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How to run a referendum

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 30th, 2018 at 08:50:15 AM EST

If only Brexit had been run like Ireland's referendum

In all the excitement of what happened in Ireland's referendum on abortion, we should not lose sight of what did not happen. A vote on an emotive subject was not subverted. The tactics that have been so successful for the right and the far right in the UK, the US, Hungary and elsewhere did not work. A democracy navigated its way through some very rough terrain and came home not just alive but more alive than it was before. In the world we inhabit, these things are worth celebrating but also worth learning from. Political circumstances are never quite the same twice, but some of what happened and did not happen in Ireland surely contains more general lessons.

If the right failed spectacularly in Ireland, it was not for want of trying. Save the 8th, one of the two main groups campaigning against the removal of the anti-abortion clause from the Irish constitution, hired Vote Leave's technical director, the Cambridge Analytica alumnus Thomas Borwick.

Save the 8th and the other anti-repeal campaign, Love Both, used apps developed by a US-based company, Political Social Media (PSM), which worked on both the Brexit and Trump campaigns. The small print told those using the apps that their data could be shared with other PSM clients, including the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and Vote Leave.

Irish voters were subjected to the same polarising tactics that have worked so well elsewhere: shamelessly fake "facts" (the claim, for example, that abortion was to be legalised up to six months into pregnancy); the contemptuous dismissal of expertise (the leading obstetrician Peter Boylan was told in a TV debate to "go back to school"); deliberately shocking visual imagery (posters of aborted foetuses outside maternity hospitals); and a discourse of liberal elites versus the real people. But Irish democracy had an immune system that proved highly effective in resisting this virus. Its success suggests a democratic playbook with at least four good rules.


Fintan O'Toole then goes on to outline what he sees as the four good rules for running a democratic referendum campaign. He is worth reading in full, but to summarise:

  1. Trust the People
  2. Be Honest
  3. Talk to everybody and make assumptions about nobody (avoid tribalism)
  4. The political has to be personalised.

The greatest human immune system against the viruses of hysteria, hatred and lies is storytelling. People were most influenced by the personal testimonies of women who had gone through the trauma of having to travel to the UK for an abortion. The political has to be personalised.

As time has gone on I have heard more and more stories about how yes canvassers were abused by their opponents. Of the hatred and vitriol direct at them in highly personalised terms. One bishops is saying that Catholics who voted Yes should consider going to confession as doing so could be a sin. The media are still full of it. I have responded to one article entitled  Anti-abortion movement has not given up and will not disappear by Breda O'Brien (a leading No campaigner and patron of the Iona Institute) as follows:

Breda - I have news for you... this is only the beginning. The next step is to wrest control of our taxpayer funded schools and hospitals from the Catholic Church and your ilk so that women can have proper healthcare and children can have a proper education. None of your magical thinking and pious sanctimonious moral superiority. You've called two thirds of the nation baby killers. They will not forgive you lightly. Calling Varadker patronising takes the biscuit. You have been condescending to us for your adult lifetime. Perhaps you should move to Northern Ireland while there is still a home for bigots there. You have nothing to offer a compassionate, caring, progressive society except more bile and bitterness.

In the meantime the government are moving with all haste to have the legislation required to give effect to the people's decision passed as soon as possible - with parliament sitting through the summer if necessary. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, the leader of the opposition, is trying to prevent his backbenchers, the majority of whom supported the NO side, from blocking the legislation. Some of the urgency is generated by the need to get the process as far as advanced as possible ahead of the Pope's visit to Ireland for the "World Meeting of Families" in August. But there is also a realisation that it may well be some time in 2019 before abortion services are actually available in Ireland:

Referendum aftershocks rumble on

The legislation must be carefully drawn up. The medical bodies have to formulate clinical guidelines to govern medical practice in the abortion areas. The drugs in the abortion pills have to be approved by regulatory authorities. The HSE has to figure out how it will organise and pay for the service. The agreement of doctors to provide the service has to be secured.

It will be, the Taoiseach explained, January next year at the earliest before the service is in place. And that's probably being optimistic.

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One bishops is saying that Catholics who voted Yes should consider going to confession as doing so could be a sin.

Aren't Catholics always supposed to go to confession, as they (and the rest of us) always sin? What's so special about a referendum?

