News Roundup

Politicians fear abortion referendum proposal will fail

A member of the Oireachtas Committee on abortion doubts whether a major recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly would pass in a referendum, while a leading member of the Repeal lobby has argued publicly against adopting the same recommendation. In June, the Assembly recommended not only that the Eighth amendment should be repealed in full, but that it should be replaced with a clause that “explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy,

Speaking at the abortion committee last Wednesday Justice Mary Laffoy, who chaired the Citizens’ Assembly, said the idea of the new clause would be to immunise legislation from Constitutional challenge in the Courts and thereby bring certainty to the law. The clause would also free the Oireachtas to legislate precisely as they wish, without being limited by any implicit Constitutional protections for the unborn.

In effect, this means that the legislature would be made sovereign in matters of abortion law, and not subject to the Courts or the Constitution.

After the meeting, some TDs and senators on the 21-person committee said they now feared voters would reject the referendum, which is due to be held before next summer. A TD who did not wish to be named, for fear of alarming his party, told the Sunday Times he doubted “voters would take that leap of faith after [they rejected] the Oireachtas inquiries referendum” in 2011. He also questioned what the implications would be for the president’s right to refer new legislation to the Supreme Court.

Kate O’Connell, a Fine Gael member of the committee, said she believes Laffoy’s analysis is right, “because if a referendum happens and succeeds, we don’t want a challenge in the courts a few weeks afterwards”. However, she cautioned against drawing a conclusion until other Constitutional experts are heard. Meanwhile, Ailbhe Smyth, convener of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said her organisation is opposed to inserting a substitute clause in the constitution if article 40.3.3 is repealed. “I can’t see the value or the point of a specific instruction in the constitution to tell the legislature to legislate,” Smyth said.

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Abortion referendum planned for May or June of next year

A referendum on the pro-life amendment will be provisionally scheduled for either May or June 2018, according to a memorandum Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is bringing to Cabinet this week. The dates of numerous referendums will be discussed including the provision protecting mothers in the home and proposals to liberalise divorce laws and remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution. Fine Gael TD, Josepha Madigan, said she hoped the abortion referendum would be a standalone poll, rather than one which ran alongside another vote or votes. “It’s such an emotive issue. My personal view is I think it should run alone. It’s so complex and complicated,” she said.

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UN Security Council to investigate genocide against Christians and other minorities

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution supporting Iraq in prosecuting members of ISIS/Daesh for committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the region.  The UN resolution establishes an Investigative Team that will work with the Iraqi government to collect, preserve, and store evidence of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq. The creation of this team is critical in ensuring that the terrorists are prosecuted for genocide and other crimes committed against religious minorities. It is the first time the Security Council has used the term genocide in relation to Isis’ reign of terror.

In her explanation of the vote on the UN Security Council Resolution 2379, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: “It may have taken a long time to get here, but today’s resolution is a landmark. It is a major first step towards addressing the death, suffering, and injury of the victims of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq – crimes that include genocide. These victims have been Yazidis, Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, and many, many more.”

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Hotel vetoes pro-life event after protest

A pro-life group say they are furious after a hotel cancelled their booking for a conference with world renowned speakers on the effects of abortion on women’s health. Human Life International, was scheduled to host the event in the Ashling Hotel near Dublin’s Heuston Station on Saturday, September 30, but the event was cancelled after the venue received a large amount of negative emails, and social media posts.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Patrick McCrystal, Executive Director of HLI Ireland, said he was contacted by the hotel this week to say that the event have been called off. “The manager himself spoke to me directly of 50 pages of commentary, emails and social media, that a Facebook page had been set up opposing the conference, as well as diatribe, intimidation, upset of his staff, personal visits to the hotel and threats of protest at the hotel if conference continues. In the interest of Health and safety of his staff, he had to cancel venue”. He said it was “yet another example of censorship and is an attack on free speech”. He continued: “Who decides who may speak in Ireland? This is an attack on the very foundation of democracy in our country. These women are highly respected in their fields. Yet an angry mob have decided that only certain voices are allowed to be heard in Ireland.”

A spokeswoman for the Ashling Hotel declined to comment.

 

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Survey finds most mothers want to be at home, not work

Almost two out of three mothers would prefer to stay at home to raise their children if they could afford it, a new survey has revealed. When asked “If you had the option (and money was no issue) would you prefer to be a stay at home mother?” Sixty-three percent of those surveyed told Amárach Research they would. Laura Erskine of mummypages.ie said the result didn’t surprise her and added: “If the Government were to extend the childcare subsidy to stay-at-home mothers as part of the forthcoming Budget, this would certainly help mums who are returning to work for financial reasons alone.” Catherine Walsh of the Stay at Home Parents Association welcomed the results of the study and called for the Government to extend childcare subsidies to stay-at-home parents. “We would like to see childcare subsidies extended to all parents regardless of what form of childcare they use. All care has a cost. Families who choose to care for their children in the home already face the loss of one salary and unfair taxation due to the policy of tax individualisation. We welcome the results of the study and hope the Government reconsiders the its position of subsidising formal childcare over all other forms, and recognises that parents and families want choice when it comes to childcare.”

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Member of children’s committee resigns over Zappone’s pro-abortion stance

A member of the audit committee of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, John S Pittock, has resigned because he did not want to be associated with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone’s stance on abortion. In his resignation letter, he said, “It is a disgrace that the person to whom the Government has bizarrely given responsibility to safeguarding and protecting children, that they should promote the killing of unborn babies”. Speaking to Spirit Radio, Mr Pittock, former Chairman of Deloitte Ireland, said: “I just felt I didn’t want to be associated with her or her views or what she’s trying to promote in any way.”

The resignation was highlighted by Mattie McGrath, TD, at Wednesday’s meeting of the Oireachtas committee on abortion. In a statement released to media, he said the resignation raises very serious questions for Minister Zappone. “Clearly the extreme nature of her views and her bizarre contention that the definition of ‘child’ does not extend to the unborn regardless of its gestational age, is causing problems within the Department. We need clarification and certainty that Minister Zappone’s position on abortion and her readiness to deny fundamental rights to unborn children, despite being the Minister for Children, is not creating a conflict of interest in the operational running of her Department. No State Department should be used as a platform to advance personal ideology. They are there to act in the best interests of all citizens and not simply to give preferential status to one particular point of view,” concluded Deputy McGrath.

Ms Zappone has called for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and  legislation for a radical abortion regime and said women will not be equal otherwise. Her spokesman said the audit committee had no direct relationship with the Minister, and no function in relation to Government policy or to the views on issues that may be taken by individual Ministers.

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Advocacy groups should be invited to abortion committee says FF member

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte said she thinks that pro-life and pro-choice groups should be allowed present their case at the Joint Oireachtas Committee tasked with developing concrete proposals to implement the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on abortion. She had been “flooded” with emails about the committee’s work since last Friday, with 1,500 from the anti-abortion side and a smaller number, 86, from the pro-choice side. “I’m not objecting to that. I know it’s a generic email in many cases, but at the same time they represent a lot of people. I do think the advocacy groups should not be excluded,” she said. However, other members objected as they are anxious not to delay the holding of a referendum beyond a hoped for June 2018 date.

Meanwhile, two anti-abortion members of the committee, Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Independent Senator Ronan Mullen, have claimed the committee’s witness list is imbalanced.

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Conference hears Catholic Secondary Schools could ‘disappear’

The Chief Executive of Ceist has waned that the number of Catholic Secondary schools is declining with some areas already devoid of a Catholic option for parents who wish to choose it for their children. Dr Marie Griffin was speaking at the ‘Looking Forward: A public conversation on the future of Catholic Schools in Ireland’, conference at the Notre Dame – Newman Centre, University Church, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. The chief executive of Ceist which manages 107 Catholic secondary schools, noted that 78% of people identified as Catholic in the last census and, when it came to schools, “parents are still choosing the Catholic option where there is a choice.” There was “a need to retain Catholic second level schools as an option for parents”, she said, but there were none in Leitrim and many parts of Cork. She added “I can see Catholic secondary schools disappearing from the pitch.”

Seamus Mulconry, General Secretary of the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA), said that where migrant children were concerned Catholic schools played “a massive role in integration.” He expressed “total surprise at commentary that Catholic schools are not inclusive. The reality is very different.” In a discussion afterwards, Dr Anne Looney, executive Dean of DCU’s Institute of Education, said she believed “the term ‘baptism barrier’ is extremely offensive for Catholics and shouldn’t be used.” Mr Mulconry said that in all of last year the CPSMA received few queries about the need for baptismal certificates when it came to school admissions.

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State-run primary schools to drop faith formation

State-run primary schools will no longer provide sacramental preparation classes for Catholic students during the school day under new changes, with faith formation as a whole being phased out. This is irrespective of the wishes of parents. The move means it will be up to parishes and parents in these schools to organise sacramental preparation outside normal school hours. The move affects 12 community national schools across the State under the patronage of local Education and Training Boards with almost 4,000 students. They were originally established ten years ago as multi-denominational schools which allowed for religious instruction and sacramental preparation for Catholics. The Church at the time warned that provision of faith formation for Catholic pupils was a “minimum non-negotiable requirement” for its support for the new school model.

 Michael Moriarty, general secretary of Education and Training Boards Ireland, said the move was aimed at ensuring all children are treated equally in school. “If everybody is to be treated equally, then belief instruction would have to be outside school time,” he said.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has welcomed the move. “Clearly, it is line with good practice models…” he said. “The idea of a community national school is a clear multi-denominational school which welcomes all faiths and creates an environment where faith is respected, without any particular faith being promoted,” he said. “This anticipated decision reflects the evolution of that model.”

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Judge rejects claim Citizens’ Assembly ‘misled’ on abortion

Ms Justice Laffoy, the Chair of the Citizens’ Assembly, has defended its recommendations and rejected claims it was misled into taking a liberal stance on abortion. “I believe the legitimacy of the Assembly’s recommendations is built upon the robust process applied to our consideration of the topic,” she told the opening public session of the joint Oireachtas Committee on abortion yesterday. Asked by Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell if she thought the assembly members were “somehow misled into voting as liberally as they did,” Justice Laffoy responded, “It did not mislead the citizens, and it was not responsible for a liberal approach.”

Independent Senator Ronan Mullen defended the Eighth Amendment, saying “thousands of lives have been saved by having this amendment”. He argued representatives of certain bodies which appeared before the assembly, such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) were “not neutral” and said it was inevitable they would attempt to “sanitise” abortion. Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick said he was “personally shocked” that 64 per cent of assembly members recommended the termination of pregnancy without restriction should be lawful.

The committee will meet again on Wednesday of next week.

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