In hos­tile ter­ri­to­ries

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - ‘THERE ARE SO MANY UN­DE­CIDED PEO­PLE’

It is a beau­ti­fully sunny Tues­day evening and Dalkey is look­ing es­pe­cially re­splen­dent. Shops are clos­ing on Cas­tle Street — the pros­per­ous coastal town’s main drag — and crowds are gath­er­ing out­side The Queen’s Bar and Restau­rant to en­joy an al fresco drink. Just be­fore 6.30, a row of cars drive into the church car park and soon a group of 15 gath­ers. There are eight women and seven men and while there is a healthy pro­por­tion of se­nior cit­i­zens, some are in their 30s too. Red bibs bear­ing the logo of Save the 8th are put on and the group — un­der the lead­er­ship of lo­cal woman Mairead Hughes, founder of Cher­ish All the Chil­dren Equally, talk about which parts of the town they will can­vass tonight. Armed with a stack of fly­ers each, they leave the car park and head for the pretty res­i­den­tial streets im­me­di­ately be­hind The Queen’s.

They are strate­gic about how many houses they can visit in 90 min­utes — the feel­ing is that 8pm is about as late as they can knock on doors. Paul Twomey, who is out with his wife El­iz­a­beth, has stud­ied the maps care­fully and is­sues friendly or­ders.

The cam­paign­ers go to each house in pairs — usu­ally a man and woman — and there’s no an­swer in about half. But when the door is opened, and the oc­cu­pier sees the can­vassers, there’s po­lite­ness, ir­re­spec­tive of whether they in­tend to vote yes or no.

Done­gal na­tive Claire Duffy says she en­joys the ex­pe­ri­ence of can­vass­ing and ad­vo­cat­ing a no vote. Like her col­leagues, she does not try to con­vince those who say they will vote yes, but thanks them for their time and wishes them well.

Few peo­ple are un­de­cided, but it seems as though at least half of those who open their doors say they will vote against the right to have an abor­tion. Most of them are older peo­ple. Duffy urges them to en­cour­age sim­i­lar-minded friends to get out to vote and asks them if they would like to take a car sticker pro­mot­ing a pro-life mes­sage. Most ac­cept one.

Dalkey is in the heart of what’s long been re­garded as the coun­try’s most lib­eral con­stituency, Dún Laoghaire. In 1983, 58pc of vot­ers here re­jected the amend­ment to the con­sti­tu­tion that gave equal rights to the un­born child and the mother. It was one of just four con­stituen­cies in the coun­try that re­jected the amend­ment — all were in Dublin and Dún Laoghaire was by far the high­est.

The same sex mar­riage ref­er­en­dum of 2015 saw al­most 72pc of vot­ers in the con­stituency give a yes vote — sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the 62pc na­tional av­er­age. But it wasn’t the most lib­eral con­stituency — other Dublin ar­eas with a younger age pro­file voted yes in higher pro­por­tions.

“I don’t like the word ‘lib­eral’,” says Bernard Roche, an 80-year-old vol­un­teer who has been can­vass­ing in the Dún Laoghaire con­stituency for months. “What it is is per­mis­sive.”

The sunny weather has lifted the spir­its of ev­ery­one. “It’s lovely tonight,” he says, “but I’ve been out in all weather. I think it’s im­por­tant to get our point across be­cause there are so many un­de­cided peo­ple out there.”

The lat­est opin­ion poll, pub­lished in the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent last week­end, showed that 18pc of re­spon­dents are un­de­cided and the pro­por­tion say­ing they will vote yes has de­clined sharply, and now stands at 45pc.

Like many in the group, Roche says he en­coun­ters peo­ple every day who are con­cerned about what’s be­ing pro­posed. “It’s not just re­peal­ing the amend­ment,” he says, “it’s al­low­ing abor­tion

Save the Eighth: El­iz­a­beth Twomey with cam­paign­ers for the No vote in the up­com­ing ref­er­en­dum on the 8th Amend­ment, can­vass­ing in Dalkey.

Therese Kelly used to be pro-choice, but is now can­vass­ing for a No vote.

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