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed May 30th, 2018 at 09:06:15 AM EST
You're asking the wrong person... however it may have something to do with defying their bishops and perhaps not being a regular mass goer in the first place...  although it seems a strange strategy for encouraging the "lost sheep" to return, an apparently some of his brother bishops were not best pleased with his media appearance...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed May 30th, 2018 at 09:40:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As a personal aside - the leading obstetrician and YES campaigner Peter Boylan mentioned above delivered our three children. On seeing my wife for the first time with her third pregnancy he exclaimed "oh no, not you again!". Her assertive questioning and our insistence of natural childbirth at a time when such facilities were not on offer had caused him more than a little inconvenience the first two times around... He ended up doing a good job however!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed May 30th, 2018 at 09:37:44 AM EST
love your response to Breda O'Brien.

Sadly, she'll probably just ignore and block you

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 30th, 2018 at 06:31:33 PM EST
She'll have to block an awful lot of people. Her articles regularly draw hundreds of mostly hostile comments.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed May 30th, 2018 at 06:35:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
She homeschooled her kids.  I don't even want to know how they turned out.
by rifek on Thu May 31st, 2018 at 09:00:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of trusting the people is formulating what to do if they vote "wrong" and not call a referendum just to confirm what you were already planning or just to bury a question by getting the people to vote it down.
by fjallstrom on Wed May 30th, 2018 at 10:09:07 PM EST
Bishop condemns `jumping and roaring' over poll result
The Catholic Bishop of Waterford has questioned the ability of Irish people to think critically, accusing some Yes voters in last week's abortion referendum of "culpable ignorance".

Expressing horror at scenes of celebration in Dublin Castle last Saturday, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan said the vote meant euthanasia was now accepted in Ireland.

He agreed with Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran that Catholic Yes voters needed to attend confession, and he criticised the national media for lack of balance during the referendum campaign.

---<snip>---

On his recent refusal to allow Minister of State John Halligan be a witness at the TD's godson's confirmation, Bishop Cullinan said "John excluded himself from the confirmation. Someone who does not believe in God and has made it public, crystal clear in radio, television and print media, how could he stand there and want to be part of a church ceremony?



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jun 1st, 2018 at 07:55:14 PM EST
o, dear. What would Frank say (not you, the other one)? I understand, he's been in a bit of a bother with arch-conservatives in the college. Perhaps he'll demur. That would be sufficient, no, to undermine insurgents and salve the ambivalent. As Arendt says, What is not punished is permitted.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Jun 1st, 2018 at 09:10:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jun 1st, 2018 at 09:43:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading Cat sometimes makes you sympathize with the ancient Greeks trying to decipher the Oracle in Delphi :)

In that case, I think she's referring to this Frank:

`Heretic' in the Vatican

"They call me a heretic."

Not the words you'd expect to hear from the head of the Roman Catholic Church. But that's what Pope Francis told a group of fellow Jesuits in Chile earlier this year, acknowledging the fierce pushback from arch-conservatives in the Vatican.

Celebrated by progressives around the world for his push to update and liberalize aspects of church doctrine, Francis is facing fierce blowback from traditionalists who take issue with his openness to Muslim migrants, his concern for the environment and his softer tone on divorce, cohabitation and homosexuality. Opposition has become so heated that some advisers are warning him to tread carefully to avoid a "schism" in the church.


by Bernard on Sat Jun 2nd, 2018 at 08:42:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What a relief! I was always a Frank, never a Francis (and I would never have dreamed of referring to both of us in the same sentence)... but Cat, as you say, can see connections where us mere mortals can see none!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 2nd, 2018 at 08:52:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We should refer to you as "Frank non papa"

This is a reference to the composer Clemens non papa

There are several theories regarding the origin of the epithet "non Papa". One holds that it was jokingly added by his publisher, Susato, to distinguish him from Pope Clement VII--"Jacob Clemens--but not the Pope." Another states that it is to distinguish him from Jacobus Papa, a poet also from Ypres. However, considering that Pope Clement VII died in 1534, before any of Clemens's music was published, and that the confusion with the poet is unlikely in that the surnames were quite distinct, it is likely that the nickname was merely created in jest rather than for practical reasons. Nonetheless, the suffix has remained throughout the ages
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Jun 2nd, 2018 at 09:04:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But I am a papa - I have 3 kids
And a Grand Papa - I have 2 grand kids
And some say I do pontificate betimes.
But I have never issued Papal Bull

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 2nd, 2018 at 11:57:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That makes you a papà, not a papa. So you're papà Frank, but Frank non papa. And the pope is Papa Frank, but Frank non papà (as far as we know).
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Jun 3rd, 2018 at 12:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
:P

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat Jun 2nd, 2018 at 09:34:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
:P

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat Jun 2nd, 2018 at 09:34:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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