Analysis of the political battles to come from the referendum result

While Friday's landslide referendum victory answered one key question for the country, it immediately poses several more for the political establishment.

And while the historic vote has brought an end to the uncertainty hanging over Ireland for 35 years, the reality is the political arena will now be thrown back into that same uncertainty as it comes to terms with the result's consequences.

Will the 12 weeks legislation pass, or will it become the last stand of the no campaign?

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Fianna Fáil leader Micheal campaign for a Yes vote in Cork.

Can Micheal Martin drag his party - in some cases kicking and screaming - towards a new liberal dawn, or will Fianna Fáil now re-position itself as the true home of conservative Ireland?

Was Mary Lou McDonald's referendum performance enough to detox Sinn Féin from its violent past and make it a genuine future coalition option?

And, speaking of re-positioning, which of the main political players - both across the parties and within Fine Gael itself - will be able to shove themselves most firmly into the post-referendum spotlight, increasing their future political chances in the process?

The first question is the most relevant and easiest to answer.

While current Dáil support falls just shy of what is needed to pass the 12 weeks bill, this is set to change next month when Sinn Féin passes ard fhéis motion for its 23 TDs - minus pro-life TDs Peadar Toibin and Carol Nolan - to support the law.

The threat of more than half of Fianna Fáil's TDs and more than a third of Fine Gael counterparts also being opposed to 12 weeks, in addition to Independents like the Healy Raes and Mattie McGrath, means delay tactics are inevitable.

Minister for Health Simon Harrris and Sinn Féin's Peadar Toibin debate on Prime Time last week.

However, given the scale of the referendum result, this is unlikely to occur in large numbers, with Fianna Fáil pro-life TDs Thomas Byrne, Anne Rabbitte and Michael McGrath saying they will not ignore the public's wishes - meaning barring a few bruises the legislation should pass relatively safely.

Whether Fianna Fáil itself remains safe is another question entirely.

In a brave step earlier this year, party leader Micheal Martin publicly declared his referendum hand, saying in a detailed and considered speech he would vote yes and supports the 12 weeks legislation.

Unfortunately, as shown by the recent Dáil votes and the fact just over half of Fianna Fáil supporters told an exit poll they voted no, the majority of his party disagrees.

And while the referendum result will be a short-term fillip to a justified Mr Martin, there will undoubtedly be Fianna Fáil colleagues who feel the best chance of survival is to turn back to conservativism and repackage the party as a new home for the not insignificant third of 'no' voters who have no other place to go.

Such a dilemma will be playing on Mr Martin's mind as he faces a separate growing opposition battle with Sinn Féin, and specifically Mary Lou McDonald.

Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald, Together for Yes.

Throughout the referendum, Ms McDonald was - like Mr Martin - a staunch pro-choice supporter, the only difference being her party was fully behind her, officially at least.

While the position was genuine, it was also politically motivated, with the referendum meaning Sinn Féin's image is now another step away from its violent past in the eyes of those oh-so-important under-30s who voted in record numbers on Friday.

And, unless other political leaders find a way to react, further Sinn Féin general election gains, forcing larger parties to do a coalition deal with what remains their political devil.

How the Mary Lou McDonald question is addressed will have an impact on the last issue still up for debate - namely, which politician will gain most from the referendum.

And in terms of the wider political scene, this could be the most interesting question of all.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar placing his vote in Friday's abortion referendum.

In theory, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should be the one to bask in the glory of long-sought constitutional change.

However, at the weekend the true crowd favourite was Health Minister Simon Harris, whose all-in campaign approach will not have gone unnoticed by those who mark up-and-coming politicians out for future greatness.

Nor, presumably, by the politically astute Mr Varadkar, who will be all-too-aware of the new smiling rival by his side.

One definitive answer for the public, then, and plenty of still unanswered questions as the abortion debate enters its final, definitive stage.


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