A super canvass for Repeal in Swords


On Sunday I was fortunate enough to have the time to spend canvassing Swords for a Yes in the upcoming referendum on the 8th amendment with great gang of volunteers. This was a weekend when Together For Yes was organising big canvasses in towns that we knew had to be covered. Naas, Swords and Navan along with other towns were all being canvassed this weekend.

The mood was very positive as I pulled into the rendezvous point, the car park of the original supermarket of the town, and there was already significant numbers there beside the bus that had brought volunteers from the city centre. I initially estimated that there was over a hundred there, but I now know from the photo that there was over 80. Unlike the anti side, we take our numbers seriously, and have no need to lie.

The mood was upbeat, we all knew there was work to be done. There were people I’d met on previous canvasses, there were old friends who’ve been working on this issue for decades. We were also greatly encouraged by the poor showing of the anti-choice side the previous day, when they mobilised about 2,000 people at a rally in Dublin. As one person said to me, sure we have 50% of that figure signed up as Doctors for Choice. Collective action like this brings with it a huge sense of empowerment, and confidence, all moving as a team towards the one goal.

We were divided up into teams, and two coordinators brought us out to seats that we had to canvass. Before we even left the car park there was sandwiches and crisps provided to us, so I stocked up. There was a few people who were inexperienced and they were encouraged to partner up with one who had experience of canvassing. The sun was blazing down and you could not ask for a better day. There was the usual thing of people not being in, even though this was a Sunday. But as one local lad explained to me, there are a lot of people who work at the airport.

On the doors the reception was overwhelmingly positive. Again, people might stop you before you even had the long winded introduction over with, and they would smile and say, it’s alright, you have a yes here. People were positive and thanking us for canvassing their area. People would ask us how it was was going, and what was the reception like on the other doors. It appear to me that something has changed over the last couple of weeks. It could be to do with the Cervical smear scandal, but there appeared to be an acceptance that this is a woman’s health issue, and we needed to get the 8th repealed as a massive step in the right direction for women’s health.

We had a chat with one young father who was undecided, and was concerned because he said he did not trust politicians. I explained to him that at the moment, he was trusting the politicians of Westminster to provide the necessary care to Irish women, and that we needed to provide that care here and we needed the ability for Irish women to have abortions without being forced to Travel. I convinced him to take a leaflet, and then his partner arrived home, with a young child, but refused to talk to us.

There were some older people who said they’d made up their mind, and did not want to talk about it. Generally, I’ve found that even those who disagree with repeal, seldom will actively engage in terms of a conversation. But even those interactions were respectful. Other people said they’d made up their mind and did not want to discuss the issue, but took a leaflet. This canvass revealed far more yes voters, than any other canvass that I have been on.

In houses people were telling me that they had already done the work of convincing all the eligible voters, so we were being told of six votes for yes. There was plenty of older people, both women and men, who appeared to have been convinced by their children, or grandchildren. As we kept at the work, taking only about half an hour for lunch on some green surrounded by hundreds of houses, we talked to each other, and confided as to how we’d ended up here, canvassing for yes. And it is in those conversations that your faith is restored. In our ability to overcome the many problems we face, you begin to realise that solutions lie within the grasp of people coming together on issues like this. People want us to live in a better society and that starts by making it a better society for women by repealing the 8th.

The last door that we called into was a family, where the man and wife chatted with us, and informed us that their daughters had totally convinced them already. They, like so many others wanted to know how the campaign was going, and could not wait for the chance to vote Yes on the 25th.