthcare as a result of the 8th ammendment. Those campaigning for a yes vote in rural Ireland are asking people to show compassion and understanding to their friends, neighbours and family members who find themselves needing access to abortion.
There have been dffernt groups who have ensured that the pro choice message has been heard in disticntly rural settings with groups such as Galway pro choice handing out wellies for choice badges at the ploughing champaionships and GAA fans for choice leafleting at GAA matches in an effort to counter the pro life campaigns targeting of GAA fans as part of their campaign. Alongside the activsts accross the country who have been canvassing for a yes vote these groups represent the progressive tradition of rural Ireland which despite often at risk of being over shadowed by the conservative alliance of the church and respectable classes has nevertheless shown that rural reland need not be dismissed as reactionary and as an obstacle to social change.
While polls do show a rural urban divide this is largely the result of the economic marginalisation of rural communities, and while the no campaign is hopping that areas such as Roscommon, Donegal, and Tipperary which had high no votes in the marriage equality referendum will likewise have a high no vote against repeal. The strong campagning of the multiple pro choice groups in rural constituents has ensured that the yes vote is polling at over 35% even in the most conservatives of constituencies.