FARMING POLL 2015 - DATA: 64% of farmers support a more liberal abortion regime

Almost two thirds of farmers are in favour of a liberalisation of the current abortion regime, with the poll result indicating that attitudes on the issue in rural areas is moving closer to the views of those in urban areas.

Olga Kond, of Triska Energy from Dublin at the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, Stradbally, Co Laois. Pictures: Dan Linehan

The Irish Examiner/ICMSA poll result shows that 64% of those surveyed are in favour of a change to the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, with 34% opposed to any change.

The majority of younger and middle-aged farmers are in favour of a change to the 8th Amendment, but support for a change is finely balanced among those who regularly attend Mass, and the majority of those aged 65 and over are opposed to any change.

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The question asked this year, in a yes-or-no format, was: “The 8th Amendment to the Constitution granted equal rights to the mother and her unborn child. Do you think it should be amended to allow for abortion in certain circumstances or not?”

Last June, in another poll conducted by Behaviour And Attitudes, this time for the Sunday Times, 76% of respondents said they were in favour of permitting abortion where fatal foetal abnormality precludes survival.

In the same poll, 70% of respondents were in favour of allowing abortion where pregnancy results from rape or incest. That poll showed more pronounced support for allowing abortion in both circumstances in Dublin and other urban areas, with 84% of Dubliners in favour of abortion where fatal foetal abnormality precludes survival.

Back in 2013, in the first Irish Examiner/ICMSA Farming in Ireland opinion poll, respondents were asked if “Abortion should be permitted when the life of the mother is at risk, up to and including suicide”. Then, 63% agreed, 20% disagreed, while 14% were on the fence.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was passed into law in the aftermath of the death of Savita Halappanavar, permitting abortion in limited circumstances and only after the woman has been seen by a panel of experts. There has been growing pressure for the 8th Amendment to be repealed or changed, while pro-life campaigners have sought assurances that there will be no change in the provisions which guarantee protection of human life.

Responding to the poll findings, John Comer, the ICMSA president, said that his organisation had no particular position on this question but warned its divisive nature meant it was not one in which a balance was easily struck.

“The likelihood is that our members would divide on the question in more or less proportion to others sectors of Irish society,” he said.

“If we take it that most of our membership, in common with the Taoiseach, would not necessarily favour the abortion-on-demand systems of other states, then we arrive at the question of balance that has bedevilled this issue since the early ’80s.

“Perhaps if this balance can be visibly struck — and it may already have been — then the farm families that comprise ICMSA would be happy to move on and see attention focussing on other questions that they might perceive to be just as pressing.

“Personally, I’m not sure that the population in general is as caught up with this issue as commentators might think, either for or against. I would suspect that with the exception of a relatively few very committed individuals on both extremes, no-one really wants to see another lengthy bout of the kind of constitutional parsing that has marked this debate for 30 years now.

Getting ready to set up their stand yesterday were Colm Hanrahan and Adrian Delaney from RDS.

“I certainly doubt whether any significant element of the electorate wants to see the next Government’s time and energy sapped by the kind of prolonged and divisive campaign that’s certain to accompany any move towards a change to the 8th Amendment.

“I think most people would consider that there are more than a few issues that should take priority over this question and I can’t see where the impetus is going to come from that will change that.”

Taken in tandem with other findings in this year’s poll and with findings from those in last year’s Irish Examiner/ICMSA survey on farming attitudes, there appears to be a growing trend towards more liberal attitudes among farmers on a number of social issues.

Last year’s poll found that 46% of farmers were in favour of marriage equality with 41% opposed. Just 13% said they did not know which way they would vote.

Follow this link for more survey findings and analysis

Survey methodology

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