THIS week the public representatives of Limerick city and county had the opportunity to call on the government to hold a referendum on whether or not to repeal the eighth amendment of the Constitution.
This amendment, which was passed in 1983, introduced a constitutional ban on abortion.
Councillors were not asked to vote on whether or not they were in favour of abortion, but merely to ask the government to put the matter before the people of Ireland and let the electorate decide for themselves.
This seems to have been lost on many of our public representatives, as the motion was voted down by 23 to 12.
Regardless of their personal views on abortion, which they’re perfectly entitled to hold, the members of Limerick City and County Council showed a lack of understanding of the basic principles of democracy by failing to lobby for a referendum that many of their constituents would like the chance to vote on.
Indeed, just three months ago, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommended that Ireland hold another referendum on abortion.
The last referendum was held 13 years ago in 2002, before many of the women of childbearing age in Ireland today were eligible to vote.
They are the ones who will be affected by Ireland’s abortion laws, whether it is an 18-year-old student experiencing a crisis pregnancy, or a 30-year-old married woman facing a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality during a much-wanted and longed for pregnancy.
Neither of them have had the chance to cast their vote on the matter yet.
Nonetheless, one by one, 23 of the largely male and middle-aged members of Limerick City and County Council voted against asking the government to let these women have their say.
One by one, the councillors spoke at length about their views on abortion, missing the point entirely, and missing the opportunity to give the people they represent the chance to express their own opinions through the ballot box.