Lawyers for Choice put forward the legal case for Repeal

Pro-choice legal students, scholars and practitioners braved the icy weather to attend the first Lawyers for Choice open meeting of the year at Trinity College Dublin yesterday evening.

Attendees discussed their plans to convince voters of the legal arguments for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and ideas on how best to mount a nationwide public legal education campaign, hearing from four prominent figures within the Repeal campaign.

Dr Ruth Fletcher, an expert in medical law based at Queen Mary University in London, advanced that Lawyers for Choice must bring legal arguments to the public in an unabstract, tangible way.

Gearóidín McEvoy, a PhD student at DCU School of Law, stressed the importance of informing the public of the legal significance of the wording of a successful 36th amendment and any legislation meant to replace the existing provisions in the event of a Yes vote in May.

She told Irish Legal News: “It’s about getting accurate, evidence-based, quality information out there for people to make an informed decision.“

As a Gaeilgeoir and contributor to Motherfoclóir, Ms McEvoy said she is particularly interested to see what the Gaeilge text of a successful amendment might look like. This may be of significant legal importance, as in the event of an ambiguity between the Gaeilge and English wording of the Constitution, the Gaeilge definition is supreme.

Gearóidín McEvoy, Sinéad Williams, Sinéad Gleeson and Dr Ruth Fletcher
Pictured (l-r): Gearóidín McEvoy, Sinéad Williams, Sinéad Gleeson and Dr Ruth Fletcher

Sinéad Williams and Sinéad Gleeson, trainee solicitors in Dublin and familiar faces of the Repeal campaign, spoke of the need to anticipate the arguments likely to be put forward by the pro-life campaign and meet them with a well-prepared, fact-based case for repeal.

They addressed a range of issues, from the ‘chilling effect’ the criminalisation of abortion has on women and girls throughout Ireland, to the legality of graphic images used by some pro-life campaigners.

Catherine Forde, barrister and veteran of the 1983 campaign against the Eighth Amendment, addressed the meeting on the importance of ensuring the health of the campaign outside of Dublin. To this end, Ms Forde suggested that volunteers with legal expertise might engage in legal surgeries and education campaigns throughout the country.

The meeting was briefly disrupted by a pro-life campaigner. He spoke for about a minute uninterrupted. The response from the room was polite and cordial; he saw himself out after saying his piece.

Kevin Burns, Irish Legal News