On September 29th 2018 I took part in Ireland’s annual “March for Choice” to pressure the government for “free, safe, legal” abortion following the pro-choice vote in May’s referendum. You could feel the demo coming for miles on the train: people got on displaying rows of badges in fantastic costumes and holding placards. The march was cheerful, confident and determined.
A conservative cliché has it that ‘Irish people don’t protest,’ and that they are afraid of standing out or saying something controversial. Yet from the start of the referendum campaign people with no previous experience of activism wore “Repeal” jumpers in the streets, told their often horrendous stories in public, and knocked on strangers’ doors, usually meeting a positive response (66.4% of voters voted ‘yes’).
As this shows, it doesn’t take so much for social expectations and personal behaviour to change, for a country to become a “movement society” where activism is a normal everyday thing rather than strange or alien – and where its results can transform not just laws but lives.