GoldenPlec doesn't normally get involved in politics but the upcoming referendum on the 8th Amendment is just too important to ignore so we set about talking to Irish musicians about the referendum and their hopes and fears for the campaign and beyond.

Ian Bermingham is the frontman with the internet generation's answer to the Dubliners, The Eskies. The Tallaght man is also a historian, so as you can imagine he's rather fond of facts. Bermingham is known for his veracious performances and for christening Knockanstockan festival the 'Christmas of summer'.

Rather than answer questions, Bermingham decided to write GoldenPlec a letter on the subject of the 8th Amendment.

'My Ireland'
Ian Bermingham

It has taken me a long time to tackle this.

Every time I sit down to write, I end up with pages of scribbled notes and half finished sentences; partly because, like most of us, I also have that little voice of doubt in my head. Mine tells me that nobody cares what I have to say and that I am not an expert. Not being a pompous, arrogant git; I whole-heartedly agree. I am, of course, aware that there are already far more qualified, credible, upstanding, capable people doing an incredible job of spreading the all-important information about the upcoming referendum, cutting through the noise and hysteria with logic and reason, compassion and common sense.

I am also, however, lucky enough to have been invited by Goldenplec to submit my thoughts on the upcoming referendum and to be honest, I know that I would not forgive myself if I allowed such an opportunity to pass me by; not if there was even the slightest chance that it might speak to someone in such a way that it helped to bind the wounds of inequality and injustice that exist in our country. . .

So, neurotic preamble aside. . . Here goes. . .

Surely, first-hand experience is the only way to truly understand the feeling of being discriminated against or of being under-represented. A person can only understand what it is like to feel forgotten, unprotected, marginalised or victimised if they have experienced it first hand.

That said, even the smallest semblance of a social conscience and the tiniest bit of empathy is enough for any person to admit that our society, here in Ireland, is far from an equal one.

In Ireland, as a man, there are some injustices that I will never be the victim of and therefore, can never truly understand.

My Ireland has never enshrined in its cornerstone document of fundamental principles that I do not have the right to say what happens to my body.

My Ireland has never denied me much needed help or vital information from a medical professional because of an archaic, barbaric and ill-conceived law.

My Ireland has never made my body the subject of public debate, where its people: my family, friends, neighbours and colleagues are asked to pontificate over whether or not I can be trusted to make my own life-changing decisions.

My Ireland has never questioned my right to bodily autonomy.

My Ireland has never forced me to travel to another country, in secret, without the hand of a friend or family member, in fear and anxiety and shame for basic medical care and then, upon my return, failed to provide me with appropriate and necessary after-care.

My Ireland will never force me to order illegal medication over the internet so that I can induce a potentially dangerous and traumatic medical procedure, unsupervised and in secret, into a toilet.

My Ireland will never watch me succumb to septicaemia and heart failure rather than undergo a vital operation, all in the name of anti-scientific dogma.

My Ireland will never put me under observation by three medical professionals to decide whether or not I am suicidal before declaring whether or not I get the medical help that I need.

My Ireland will never force my family to beg a cruel, ailing semi-theocratic state to allow me to die in peace and with dignity as I am kept alive to incubate a fetus that is also dying.

This is my Ireland. This is every man’s Ireland.

There is, sadly, another Ireland – A woman’s Ireland. One that has done all of these things and committed all of these crimes along with many, many others.

I am sickened by that Ireland and I am ashamed of that Ireland.

The Eighth Amendment to Bunreacht na hÉireann is a national disgrace; one that should be a source of shame to any man or woman of Ireland who wishes to lay claim to our country as a civilised nation - one that nurtures and protects all of its people equally and can provide for them accordingly.

The Amendment itself is only 35 years old but the truth is; Ireland, as a nation and as a society has never treated all of its citizens equally and it is hard to argue that any group has bore the brunt of this inequality more than women.

Ours has been a nation of Mother and Child homes and of laundries for ‘fallen women’, of “don’t tell your Father” and “what will the neighbours say” or “Jesus, we’ll be the talk of the town”.

A nation where young, frightened women cry in the bathrooms of their parents' houses before booking a flight and packing an overnight bag, getting the fuck out of this backwards kip while it still buries its head in the sand.

A nation of “out of sight, out of mind” that adhered to a climate of stigma and shame at the behest of a all-powerful, sex-obsessed death cult.

A nation that drove a 15-year-old Ann Lovett to bleed to death underneath a statue of ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary’ rather than talk to her parents about her secret pregnancy.

A nation that has performed draconian caesarean sections against women’s wishes.

There’s no place like home, unless, of course, you can’t talk openly and honestly to your family. Boys will be boys but girls should know better, men have a future but women have a past. Cat-calling, victim-blaming, slut-shaming, “you do have a choice, you can choose to keep your fucking legs closed”. “Do the crime, do the time”, “abortion is murder”, “typical single mothers, scrounging off the state” and where is the love in all of that? Where is the care, the sense, the compassion, the kindness, the understanding or the humanity in any of that?

It is not enough to just repeal the Eighth Amendment. There is a lot of work to be done all across our society, both at a legislative level and at a community level. There are a lot of uncomfortable conversations (the kind that could potentially ruin a Sunday dinner) to be had. There is a lot of misinformation and hysteria to remedy and undo and a lot of reflecting on what kind of country we want to be.

The Eighth Amendment prevents us from having vital conversations about our healthcare system and providing appropriate advice, care and aftercare to the women of Ireland. It perpetuates a culture of stigma and silence and shame where women will continue to suffer the cruel indignity of being ostracised, brutalized and commoditized. Repealing this amendment is a completely necessary first step to building a better country.

So much about our society can often feel broken. There are many things that we have to fix or change, from our laws to our attitudes and points of view and so often, as individuals we can feel overwhelmed and powerless.

These injustices can often feel insurmountable or out of reach but, on the 25th of May, we will all have a chance to take a crucial and necessary step towards creating a fairer, safer, more compassionate society in this, OUR Ireland.

Vote yes. Repeal the Eighth Amendment.