News Roundup

Dutch prosecutor opposes new rules on euthanasia for dementia patients

The Dutch public prosecutor has questioned new rules to extend euthanasia to people with dementia who cannot consent.

Five regional euthanasia review Committee’s in the Netherlands had agreed to rules that said in giving euthanasia to a patient who is no longer mentally competent as a result of advanced dementia, “it is not necessary for the doctor to agree with the patient the time or manner in which euthanasia will be given… (since) this kind of discussion is pointless because such a patient will not understand the subject.”

The public prosecution department chief Rinus Otte says this goes too far. He said that this is not in line with the law and doctors can still face prosecution for murder.

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said the dispute will likely cause Netherlands physicians to refuse to do euthanasia for incompetent people with dementia in order to avoid a possible prosecution.

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Ex-Justice Minister slams proposals to police political debate

Former Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has questioned recommendations in a draft report on electoral reform saying they would be a “nightmare” to enforce.

Proposals for the development of standards for political debate during elections include sanctions for parties and candidates involved in “discriminatory actions or rhetoric”.

In a Twitter post, Fine Gael TD Mr Flanagan said the recommendations would be “a recipe for chaos and disarray during already heated campaigns”.

He said implementing them would be “challenging enough” and enforcement would be “a nightmare”.

Mr Flanagan also suggested it could lead to election campaigns being conducted through the courts which he said would be a “grim prospect”.

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Arrested Chinese bishop, priests untraced two months on

A Christian rights group has expressed concerns about the safety of a Vatican-approved bishop, 10 priests and an unspecified number of seminarians arrested two months ago for violation of religious rules. Their fate and location remain unknown.

The arrests came after the diocese decided to use an abandoned factory building as a seminary and assigned priests for religious formation.

International Christian Concern (ICC), a US-based Christian group monitoring persecution of Christians across the globe, issued a statement on July 16 calling for the release of the bishop, priests and seminarians.

Earlier, ICC reported that those arrested were subjected to “political lessons” that are brainwashing sessions designed to inculcate the principles of ‘religious freedom’ granted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Bishop Zhang, 63, has been leading the diocese since 1991 following his secret ordination but he faced constant pressure from Chinese authorities and was barred from observing duties as a bishop.

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Presbyterian Church condemns order imposing radical abortion regime in NI

The Presbyterian Church has repeated its “total opposition” to Westminster imposing a radical abortion regime on Northern Ireland. It fully decriminalises abortion and is more permissive than the regime in England.

Yesterday, the Northern Secretary issued an order compelling the Department of Health to make the procedure widely available, despite the opposition of some Stormont Ministers.

Brandon Lewis said he had a “moral obligation” to do so.

A statement from the Presbyterian Church said there is nothing ‘moral’ about his order, nor indeed the original legislation that he previously inflicted on the people of Northern Ireland.

The DUP has said that the Westminster direction to Stormont “undermined” devolution.

But Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party and Green Party have welcomed the move.

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Health Minister stalls on status of exclusion zones legislation

Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly has failed to answer a direct question about promised legislation to introduce exclusion zones preventing pro-life protests or vigils outside of clinics or hospitals that perform or administer abortions. No country in Europe has a nation-wide law imposing such restrictions on the right to protest.

Green TD, Holly Cairns, had asked the Minister about the status of the so-called “safe access to termination of pregnancy Bill”.

In his written response, Stephen Donnelly said it was originally intended to provide for exclusion zones in the Abortion Act of 2018.

“However, a number of legal issues were identified which necessitated further consideration,” he acknowledged, also noting that since the abortion regime began there had been “a limited number of reports of protests or other actions relating to termination of pregnancy.”

He added: “Where problems do arise with protests outside healthcare services, there is existing public order legislation in place to protect people accessing services, staff and local residents,” he said.

Pro-Life groups have taken the non-answer to mean that the legislation has hit an immovable roadblock and will not be resurrected.

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Secondary school pupils to learn about mother and baby homes

Secondary school pupils will be taught about the abuses suffered in industrial schools, Magdalene laundries, and mother and baby institutions under a new national pilot programme.

NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights has published secondary school teaching materials on Ireland’s institutional abuses, which have been created with survivors and school teachers, pupils, activists and artists.

