The 8th is titled after Ireland’s Eighth Amendment to the constitution, that in 1983 gave equal right to life to both a pregnant woman and the vaguely termed ‘unborn’. This documentary follows a group of women campaigning to repeal the Eighth Amendment in the run-up to a national referendum that took place in May 2018.

The film centres primarily on the campaigners Ailbhe Smyth, a lifelong activist and campaigner in her 70s, and Andrea Horan, a self-described “glitter activist” and nail salon owner who calls herself “new to politics”. The pair make good protagonists, and have intriguingly contrasting backgrounds as activists. Their campaign journeys are mostly unconnected, and at the start of the film the editing throws some confusion into the mix, as we figure out just how the story is being told. But as the film progresses, the weeks leading up to the 2018 vote provide a much clearer sense of chronology and focus.

A political campaign may sound like a dry subject for a film, but this documentary is anything but. The questions of morality, agency and human rights that arise from discussing the Eighth Amendment are profound and universally important. The journey of individuals – most of whom are women – trying to shape and change the country they live in is empowering and inspiring to watch, and it provides an educational insight into the backstage world of political activism.

The filmmakers provide a comprehensive history of a complex question without overloading their audience, with the caveat that the voices of people of colour in Ireland could have been given more attention.

The 8th explains its subject clearly without condescension or assumption of knowledge, with stylish use of found footage, digital inserts and illustration that enrich the storytelling. It is vivid, compelling and moving, rich with both national history and deeply personal stories.



DIRECTORS: Aideen Kane, Maeve O’Boyle, Lucy Kennedy

SYNOPSIS: In the run-up to a critical referendum on Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, a group of campaigners explore the weighty issues at the heart of the debate, and attempt to use their activism to free Irish women from legislative control