News Roundup

Surrogacy bill being rushed through Seanad

The opening Seanad debate on the Government’s proposed surrogacy bill saw the Health Minister forced to cut a forty minute presentation down to a mere ten minutes so as to comply with time restrictions.

The Health (Assisted Human Reproduction) Bill 2022 was introduced to the Seanad last Thursday with Fine Gael’s Maria Byrne as the Chair.

Welcoming the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, she told him he had “ten minutes” to present the landmark legislation which runs to 200 pages.

The startled minister replied saying: “I did not realise I had only ten minutes. I was handed a 40-minute speech, which I got down to about 15 minutes. The Acting Chairperson can cut me off if necessary or, with the indulgence of the Seanad, perhaps I could have more time”.

Senator Michael McDowell responded that party spokespersons were given 12 minutes and so the Minister should be given “at least the same speaking time”.

The Chair replied: “The debate is limited to two hours. It is up to the Minister.”


One in four worried about losing right to free speech

A quarter of Irish people already feel restricted in expressing their views in social settings or their place of work or study according to new polling.

The survey by Whitestone Insight, revealed a deep-seated concern for the erosion of free speech, with 90% of respondents confirming that freedom of expression was “very important” to them.

This comes as the Oireachtas debates new and wide-ranging “hate speech” legislation, with serious human rights implications for free speech.

Lorcan Price, Irish Barrister and Legal Counsel for ADF International, calls it “one of the worst examples of censorship in the modern West”.

“The bill purports to stamp out ‘hate speech,’ but fails to define what ‘hate’” is – allowing authorities to censor any speech the state opposes,” he said.

A Free Speech Summit is scheduled to take place in Dublin on 18th June, where advocates will gather with politicians to highlight the issues at stake under the bill.


185 MP candidates sign pro-life pledge, but Sunak ‘open’ to euthanasia

Rishi Sunak has said he is not opposed to euthanasia in principle ahead of an expected vote on the issue in the next parliament.

His statement comes as 185 election candidates and counting had signed a pro-life manifesto since its launch on Monday.

The ‘Both Lives Pledge’ outlines three policy changes that are designed to increase protection for babies in the womb and end ‘pregnancy discrimination’ for women – policies that will save lives by supporting both mother and child.

However, speaking to journalists in Puglia, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, signalled an openness to changing the law on euthanasia.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader whose party is 20 points ahead in the polls, has committed to setting aside time for a Commons vote on the issue and said he supports a change.

Asked about changing the law to enable ‘assisted dying’, Sunak said: “I’m not against it in principle. It’s just a question of having the safeguards in place and that’s where people have had questions in the past.”

Meanwhile, in Slovenia, a consultative, non-binding referendum on assisted suicide passed.

54.86% voted in support of the question: “Are you in favour of adopting a law that will regulate the right to medically assisted dying?”


Meloni overrules Macron on abortion at G7 summit

Italy refused to add a reference to “safe and legal abortion” in the final statement of last week’s Group of Seven summit.

French president Emmanuel Macron complained of the omission, drawing a sharp rebuke from the Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, who accused him of looking to score political points ahead of national elections in France later this month.

The 2023 G7 communiqué released after the leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, Japan, last year, had called for “access to safe and legal abortion and post-abortion care”.

Similar or slightly tougher language was proposed by French and Canadian diplomats during the negotiations that took place ahead of the 2024 meeting, but Meloni refused.

“I think it is profoundly wrong, in difficult times like these, to campaign [for an election] using a precious forum like the G7,” Meloni told reporters.

A senior US official told reporters that President Joe Biden had also wanted the reference to abortion in the text.

Like Macron, Biden is also facing a tough election later this year.


Massive pro-life election campaign launched in UK

A leading pro-life group has launched a General Election initiative that will be run throughout the UK in the lead up to election day on 4 July.

As part of the Vote For Both Lives campaign, Right To Life UK is mobilising voters in constituencies throughout the country to contact their local MP candidates and ask them to sign the Both Lives Pledge.

The Pledge outlines three policy changes that are designed to increase protection for babies in the womb and stop pregnancy discrimination for women – policies that will save lives by protecting and supporting both mother and child. The Both Lives Pledge asks MP candidates to commit to: (i) stop discrimination against baby girls by supporting a law change to clarify that sex-selective abortion is illegal. (ii) bring UK law closer to the laws in the majority of EU countries by voting to lower the gestational time limit for abortion. (iii) support women in the workplace by backing policies designed to stop pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Independent polling by ComRes shows that all three policy changes are strongly supported by the public.


India’s Christians are ‘hopeful’ after election results

Christians in India are seeing signs of hope in the wake of the country’s recent parliamentary elections, according to the religious freedom group, Open Doors.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party won more seats than any other party at 240, they were below the 272 needed for a parliamentary majority. This means he won’t have a ‘free hand’ to pursue their Hindu nationalist ‘Hindutva’ agenda.

They’ve had to form a coalition with other parties, including the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Janata Dal (United) (JDU). These two regional parties are fundamentally opposed to the Hindutva agenda of the BJP and are known to support religious minorities.

This all indicates the Indian public is increasingly rejecting the BJP’s Hindu nationalistic agenda.

“The election result means that the BJP’s polarisation and divisive politics against religious minorities will be less brazen at the national level,” said one local Open Doors partner from central India.


‘Do not rush surrogacy legislation’ says Senator Mullen

There has been a call for a ‘pause’ on surrogacy legislation that is due before the Seanad this week after having already passed the Dail.

Reflecting on the election results, Independent Senator, Ronan Mullen, said the Government’s relative success should not lull it into thinking they can “keep doing what it does”.

In particular, he said divisive legislation around surrogacy, “did not get anything like challenging scrutiny in the Dáil, so it is important that we take our time with it”.

“We need to ensure that the legislation is not rushed through the Houses in the closing weeks of this term”.

“The rights of women, particularly poorer ones, in other countries are very much in play in this issue and they must be spoken up for”, he said.

In a follow-up on social media, Senator Mullen said the Government’s Bill “enables the denial of natural motherhood, the exploitation of financially vulnerable women and the commodification of children”.

He added that surrogacy is massively abusive of human rights and is rightly banned in most European countries.

He then asked his supporters to contact politicians, “and demand a pause on this legislation so that its full implications can be considered by the public”.


Support for referendums hurt Sinn Féin in local elections, members say

Sinn Fein’s backing of the family and care referendums and Mary Lou McDonald’s promise to hold them again, if they failed, hurt the party in the local elections, members have said.

A front-bench Sinn Fein TD said the referendums came up on the doors: “People were saying ‘what were you at voting for that?’”

A Councillor, PJ Carey, said the party leader’s promise came up on the doors more than immigration. Ms McDonald later backtracked after the referendums resoundingly failed.

“[The public on the doors] were annoyed, they told me they would not vote for Sinn Féin because of it,” said Cllr Carey.

“I would say it was a mistake to suggest running a referendum again if you didn’t get the favoured result. I wouldn’t see any great sense in that. Maybe we are seen now as a mainstream party as opposed to the opposition.

“Maybe some felt a bit of resentment or anger over that.”


Help the terminally ill ‘live life as fully as possible, says Bishop

The Catholic Church in Ireland will reiterate its opposition to ‘assisted dying’ as it celebrates its annual Day for Life Sunday this weekend.

A special message commemorating the day says there has been much discussion about assisted suicide and euthanasia with a view to possibly legalising it. However, every country that has gone down this routes see numbers availing of it expanding along with grounds for eligibility.

Opposing such proposals, Bishop Kevin Doran said, people who are coming towards the end of their lives are vulnerable, and recent research shows that many feel themselves a burden on their loved ones and wider society.

“We are called to defend this gift of life to its natural end and to protect vulnerable citizens from a culture that could pressure them into assisted suicide”, he said.

“Far from abandoning people who are living with terminal illness, we need to surround them with the kind of love that enables them to live life as fully and as richly as possible for the time that is left to them”.


Minister announces expanded national poll on school choice

Parents of primary and preschool aged children will be invited to share their preferences on what type of school they want in their local area as part of “national conversation” on school choice.

The national poll, due to take place in the coming school year, will ask parents to state their preferences on school ethos (such as religious or multi denominational), gender mix (single sex or coeducational) and language (English-medium or Irish-medium). When parents are asked whether they want to divest their local Catholic school, they almost always vote to keep the status quo.

While there were plans to poll parents on school ethos alone, Minister for Education Norma Foley said an expanded poll is being planned to paint a more accurate picture of parental demand for types of education.

Ms Foley was speaking at a primary school in Dublin city centre, which is to become the first Catholic primary school in the State to change to Educate Together patronage.

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