Mother and baby home survivor Mary Harney said: “We must teach children the history of this dark chapter in Ireland and keep that memory alive so that it never happens again.”
No such programme exists in other countries despite the fact that such institutions were to be found in many countries and were run by other Churches and secular organisations.

The education resources include a guidebook for teachers, PowerPoint presentations, lesson plans and as well as a workbook and an online database for students.

“It is our hope that, in the future, the Irish State will incorporate historical abuses into the Irish Leaving Certificate curriculum. Until then, our pilot programme is available to teachers all over Ireland,” said Emily O’Reilly, one of the five post-graduate students who developed the resources.

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Special Oireachtas committee to consider assisted suicide

The Oireachtas Justice Committee has stopped an assisted suicide Private Member’s bill that already passed early votes in the Dáil and Seanad. But a special committee will examine it instead.

The so-called Dying with Dignity bill by far-left TD, Gino Kenny, would permit anyone likely to die from an illness to avail of assisted suicide no matter how far from death they actually are.

Serious legal concerns had been raised about the bill by the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers.

In a report published yesterday, the Justice committee said the Bill “has serious technical issues in several sections, that it may have unintended policy consequences – particularly regarding the lack of sufficient safeguards to protect against undue pressure being put on vulnerable people to avail of assisted dying – that the drafting of several sections of the Bill contain serious flaws that could potentially render them vulnerable to challenge before the courts, and that the gravity of such a topic as assisted dying warrants a more thorough examination which could potentially benefit from detailed consideration by a Special Oireachtas Committee”.

It concluded then that the Bill “should not progress to Committee Stage but that a Special Oireachtas Committee should be established, at the earliest convenience, to progress the matter”.

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Russia slams European court’s ‘meddling’ over same-sex civil partnerships 

Russia has deemed a call by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as foreign “meddling” in the country’s domestic affairs.

The court had ruled that Russia should respect and acknowledge same-sex couples by providing a legal framework for their relationships.

The ruling “contradicts the foundations of Russian rule of law and morality,” Vasily Piskarev, a lawmaker who heads a parliamentary commission dedicated to investigating foreign interference.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had also said that the court’s request would contradict Russia’s constitution.

Last year, Russia adopted a set of constitutional amendments that emphasized the primacy of Russian law over international norms. It also stipulated that “institution of marriage is a union between a man and a woman.”

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European Court of Justice rules visible personal religious symbols can be banned at work

The European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court, ruled last week that employers can forbid their staff from wearing visible symbols of religious or political belief, including headscarves, in order to present an image of neutrality.

The Court decided on the matter following referrals from the Labour Court of Hamburg and the Federal Labour Court of Germany, which had requested the Court consider whether the dismissal of two Muslim women from their employment over their non-compliance with orders to refrain from wearing their hijab was compliant with EU law on equal treatment in employment and occupation.

The Court held that certain prohibitions could be justified under specific circumstances. Specifically, the Court held that: “indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief resulting from an internal rule of an undertaking prohibiting, at the workplace, the wearing of visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs with the aim of ensuring a policy of neutrality within that undertaking can be justified only if that prohibition covers all visible forms of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs”.

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Assisted suicide topic could go to Citizens’ Assembly says TD

An Oireachtas committee will likely put a hold on a Private Members’ bill that would have made assisted suicide legal in Ireland, according to the author of the bill. However, he says the topic could now go before either a special Oireachtas committee or a Citizens’ Assembly meaning it is still very much on the cards.

People Before Profit TD for Dublin Mid-West, Gino Kenny, said in a tweet that it’s becoming evident that the Justice Committee will not be recommending the progress of the Dying with Dignity bill.

The far-left TD added: “This is a complete prevarication of the issue and the bill. There was no policy scrutiny just a legal opinion which could have been overcome. A shambolic process”.

His bill would permit anyone likely to die from an illness to avail of assisted suicide no matter how far from death they actually are.

Serious legal concerns had been raised about the bill by the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers.

A confidential memo to the Justice Committee raised a range of issues including that parts of the Bill would be vulnerable to a constitutional challenge due to an “overdelegation of ministerial power”.

It identified “ambiguities and serious drafting errors” in several sections of the Bill, containing flaws that could render them vulnerable to challenge before the courts.

It also found that it had no enforceable compliance or offence provisions, “which is hugely problematic for this legislation given the statements from both the Irish Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights on the utmost importance of safeguards in legislation such as this”.

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