#EURef Meets Eurovision

With Eurovision dominating the airwaves this week and the #EURef vote mere weeks away, it was only a matter of time before the two came together. Danielle Roberts got into costume and presented at RightClub’s ‘EUVision’ event. Here is her report of what went down.

On Wednesday night, the one in between Eurovision 2016 Semi Finals, a pretty bizzare event took place; a mixture of fancy dress, Eurovision tunes, and human rights chat…on a boat! Organised by Right Club, an offshoot of the NI Human Rights Festival, their events aim to mix human rights discussion with social, arts, and cultural events. The Human Rights Consortium have no official stance on Brexit, the aim of the night was to bring some human rights discourse into the debate.

People got into the spirit of the event with Bucks Fizz, Abba, Lulu and Scooch all represented! There were some real Eurovision die hards, who were setting off for this year’s contest in Sweden the following morning. After some projected Eurovision hits from years gone by, speakers took to the stage.

I have to admit, I didn’t take notes, so what follows is down to my own memory.


First up was Claire Moore of NIC-ICTU – which does have a stance on Brexit – they very much want to remain. She outlined how the EU has benefitted workers. Without the EU Working Time directive we wouldn’t have a legal right to object to working over 48 hours a week on average, we also wouldn’t be entitled to at least 20 days paid holiday a year. Pregnant women wouldn’t have paid time off for antenatal healthcare, and equal pay for work of a similar value wouldn’t be required. All those cases were valuable for women in the struggle for equal status alongside men in the workplace. Much joked about, but really important, health and safety laws would not be in place to protect workers.

I spoke next on how Freedom of access to services across the EU is important, focusing on those who travel for abortion healthcare. ‘Keep it light-hearted’ were my instructions, so I threw in some Eurovision references at the end. I’ve given an abridged version below – that one I did have notes of!

Freedom of Services means that abortion clinics can advertise their services across borders, even if the procedure is illegal in that country – so an abortion clinic in the Netherlands can lawfully advertise its services in NI.

Currently European citizens can move between European countries easily, without the need for a visa. People can fly from Ireland to England on most airlines with ID other than a passport. Potentially if the UK leaves the EU this could change. This could have implications for a few different groups of women. Under free movement principles, a person who wants to obtain an abortion in another EU state cannot be restricted from travelling to avail of those healthcare services. The Charter of Fundamental rights protects the Right to healthcare in article 35 and freedom of movement in article 45.

Nearly 4000 women traveled from Ireland to England last year to access abortion healthcare. On top of this other women travel to European countries such as the Netherlands or Belgium from Ireland and Northern Ireland. Only 5 countries in Europe offer abortion later than 12 weeks, the UK is one of them. Because of this around 500 women a year are travelling from mainland Europe to England for abortion healthcare.

If we leave Europe, even the introduction of the need for a passport to cross borders will price some women out of an abortion. Needing 110 euro for a passport, as well as the money for flights and treatment, will increase the impact of the lack of local legal abortion on poorer people.

Time in of the essence when someone needs an abortion. The cost of an abortion doubles after 14 weeks and triples after 19 weeks, the time needed to sort out a passport, never mind a visa would make abortion inaccessible for a lot of people.

We are talking about 6000 women a year. Making abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortions, the people who need them will do ‘all kinds of everything’ to get one.

Those that can afford to ‘fly on the wings of love’ do and those who can’t are ‘puppets on a string’ to outdated laws which don’t meet minimum international human rights standards – but this isn’t our ‘waterloo’ we will continue to ‘rise like a phoenix’ until our rights are realised. In the meantime I say a ‘hard rock hallelujah’ that women are able to travel around Europe for the abortion healthcare that they need.

Rounding off the ‘sensible part’ of the evening John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project spoke on how the EU has helped the struggle for LGBT+ equality. He stated that the Rainbow Project do not have an official stance on Brexit and these were his own views. He thoroughly rebutted Boris Johnson’s’ suggestion that any rights won for LGBT+ people were from Westminster, not the EU. He highlighted sexual orientation was only decriminalised here because of recourse to European Courts, and that other anti-discrimination legislation has been led by the EU. John also praised the networking opportunities within the EU as a platform, and how it can give a relatively small population a big voice.

The event was compared by Claire McCann of the Human Rights Consortium (dressed as Lulu). She gave some of the more ‘technical’ background to each area citing articles from the Charter of Fundamental Rights without even needing any notes!

The night then went onto an excellent playlist of Eurovision performances which were also shown on the big screen. In full DIY replica Scooch flight attendant uniform I took to the floor to perform the routine from ‘Flying the Flag’ with props.

I look forward to what other events the Right Club come up with. ‘EUvision; Making Your Mind Up’ was a great mix of fancy dress, fun, and facts!