Ireland: The historic campaign which legalised abortion


Ireland: The historic campaign which legalised abortion

How reframing a narrative can change opinions

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About this session

Hear, first-hand from Ailbhe, about the Together for Yes campaign which galvanised huge numbers of people to give, canvass, campaign and vote for historic change in Ireland. Specifically how some people were influenced to change their vote.

On 25th May 2018, Ireland voted by an overwhelming majority to overturn its constitutional ban on abortion.. This session will tell the story of how the campaign radically re-framed the narrative of abortion so as to encourage a change in perspective of the many thousands of voters who were either opposed to abortion or confused and undecided.

You’ll learn about the two-year pre-campaign research process which involved conversations with a wide range of stakeholders and activists. And lessons will be shared about the careful drafting and testing of messages as well as the ‘on the ground’ training with canvassers, social media influencers and activists.


Aimed at

  • Changemakers
  • Campaigners
  • Non-profit leaders
  • People who work with sensitive or contentious issues


Learning outcomes

  • The importance of working strategically to find the right messaging approach for a campaign 
  • The practical steps involved in achieving an effective campaign narrative and messages


Speaker bio

Ailbhe has been a feminist, LGBTQ+ and socialist activist for a long time. 

Most recently, she was involved in two historic, ground-breaking referendum campaigns in Ireland. She was the Strategic Executive of the victorious Marriage Equality campaign in 2015 and the Co-Director of the Repeal the 8th Amendment campaign which legalised abortion with a landslide win in 2018. 

Alongside others, she has been campaigning for women’s right to choose for over 35 years and describes being part of the campaign as an ‘honour and privilege’.


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Ailbhe Smyth (Ireland)
Convenor, Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment