News Roundup

Sinn Féin distance themselves from March for Choice

Sinn Féin has said it did not take a formal role in the March for Choice in Dublin at the weekend because the views of the organisers on abortion go well beyond those of the party. While several of its elected representatives attended the march, the party had no official participation and did not use its banners. Its most prominent members, such as party leader Mary Lou McDonald, were absent and this fact was noted, and criticised, by speakers at the rally.
The Abortion Rights Campaign, which organised the march, says there needs to be a full repeal of the Eighth Amendment in the State and access to free, safe and legal abortion “for all who need or want it”. Sinn Féin’s position however, is that repeal of the Eighth Amendment should be followed by legislation to allow for abortion only in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.
Labour, Solidarity-People Before Profit, and the Social Democrats did have official banners at the march and one twitter user noted the prominence of communist flags and banners. One of the only Government Front bench members attending the march was the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, and she posted a photo of herself at the March which featured a communist banner in close proximity to her.

Archbishop says law and public policy must focus on the poor, ‘curb the arrogance of the powerful’

Law and public policy must have a “special focus” on the poor and curb “the arrogance of the powerful”, while also rejecting every form of violence, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has said. The Rev. Diarmuid Martin was giving the homily at the annual mass marking the opening of the new legal year at St Michan’s Roman Catholic church at Halston Street, Dublin. A special focus on the needs of those living in poverty and who are victims of exploitation “is a foundational dimension of the administration of justice”, said Dr Martin. “The formulation and the application of principles of law must always be focussed on curbing the arrogance of the powerful and protecting and fostering the rights of those who are on the margins of society and cannot speak for themselves.” He also issued a clarion call to reject every form of violence and the culture that fosters it. “We need unequivocally to reject a culture of violence: the violence of criminal drug gangs, the exploitation by gangland criminals of fragile young people who have fallen victim to their business of death.”
There was also a need to address “violence and character assassination perpetrated under the anonymity of social media”. Violence is not just physical, there is also the “violence of exclusion” and the frustration of not being able to exercise one’s basic rights and achieve basic aspirations and hopes, he said.

Pro-life event hosting rape survivors cancelled by 2nd hotel, proceeds in open air

A pro-life event featuring rape survivors was cancelled by a second hotel after members of staff received death threats. The event however went ahead in a public square with a makeshift platform and sound system. Laura Ní Chonghaile of Unbroken Ireland who represent women who became pregnant through rape or were conceived in rape said: “We are tired of being silenced, and we will no longer accept attempts to silence us, or to make us feel ashamed. Is this the 19th century where aggressive men feel they can tear down our message and abuse us for sharing our experiences and having a point of view?”  One of the speakers on the night, Louise, a woman from the UK who asked not to be further identified, was 18 when she was raped and found herself “railroaded” into having an abortion. “I grieved terribly for the baby,” she said. “My feeling is at the moment women and babies in Ireland are protected … If the eighth amendment is done away with, women will end up having abortions they don’t want.” The meeting was also addressed by two women who became pregnant through rape but opted to give birth to their babies, and one woman who was conceived in rape.


People Before Profit defend destruction of pro-life posters advertising event with rape survivors

Trinity People Before Profit have defended their members who were pictured cutting down posters advertising a pro-life event in Dublin. The event was due to feature various women who were either conceived in rape or became pregnant after rape. The posters used the phrases “I was conceived in rape. I’m still a human being” and “My child is innocent, just like me. Our laws should punish rapists, not babies”. In a statement released to Trinity PBP defended the removal of the posters while adding that the two members pictured in the post were operating in a personal capacity. “We took it upon ourselves to remove a number of vile anti-choice posters dotted around the campus.” the statement read. “We believe that it is fair and right to take direct action to counter far-right politics including anti-choice zealotry that seeks to traumatize and shame women. This action was taken by two individuals and doesn’t reflect on People Before Profit or its Trinity branch.”

The venue for the event was cancelled by two different hotels on foot of threats before eventually going ahead in an open-air square. In response to their posters being taken down Laura Ní Chonghaile of Unbroken Ireland said: “There is no place in a democratic debate for this extremism, and for shouting down women who have been raped.”



FG running from Citizens’ Assembly recommendations on abortion, but Taoiseach says they must ‘be seen to do something’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told Government Ministers that the Government “has to be seen to do something” on abortion, even as the party is busy backing away from the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly.  Yesterday, the Chairman of the Oirechtas committee on abortion, FG Senator Catherine Noone, said the Government need to be prudent in putting a question to the people that would be passed. “It wouldn’t make sense to put forward a referendum that was going to be defeated,” Ms Noone said. “The Citizens’ Assembly came up with quite a liberal position. They would have been in favour of abortion without restriction – you know, which a lot of people feel the Irish public wouldn’t agree with. But there’s no tangible evidence of what the Irish people actually feel, or actually would vote for in a referendum.” Meanwhile, the Irish Times reports that it understands that the Taoiseach told Ministers earlier this week that the Government “has to be seen to do something” on the issue. They had earlier reported that various front benchers and party members said the recommendations of the Assembly, that called for abortion to be available for most reasons up to 22 weeks, and up to birth for more serious reasons, would not pass either the party, the Dáil, or the people. Spokeswoman for the Pro-Life Campaign Cora Sherlock said it was “entirely predictable” that politicians would be seeking to water down the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations.

“The Citizens’ Assembly was very extreme. It would lead to abortion on demand, and it’s consistently coming back from the public that they don’t want UK-style abortion in Ireland,” she said.

