Meghan Markle appeared to voice support for the result of Ireland’s recent referendum on abortion law as part of her visit to the country – breaching a royal protocol about weighing in on political issues.
An Irish senator tweeted that she and Markle had discussed the referendum at a reception on Tuesday evening.
“A pleasure to meet Prince Harry & the Duchess of Sussex at the British Ambassador’s Residence this evening,” Senator Catherine Noone from the ruling Fine Gael party tweeted.
“The Duchess & I had a chat about the recent referendum result. She watched with interest & was pleased to see the result.”
The comment is fairly anodyne, but by seeming to come down on one side — even though it’s the winning side in a very decisive contest — Markle risked the perception that she is interfering with politics, which royals try not to do.
Noone has since attempted to row back the statement. She deleted the tweet, and told Irish news website Independent.ie: “I deleted it because it was unintentionally misleading – the Duchess was not in any way political.”
As the head of state, the Queen is required to stay out of political issues, and won’t officially comment on them. The Queen’s website says that she “has to remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters.”
While other members of the royal family are not subject to the rules, they are also expected to follow suit.
The topic of abortion was at the forefront of Irish politics this year as the country sought to repeal a part of the constitution which meant there was an almost complete ban on abortion. The country must hold a referendum any time it wishes to change its constitution.
Citizens voted by a landslide in May to liberalize the country’s laws, with 66.4% voting “yes” to change the constitution.
The issue is an interesting test case, because although the abortion issue in Ireland is a big part of their domestic politics, it is also a women’s rights issue, and Markle has been outspoken on that, with the apparent support of the royals.
Markle has made it clear that she wishes to champion women’s rights as the Duchess of Sussex. In a direct quote on the official website of the royal family, she states: “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.”
Una Mullaly, a prominent yes campaigner and a journalist with Irish newspaper The Irish Times, also tweeted that she had spoken with Markle “about Repeal and the importance of feminist activism.”
Markle and Prince Harry arrived in Dublin on Tuesday for their first overseas trip as husband and wife.
They have met with Irish President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and they visit Trinity College Dublin today.