I always like to take time at the end of each year to reflect on the past and to set goals for the future. I still feel like pinching myself, crying and jumping for joy when I think back on what a momentous year this has been. I’d like to share some memories with you…
I wake up on New Year’s Day sick with a bug and a dead car in Dingle. ‘It’s okay’ I tell myself, this isn’t a sign of things to come. A bad first day of the year doesn’t mean anything.
As I get back to Dublin and settle back in to prepping and planning canvassing training and documents, canvass planning for Dublin North West and the knot of nerves settles in to my stomach. January is a whirlwind of ‘Strike4Repeal’ (there are so many of us!) and the pilot canvassing training in the GMB building, soon to become campaign headquarters (there are so many of them). Activists (including me) from Dublin and around the country deliver the first pilot canvassing training for a full-day with more questions than answers but with the fire in our bellies of ‘this is happening, we are ready for this’.
February brought self-care seminars from Psychs4Choice – “make sure to eat, sleep and rest” – when had we stopped doing those things? Those of us already completely immersed in the campaign smiled knowingly at one another and knew that we would get each other through and that we would continue to give our all to getting a Yes over the line.
Meanwhile, in Dublin North West, we hold our pub quiz fundraiser and wonder if it will just be us and our mammies. The room starts to fill, ‘oh my god we need more space’, we raise €2,500 and gain new recruits and the passion, enthusiasm and support in the room gives us the lift we need. It’s not just our small group that has been in existence since May 2017, this is bigger than us, they all want in. A road-trip to Waterford to deliver canvassing training to the South East coalition, what were Saturdays for before? Another pub quiz, this time with Panti, in Pantibar and the war chests grow. Then it happens, I’m not there for the first but I am for the second – Dublin North West begins knocking on doors and the reception is better than we expected, the bad is worse than we expected but fewer and the Yes houses and Maybe houses start to add up.
Snowdays gives time for google docs and planning. More canvassing training in Dublin South Central – how many canvassing trainings did I deliver? I don’t even remember. In the meantime, there is still a housing and poverty crisis and more and more children are in poverty. Br Kevin in the Capuchin Day Centre is calling out for baby supplies so I organise an ‘Easter Giving’ event. I drop a car-full of nappies and baby food to the centre in Smithfield, knowing that they will be going to families who need them most. But back to canvassing, every Saturday now, stalls too because every conversation counts. Canvassing training on my birthday means that a room full of strangers sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me with my new repeal family, the activists that I am speaking to constantly – planning, organising, preparing. March also sees the official launch of ‘Together For Yes’, our umbrella campaign and we are ready, we want the t-shirts, badges, tote bags and bumper stickers, we want to be branded head to toe when we can; we are the billboards and posters.
And it’s April and the countdown is on to May 25th – time is flying and there is so much to do. Sleep is definitely a long lost friend at this point… ‘what if…. What if…. What if…. All I can do is my best, all we can do is give this everything and hope that love wins out, that respect wins out, that women’s stories hit home’. Dublin North West Together For Yes launches on April 12th with Colm O’Gorman, Orla O’Connor, Grainne Healy, Amy Walsh, Dr Marion Dyer and Minister Simon Harris even makes a stop off at Ballymun. The room is packed and we are ready for them – we have our call to action; we need canvassers and data entry volunteers. We are canvassing as much as we can.
May – leaflets, badges, what ifs, knocking on doors, smile in the face of cruelty, share my story with strangers ‘look, mam is canvassing with us too; she came with me you know; I’m one of the lucky ones’. The looks from some older women who held your hand or your gaze a little too long with a look of knowing in their eyes, the stories from women and partners who endured their own tragedies and the anger from so many people ‘we can’t keep sending people away to England, my sister… my friend… me’. Morning beeps for choice, stalls, conversations, that media interview with an international station that I chickened out of. Some fractions of the other side were scary. May 25th, we can do no more, the exit poll is too good to be true, I won’t believe it until I see it; I need to see the ballot papers. Friends calling me crying but the fear is too great… what if? May 26th and the ballot boxes are opened; not only are we meeting the exit polls but in many places we are far exceeding the results. The knot begins to unravel, I feel like I’m walking on air. News of results in rural constituencies come in and that’s when I start to cry. There was no rural-urban divide, this was a resounding yes from everywhere (almost everywhere). Familiar faces hug and cry and shake our heads in disbelief… it’s a landslide? In to the hotel and on to Dublin Castle with some of my repeal family. We want to be together, we want to share this moment. 73.1% Yes in Dublin North West – so momentous I get it tattooed on my body.
In June, in between the eating and sleeping, many of us travelled to Belfast – the North is Next and activists in ARC got straight to work on submissions on the legislation, on planning September’s March For Choice and on educating ourselves on how the 66.4% Yes was going to be translated into legislation fit-for-purpose. Emer and Sarah of OMGWACA invite mam and I to the launch of their second book and we chat to Tara Flynn there. It’s the Presidential elections and I’m still too exhausted from the referendum to be involved in Michael D’s campaign but I manage some leafletting and giving out more badges. A Dublin North West book club starts in October and many of us keep in touch, we need to stay in touch. It was too momentous, this thing that we all went through together, that we supported one another through. I want to hike so a monthly pro-choice hike ‘gang’ starts getting together. What about the 3 day wait period, what about refusal of care, how will abortion provision actually work? Activists must stay engaged, activists must stay involved.
Chatter of the ‘you should run; I’d vote for you; I’d canvass for you; we need you in there’ continue through the summer until October and November brings decision time. I’ll do it, I’ll run for the Seanad. Websites and facebook pages and press releases and policy formation and a launch. So much support, its overwhelming and so much work to do. The #HomesForAll march, the Our Maternity Hospital demonstration and the Dublin Basket Brigade all take place in December and finally it’s the end of the year; a time for reflection and a time for setting intentions for 2019.
… we win?