“There is no such thing as restrictive abortion,” Ms Sherlock added. “I would expect politicians to seek to restrict the grounds for abortion in the referendum. But ultimately it boils down to the same thing – removing protections from one class of human beings.”


Marriage has been devalued and children have suffered most as a result, says Bishop

The Bishop of Derry Dr Donal McKeown said marriage no longer marks the “hugely significant” transition from the single to married life, and as marriage has devalued, children in particular have suffered.

Speaking at a Mass to mark the Derry Diocesan pilgrimage to Knock, Bishop McKeown asked why the state is “in the slightest bit interested in sanctioning anybody’s private relationships?” It was, he suggested, “because of the enormously important role it plays in both social stability and the formation of children.  Marriage has been legally recognised because it is a crucial private and public arrangement.  When the vital role of marriage is downplayed society and especially children lose.”

People today though no longer recognise the full reality of marriage and children suffer as a result. “When the challenging ideal of marriage is watered down in the service of adult comfort, it is not surprising that children – both born and unborn – are seen as of lesser importance than the adults’ wishes.” Even for the couple involved, the act of getting married is itself no longer seen as something of crucial importance. “In the past the marriage ceremony marked the hugely significant transition of two people from being single to becoming a couple.  Our modern culture tends to suggest that promiscuity is just part of growing up and that the use of pornography is fine.  In that situation, for many the marriage ceremony marks not a key transition point in people’s lives but rather the time when they have been living together and gathered enough money for a great party.”


FG Ministers believe only restrictive abortion law will pass

Fine Gael Ministers do not believe the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on abortion would get sufficient support to pass into law and will have to be significantly amended.

The issue was discussed at their weekly pre-Cabinet meeting on Tuesday at Government Buildings. No conclusions were reached, but several Ministers said that most of those present believed the assembly recommendations, which suggest changing the Constitution and legislating for general access to abortion up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy, would not be supported by the Fine Gael party, would not pass a vote in the Dáil and would not be passed by the electorate in a referendum.

According to a report in the Irish Times, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring both stressed they would not be in a position to support the recommendations of the assembly. One Minister said the assembly’s proposals would not pass “party, Dáil or country”. Another said he shared that view “very much”. Another said the discussion made it clear that any proposal for a change in the law would have to be quite limited and not provide for a complete liberalisation of the law. Sources say this means a much more restrictive abortion regime is likely to be proposed by the Government.


Pro-life meeting featuring rape survivors cancelled, posters torn down

An event featuring survivors of rape who got pregnant but chose not to abort their babies has been cancelled by a Dublin hotel. Unbroken Ireland, a group which represents and advocates for those affected by pregnancy after rape, has had its booking at the Gibson Hotel cancelled after pro-abortion protesters threatened to demonstrate against it.

The Life Institute, which is co-hosting the event, hit out at the hotel for giving in to intimidation. Spokeswoman Niamh Uí Bhriain said: “It is absolutely shameful that pro-abortion campaigners feel that they can shout everyone down, and that the Gibson Hotel have effectively let Repeal the 8th extremists silence women who have been raped.

“Whatever your views on abortion, I think most people would recognise that these women have an important part to play in the debate – and that their voices are rarely heard. It is frankly disgusting that abortion campaigners want to silence them.”

The event has now been rescheduled for the Spencer Hotel, Excise Walk, IFSC, Dublin 1 on Thursday, Sept 28th at 8pm.

Separately, members of the Trinity College branch of People before Profit boasted on social media of having cut down 32 posters advertising the event. They announced their exploits, with photographic evidence, in a Facebook post where they wrote: “2 comrades, 1 pair of scissors, 32 vile anti-choice posters surrounding the campus. A successful evening indeed. Fuck the anti-choice brigade and their attempts to intimidate and shame women. We’re fighting for free, safe & legal abortion in the 32 counties.” In response, a spokesperson for Unbroken described the actions as “really shameful”, and wondered: “Is this the 19th century, where women are shouted down and censored?” They then asked TDs for People before Profit, Richard Boyd Barrett TD, Bríd Smith TD and Gino Kenny TD of PBP “to condemn this theft, and censorship of women, and to ask Trinity PBP to apologise”.


Abortion referendum set for May or June, Taoiseach adopts wait-and-see on whether to support

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that a vote on the pro-life Amendment is likely to take place in May or June of next year. He will however wait until the wording is set before deciding whether to support the measure.

His spokesman said Mr Varadkar would have to see the specifics of any proposals arising from the all-party committee which is currently considering the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on abortion. In a statement released later, Mr Varadkar’s office said: “The Taoiseach has always said that his personal views should not determine the final referendum.”

The Taoiseach has previously said that he does not believe a wide-ranging liberalisation of the law, based on the recommendations of the assembly, would be passed in a referendum and he also believes the unborn should have some rights, which would conflict with an unrestricted abortion license.


School divestment should be parents’ choice, says Taoiseach

Divestment of schools from church patronage should only occur where parents want it to happen, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil. He said he expressed that view in a meeting with members of the Catholic church last month, which was led by Archbishop Eamon Martin. Speaking in the Dáil yesterday he said: “The issue of patronage and divestment was discussed. The Government expressed the view that it would like to see more divestment occurring but that our principal interest involves taking into the account the views of parents and that the most important thing is that divestment should only occur where the parents and prospective parents of children attending those schools want it to occur.”