Volunteers from Limerick Together For Yes celebrate outside Limerick Racecourse Picture: Michael Cowhey
THIS REPORTER thought she might have been arriving too early to Limerick’s count centre last Saturday but it seemed she had been beaten by an army of volunteers, as a large crowd, mostly wearing ‘Repeal’ jumpers and t-shirts, poured into the Limerick Racecourse.
With two separate Exit Polls predicting that the eighth amendment would be repealed by a significant majority the night before, the crowd seemed to be in good form.
However, this reporter did not spot anyone representing those campaigning for a No vote.
As the ballot boxes were cracked open canvassers from Limerick Together For Yes were on hand for tallies, fervently jotting down their sums on clipboards.
As both the count for the city and county took place simultaneously on separate floors of the Racecourse, several LT4Y volunteers were tasked with transporting city tallies upstairs to where the figures were being complied by Thomas Bibby and his team.
Even as the day wore on, their energy didn’t let up and they could be spotted pounding up the staggered flight of stairs at the speed of light, clipboards in hand.
Individual tallies attracted great attention as they started to pour in; News of a ballot box from Ballybrown recording a 93% Yes Majority subsequently caused a firestorm on social media. However, this excitement was short lived as an executive decision to exclude the box was made, over concerns there might have been a discrepancy made by a first-time tallier.
One polling station in Cloncagh Library tallied exactly as 50% in favour of Yes and 50% in favour of No, while Effin in County Limerick recorded one polling station with a Yes majority and another with a No.
“So we’ve an Effin yes and an Effin no?” One reporter quips to the amusement of the assembled crowd. Excited shouts of “Adare is a Yes” or “We’ve a majority in Pallaskenry” filled the count centre occasionally, although the crowds start to disperse as the day wore on.
As the county tallies start flying in, this city reporter express her own astonishment at the high Yes majorities coming in from towns and villages.
“But this isn’t something that is just a city issue,” Limerick Together For Yes spokesperson Deirdre Flynn explains.“Every house in the country, it can affect.”
“It’s 1 in 20 women who are affected so what we would say is that it’s 1 in 10 doors. Last year 99 women gave Limerick addresses at UK clinics. Those are just the women who did give addresses,” she adds.
“We’d to be exceptionally respectful on the doors and compassionate because we just never knew who we were going to meet or what their story would be.”
“What hit us was that you couldn’t say what demographic would be Yes or No because it really depended on their experiences behind that door.”
Limerick Together For Yes also ran a very active campaign throughout the county, Ms Flynn adds. “It was one thing that people came to us and said. You know, can we do something in our own village, can we do something in our own town,” she explains.
“Niamh Dillon from Kilfinane was one of the people who headed up the County Limerick canvas. They went to marts, they had stalls at markets, they knocked on as many doors as possible, handed out leaflets as many places as possible,” Ms Flynn explained.
At one point a tally showing a box with a 76.6% Yes vote in Monaleen is brandished like a talisman and one LT4Y volunteer calculating tallies proclaimed: “Limerick, we bloody love you!”
Through all this, was Jan O’Sullivan looking on. “Its an emotional day,” she explains. Is she nervous? “Not nervous, excited,” she smiles. She believes the atmosphere is completely different to how it was in 1983.
“I think what’s different really is that people are thinking for themselves; they are not willing to be told how to think anymore.”
Final LT4Y tallies predict the referendum will carry in Limerick 66.4% in the city and by 58.25% in the county. They are correct almost to the decimal.
When the official announcement is made, the crowd cheers and hugs. Several shed tears.
In a speech immediately after the referendum results were announced nationally, LT4Y chairperson Yvie Murphy thanked those who came forward and shared their stories in the run up to the referendum.
“We stand on the shoulders of women and activists who have come before us and sacrificed so much. They spoke when nobody else would speak. They spoke when nobody would listen. But today we have spoken and Ireland has listened.
“We would like to thank the public for their support, compassionate and generosity,” she added. ”And our families, equally for their support, compassion and generosity. The work that has gone into this campaign has been monumental. Groups like just this one have been working around the clock all across the country to get us to today. But you did it. We did it.
“We were silenced but we will not be silenced any more. We will roar and we will be heard.”
Following the weekend, LT4Y spokesperson Deirdre Flynn called for legislation to be passed quickly through the Dáil.
“What happened on Saturday was heartwarming. It was such a lovely moment to see the comprehensive response to the questions that were put before us.”
“We hope now that that the legislation is moved quickly through the Dáil and through all the process. People have spoken and they have spoken clearly that they want change and that they want it to happen immediately,” she added.