Room BA-00-021, Ulster University Belfast Campus
30th March: 2.00pm – 3.30pm
Private experience, political opinion: Abortion, Northern Ireland and spreadsheet activism.
The fight for reproductive rights in Northern Ireland has undoubtedly been eclipsed by the sectarian strife of The Troubles. But since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, political parties are increasingly being held accountable for their policy positions beyond ‘green’ and ‘orange’ issues. Reproductive justice activists Maeve O’Brien and Rachel Watters will deliver a talk and workshop on their efforts to hold candidates in the 2016 Assembly Election to account regarding their position on abortion – the first comprehensive research of its kind in Northern Ireland. Reflecting on their reasons for conducting this research, their methodological strategy as well as the reaction to their spreadsheet, the speakers will provide practical tips that may empower the development of further projects to advance campaigns which sit outside the green-orange dichotomy of NI politics.
The event will begin with a discussion on the 2016 Assembly Election spreadsheet research, which involved gathering individual stances on abortion reform from every single candidate running for election in Northern Ireland at that time. The results of the research will then be unpacked; illustrating how the complex relationship political representatives have with the issue of abortion is shaped by a variety of contexts and are not simply dependent on traditional green and orange allegiances.
Because the demand for abortion law reform has grown enormously between 2016 and 2019, this talk will also explore how the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in 2018 has significantly shifted the political discourse around abortion law in Northern Ireland.
After the talk, there will be a facilitated workshop on the devising and development of research strategies with reproductive justice activism and other social justice issues such as marriage equality and environmental rights. This workshop will entail the following tasks:
- design a methodology of enquiry to ask NI politicians/election candidates their voting intentions on the issue of abortion;
- design new reproductive justice activism-by-spreadsheet projects (e.g. mapping access to contraceptive services, lobbying for comprehensive sex education, gathering abortion stories); and
- identify strategies and tactics to campaign on issues that sit outside the green/orange dichotomy of NI politics and facilitate cross-community feminist activism in a wide range of settings.