Keynote: Building a people's campaign to #Repealthe8th
On 25 May 2018 Ireland voted by a 66% majority to repeal the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, following a hard-fought campaign. Repeal of the 8th, which enshrined the equal right to life of the unborn in the Irish constitution, opens the doors to new legislation to allow Irish women access to free safe and legal abortion without having to leave Ireland. At present, as many as nine women a day travel to the UK to access abortion services, with more risking prosecution by ordering abortion pills off the internet.
A combination of investigation and exposure, and a resilient political culture, seem to have minimised the effectiveness of 'dark ads' and shadier tactics, but the campaign was tough and divisive.
At ECF Europe 2018 Linda and Peter talked us through how pro-choice campaigners played a long game, building a broad coalition of support over years, and gaining the credibility to speak with authority and authenticity on behalf of women and medical professionals directly affected by the 8th amendment. They explained how digital tools were used to empower people to speak up and connect directly with their communities, and the role of digital in message development, learning testing and refining, to help deliver constitution-changing victory through a genuine people's campaign.
Linda Kavanagh is former co-convenor of the Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland, one of the three organisations which led the civil society Together for Yes coalition to campaign for the repeal of the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution. A graphic designer by trade, as spokesperson and comms lead for ARC, Linda helped popularise the 'Free, Safe and Legal' slogan, led ARC's social media and formed part of the group behind the strategy and day-to-day tactics of the Together for Yes campaign, as well as representing the Abortion Rights Campaign in the media.
Peter Tanham joined the Together for Yes campaign as its head of digital three months out from the referendum date, bringing his deep knowledge of online strategy and digital advertising to bear on the campaign. CEO and co-Founder of digital advertising company SparkPage, and voluntary tech lead for the Social Democrats, Peter is also a founder member of the Transparent Referendum Initiative, a volunteer group working to increase the transparency of paid online advertising.