Top of the Month: Ireland's Together for Yes shows campaigning needn't be divisive

With modern political discourse often characterised by disrespect, insult or aggression towards those with opposing views, Ireland's successful Together for Yes campaign for abortion rights was a breath of fresh air.

Campaign: many doctors backed the repeal of Ireland's eighth amendment on abortion
Campaign: many doctors backed the repeal of Ireland's eighth amendment on abortion

It was also hugely effective. Almost two thirds of the Irish public voted in favour of repealing the eighth amendment, which banned abortion in most cases, in the referendum last Friday (25 May).

Together for Yes, an umbrella campaign group headed by three different pro-repeal organisations, focused on the experiences of the women and couples who would benefit from a change in the law, while the support of doctors added credibility to the arguments.

It united disparate pro-repeal voices – 97 organisations pledged support for the campaign – behind the message that abortion was a reality in Ireland and that women should be able to access safe and legal services. The message was repeated throughout the 10-week campaigning period.

There’s an argument that the campaign was pushing at an open door, with support for a change in the law having been growing for years.

Nevertheless, victory wasn’t taken for granted. Together for Yes communications manager Amy Rose Harte told PRWeek the campaign sought to speak to the "huge number of undecided voters" in a "very moderate, reasonable, measured way" – bypassing "any potential for divisive rhetoric or bitter digs".

For example, a "national conversation tour" took place across the country, aimed at encouraging people to talk openly about their views, and not disparage others who believe differently.

Together for Yes shows how, even in the current polarised landscape, making a positive case and winning over doubters through a combination of emotional and logical arguments can still prove fruitful.

Read next: Compassionate, credible, united: how 'Yes' won the Irish abortion referendum

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