An Irish Examiner/ICMSA national opinion poll has found that 64% of farmers backed the repeal of the eighth amendment of the Constitution, with 34% opposed to a change in the law.
Support for a constitutional change is strongest among younger farmers, particularly those aged under 34, with 76% of respondents in that age group supporting a change to the eighth amendment.
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Some 68% of respondents aged 35-44 also support a constitutional change on the issue and 72% of those aged 45-54 back a change.
Support for allowing abortion under certain circumstances falls among older farmers, with 56% in the 55-64 age group backing a constitutional amendment and 42% of those aged 65 and over in favour of a change in the laws.
Regular Mass-goers are less likely to back a constitutional change: 51% are in favour, with 47% opposed.
The eighth amendment reads: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
There have been growing calls for it to be repealed, including last week by a group of artists, writers, and musicians including Christy Moore, John Banville, and Anne Enright.
A bill brought forward earlier this year by Independent TD Clare Daly that would have permitted abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities was defeated in the Dáil.
At the Fine Gael think-in in Adare, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the party will not commit to a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment if returned to government without considering what would replace it.
He said he did not want abortion on demand but said he was prepared to listen to various contributions regarding what might replace the constitutional amendment.
Coalition partner Labour has already said it will make a referendum on the issue a central part of its election manifesto.
Responding to the poll findings, John Comer, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), said there was no reason to believe the views among farming households were different to other sections of society.
However, he said it was also likely many farmers had views in common with those of the Taoiseach, in that they would not necessarily favour abortion on demand — and many farming households could think of other issues they would see as equally pressing.
“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 eighth amendment,” he said.
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