Ahead of the referendum, bands including Shrug Life, Sissy and Mongoose are making searing attacks on their country’s attitude to reproductive rights
‘Apart from the music, tonight is all about awareness,” says a young woman on stage at the Loft, a 200-capacity venue in the heart of Galway city. At charity gig Jamnesty, the room brims with a diverse mass of undergraduates whose informed optimism typifies the spirit that has seen Irish youth become torchbearers for change. Organised by the Amnesty Society of the National University of Ireland, tonight is about raising proceeds for Amnesty International’s It’s Time. Repeal the 8th Campaign, one of many high-profile drives opposing the Eighth Amendment, the divisive constitutional edict that bans abortion.
With more than 154,000 Irish women travelling overseas to obtain an abortion since 1980, the Eighth Amendment – which equates the right to life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus, effectively criminalising abortion – goes against international human rights norms. But major changes have paved the way for the 25 May referendum. When the same-sex marriage bill passed in 2015, thanks to an enthused Yes campaign, it revealed how far modern Ireland had come. The result marked a break with a past in which church and state were essentially indivisible, and proved that power lay with the people. The Repeal campaign has channelled the momentum behind a similarly charged issue – and it’s a fight to which Ireland’s musicians have given voice.