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Building a people's campaign to #Repealthe8th - Together for Yes and Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland at ECF Europe 2018


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(c) Linda Kavanagh and Peter Tanham, Together for Yes and Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland

On 25 May 2018 Ireland voted by a 66% majority to repeal the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, following a hard-fought campaign. Repeal of the 8th, which enshrined the equal right to life of the unborn in the Irish constitution, opens the doors to new legislation to allow Irish women access to free safe and legal abortion without having to leave Ireland. At present, as many as nine women a day travel to the UK to access abortion services, with more risking prosecution by ordering abortion pills off the internet.

A combination of investigation and exposure, and a resilient political culture, seem to have minimised the effectiveness of 'dark ads' and shadier tactics, but the campaign was tough and divisive.

Linda and Peter will talk through how pro-choice campaigners have played a long game, building a broad coalition of support over years, and gaining the credibility to speak with authority and authenticity on behalf of women and medical professionals directly affected by the 8th amendment. They'll explain how digital tools were used to empower people to speak up and connect directly with their communities, and the role of digital in message development, learning testing and refining, to help deliver constitution-changing victory through a genuine people's campaign.

About the presenters
Linda Kavanagh (@Bubblenoma) is former co-convenor of the Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland (, one of the three organisations which led the civil society Together for Yes coalition to campaign for the repeal of the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution. A graphic designer by trade, as spokesperson and comms lead for ARC, Linda helped popularise the 'Free, Safe and Legal' slogan, led ARC's social media and formed part of the group behind the strategy and day-to-day tactics of the Together for Yes campaign, as well as representing the Abortion Rights Campaign in the media.

Peter Tanham (@PeterTanham) joined the Together for Yes campaign as its head of digital three months out from the referendum date, bringing his deep knowledge of online strategy and digital advertising to bear on the campaign. CEO and co-Founder of digital advertising company SparkPage, and voluntary tech lead for the Social Democrats, Peter is also a founder member of the Transparent Referendum Initiative (, a volunteer group working to increase the transparency of paid online advertising.

Presented at ECF Europe 2018. Join the Campaigning Forum and find out more about its upcoming events here:

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Building a people's campaign to #Repealthe8th - Together for Yes and Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland at ECF Europe 2018

  1. 1. • Since 1983 Ireland had a near total ban on abortion • In summer 2012 Youth Defence posters appeared • Sept 28th 1st March for Choice Background to the movement
  2. 2. • Marriage Equality • Gender recognition Bill Civic minded and engaged young people
  3. 3. • Playing the long game • Gaining the credibility to speak for the women and pregnant people of Ireland
  4. 4. 48 49 hashtag #NotAVessel. We shared the incoming photos in Ireland.
  5. 5. Yes No Concerned Centre • Need • Healthcare • Regulated • Personal decision • When required • When medically necessary • Never easy • Doctor’s care Leaning Yes Leaning No
  6. 6. Phase 1: Inform, Engage (Launch - end April) (68 days out)
  7. 7. Together for Yes Social Media Strategy
  8. 8. Journey Takers
  9. 9. Build-up to Crowdfund
  10. 10. Canvassing Tool
  11. 11. How to vote Yes on Friday, 25th May Know where your polling station is. 1 Aim to vote early in the day. 2 Bring some ID. Do not display any campaign slogans. 4 Place an ‘X in the top ‘TÁ/YES square. 6 3 Your polling station is organised by street. 5 Your polling card will tell you where this is. If you have not received a polling card call you local authority and ask them which polling station to go to. Preferably photo ID such as driving licence or Age Card. You do not need your polling card to vote. Find your table and they will ask for your name and address and give you your ballot paper. Take your ballot paper into the voting booth. Many employers will expect people to vote before coming into work on Friday. Polling stations are open from 7am. Cover campaign t-shirts and remove badges before entering the polling station. Take your ballot paper back out and place it into the ballot box. You’ve Voted!
  12. 12. Phase 2: Persuade, Motivate (Early – mid May) (25 days out)
  13. 13. In Her Shoes • Totally organic • Allowed people to share • Bucked trends
  14. 14. Yes NoLeaning Yes Leaning No Instagram Stories Personal Stories One Step Removed Doctors
  15. 15. Google and Facebook ads
  16. 16. Phase 3. Closing argument and Get Out the Vote
  17. 17. Yes vote is highest among younger voters: • 87.6% among 18-24; • 84.6% amongst 25-34; • 72.8% among 35-49; • 63.7% among 50-64 • only age cohort to vote No were • those aged 65 and over, where 41.3% voted Yes and 58.7% voted No 72.1% Women Yes Vote 66.4% 65.9% Men
  18. 18. 2% 22% 76% View on Abortion – Past 5 Years Did not change mind Changed mind Don’t know
  19. 19. Thank You!