On Wednesday night I had a very interesting yet painful experience. I was unaware of this before coming to Ireland, but Ireland actually has an amendment protecting the rights of the unborn. It is beautifully written, and I wish I could be as proud of my country’s views on abortion as I could currently if I were Irish. Here is the amendment.
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right”.
Boy… I would be proud if my country held this view in one of its amendments.
Regardless, sadly there will be a vote soon in Ireland, to repeal said amendment. Now my experience is not directly related to the standing or repeal of the amendment, but rather a vote for The Student’s Union of the University of Limerick to take a stand for the repeal, instead of keeping its current neutral stance.
During the meeting held for the vote, they allowed students to speak. One of the first students to speak was a Law Student from the Netherlands who first pointed out that with the current constitution of the Student’s Union, such a vote should not even be in consideration. It was really encouraging and cool to hear this student talk. He was of course acknowledging completely that he would not want his own personal beliefs to have a say in what the union should do, being an international student, but he called for the awareness that this vote is not about personal views, but rather if the student’s union should have any ability to take a stance and sway other’s. The Union’s Constitution reads:
“Aims and Objectives
- To advance the education of its members of the University of Limerick as a whole.
- To promote and actively pursue the betterment of the welfare of its members.
- To represent the interest of its members and act as a channel of communication in dealing with the University and other bodies.
- To promote, encourage and facilitate student Clubs and Societies equally.
- These aims and objects shall be practiced without discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition, except that action may be taken to promote equality of opportunity.
- The Union shall practice the above aims and objectives independent of any political party or religious organisation.”
He called into question how a union that is supposed to represent its members independent of any political party or religious organization could vote on a policy that would allow the student’s union to actively campaign against a “policy” many of the students hold, and how this is something that is directly tied to political agendas right now. His efforts to raise awareness of this were quickly suppressed by the faculty leading the meeting with a comment that most people hardly heard about it being okay and under approval via a private email conversation she had with authorities that she could not disclose. I kid you not… it was kinda weird.
After this student spoke, I was greatly encouraged to hear many students express how even though their personal views are pro-choice, how they believe such a policy is contrary to the Union’s goals and is something that suppress people’s voices and opinions instead of actively seeking to hear them. Many also brought up the fact that how policy aside, it is the purpose of the student’s union to reflect the views of the students as a whole, and how although it might be a minority, their voice is still important, and neutrality is the policy that best reflects the student body as a whole.
But this is where the encouraging and uplifting took a turn for worse.
Many students stood up and rattled off a plethora of comments, obviously emotionally charged and agitated. A girl stood up and talked about how with the purpose of keeping the conversation open, it is better that the Union take a stance so that people will actually discuss the matter. Again… I kid you not. She was arguing that it is better for everyone and their views that the Union take a stance to actively campaign against other people’s views, because it will help stimulate conversation. Another girl stood up and almost mocked some of the previous speakers, by advocating that if this is a vote to represent the students, and students do not agree with this policy, that they should be here if they want a voice saying, “where are they?”. (This of course would be valid, if it weren’t for all the people in the audience who do hold that view and who did show up. To myself of course I was thinking… “right here Miss… right here… who are you arguing with if they weren’t”).
“Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”
– George Orwell
The meeting slowed as they announced they would hear 3 more students. They took the vote by show of hands, and by 171 to 71, the vote passed. The Student’s Union at the University of Limerick, in the name of peoples’ rights and tolerance of other’s views, now will actively be campaigning an ideology that nearly a third of the university is against.
Walking away from the meeting I was struck with a lot of emotions and, to be honest, anger. How did this happen? How could a student’s union, filled with members who hold vastly different views but supposedly all respect each other’s freedom to have their own opinion, vote on a policy that will overturn neutrality? The Union is now actively engaged in a political agenda, in convincing other students and people that a certain view is the right one, instead of promoting an environment of openness and free discussion.
You see… freedom wasn’t good enough for them. No… They screamed for conformity. Freedom takes effort and humility in order to respect someone else’s views and opinions and is also necessary in order to encourage a place of such openness. Hypocrites. While speaking about how they are perfectly fine with people who don’t share their opinion out of one side of their mouth, in the other they are rallying people to vote on a decision that would suppress other’s opinions and persuade everyone to agree with their own. They weren’t happy with being the ones responsible for convincing other people of their views… obviously… or else they would have just set up their own booth, their own material, their own funding, their own union for goodness sake, and realized it is up to them if they want to have other people share their view. No… they are cowards. Because instead of being a voice themselves in an environment where everyone is free to hold their own opinion, they held a small meeting (relatively) to rally the aid of the school to fight on their behalf, contrary to what the Union is even supposed to represent in the first place.
It is clear to me now. The tolerance they have of other people’s views ends immediately when they feel they might not have full control. See, its fine that you have your own views as long as they don’t conflict with mine as the majority. You can hold your own views, and I will respect them in the name of tolerance, as long as you are on your knees submissive in front of me.
I couldn’t help but see this in the big picture as well. I mean the very reason I was there in the first place in because I believe in giving a voice to the voiceless, in standing up for the weak, and for protecting the innocent. I couldn’t help but see how the same ideology that fueled their argument was the exact same one that allows them to, with a smile on their faces, advocate for the “right” to murder the unborn child. Sadly, if this had been a vote to repeal the 8th amendment I would not have been surprised by the outcome. But remember this wasn’t even a vote about repealing the 8th amendment. No, the vote was on whether or not it should be the job of the public representative face of the students to tell other student’s they are wrong and persuade them to think and act a certain way that aligns with what they want. I mistakenly thought that was something everyone was against.
I would like to remind you that your freedom only goes so far as it does not intrude on someone else’s. In summary… the outcome was not freeing but enslaving. For because of the stance the Student’s Union now takes, there is a “right” view, and a “wrong” view, and God forbid you hold to the wrong one, because we just voted for the ability to convince you of just how “wrong” you are. Strong terms I know… but I do not take suppression of ideas and the mass murdering of the unborn lightly.
Oh, one last observation. I am thankful I went. It hit home to me how each of us really do have a voice. Every policy and law has probably always started with a group of people maybe even half that size, and then determined if it should be passed, by around the same number. We really do have a voice, and we really do need to take a stand. We can make a difference, and even though it was a simple vote for a Student’s Union in a country other than my own, the importance of it and similar decisions made hundreds of times around the world every day, really struck home to me.
I am sorry this wasn’t a more fun entertaining read about my time in Ireland, but this was on my heart and I felt the need to share. Maybe because I regret not speaking up in the audience (however I am sure no matter what was said would have changed anyone’s hearts… but that still isn’t something for me to decide)? My next post should be more about the land of Ireland and have a lot of green pictures and all, don’t worry. 😊