News Roundup

Independent Ireland TDs call for NO/NO vote 

The new political party of TDs Michael Collins, Michael Fitzmaurice and Richard O’Donoghue is advocating a No/No vote in the March 8 referendums on “family” and “care”.

Party Leader, Michael Collins, said that it’s “incredible to think that two days before Mother’s Day, the Irish government wants to remove the word woman from the constitution.”

“Here we have not one but two referendums that have been poorly worded, poorly communicated and rushed through without proper scrutiny and mixed messages on our current constitution from government ministers means I do not have the confidence to advocate for any change to our current constitution”.

“At a time when so many people are struggling to make ends meet, it is this sort of symbolic but ultimately insubstantial political point-scoring that grinds the gears of so many people. While the government spend millions of taxpayer’s monies on two referendums, the struggle in the cost of living, housing, healthcare and any number of other issues continue for ordinary men and women across the country”.


Pro-life student group needs police protection from mob at Manchester

A student pro-life group required police to protect them from a hostile crowd of up to 250 people that surrounded a building where they were due to meet.

The University of Manchester’s Pro-Life Society, met for a talk on the evening of 1 March. As students tried to access the building, eggs were thrown at windows, while attendees were subject to “a torrent of verbal abuse and threats”.

As students left the event, they had to proceed through a tunnel of protesters held back by police as the air reverberated with chanting: “Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!”

The pro-life students were spat at and threatened with physical abuse, including one female first-year student being told to “get raped”. Some members of the crowd then pursued the students while shouting and swearing at them.

A heavily pregnant 22-year-old woman had to be escorted home in a police van due to concerns for her safety.

“I really thought our lives were in danger,” says Maisie, the expectant mother and an alumna of the university.

A petition has been signed by 15,000 students looking for the pro-life organisation to be shut down completely.


Trinity Students Union calls for ‘No’ vote in carers’ referendum

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has advised its members to vote no in the upcoming referendum on care to “not sideline the needs and voices of individuals with disabilities”.

The group called for a yes vote in the family referendum to recognise “durable relationships”.

In a letter, the union said the referendum to replace Article 41.2 does not “foster a truly inclusive and equitable society”.

The letter said the wording “takes a narrow view of carers, pertaining solely to family, and completely disregards the needs of people with disabilities”.

“This is a massive oversight on part of the government, and in light of further recent developments, such as the flawed Green Paper on Disability Reform, is no surprise.”

The letter also said the new article would allow the state to “shirk any legal responsibility” to provide resources and support services for people with disabilities.

“We need to vote no on the care referendum to ensure stronger rights from the government – ones based on enforceable, rights-based wording, not vague promises.”

TCDSU is the only student union in Ireland so far to take a stance on the March 8 referendums.

TCDSU endorse #YesNo vote in upcoming family and care referendums


Lawyers group urge No vote in family and care referendums

A Yes vote in next week’s referendums would mean “major uncertainties” for people in short-term relationships, according to a group of lawyers led by former Attorney General, Michael McDowell.

It would also have long-term consequences in areas of law such as family, tax and property, and result in “no justiciable rights” for people either giving or needing care, Lawyers for No (LFN) said.

The ad hoc group campaigning for a ‘NoNo’ vote also includes Clare Independent TD and barrister Michael McNamara; barrister and journalist Brenda Power; and Maria Steen.

Senator McDowell heavily criticised the government’s behaviour saying that the referendum bills had been pushed through “in a matter of hours”, and without “pre-legislative scrutiny”. He said Minister Roderic O’Gorman’s department’s decision to not publish the minutes of 16 meetings held between interdepartmental groups was “absolutely extraordinary”.

McDowell said the government was in effect saying that it is “in the public interest to keep the public in the dark” on the consequences of the constitutional amendments it is keeping until after votes have been cast.


EU Parliament again condemns commercial surrogacy

MEPs included “commercial surrogacy” among a list of increasing violations of human rights and democratic values in their 2023 annual report. Ireland is about to adopt one of the most permissive regimes in Europe concerning the practice. The law will be against commercial surrogacy on paper but will allow surrogate mothers to be paid “reasonable expenses” which can to tens of thousands of euro.

The report was adopted on Wednesday by 377 votes for, 90 against and 68 abstentions.

Under the heading of “Rights of women, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equality”, the Parliament, “Reiterates its condemnation of the commercial practice of surrogacy, a global phenomenon that exposes women worldwide to exploitation and human trafficking, while targeting financially and socially vulnerable women in particular; highlights its severe impact on women, women’s rights, and women’s health, and underlines its crossborder implications”.

The rapporteur Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES), said after the vote: “One of the humanity’s most fundamental achievements has been to embrace that every human being has a set of inherent, inalienable, individual and indivisible rights. However, in recent decades illiberal and authoritarian regimes have called these onto question. It is therefore crucial, now more than ever, that the EU and like-minded partners invest all efforts and resources in their defence.”


UK Parliamentary inquiry recommends ‘no change’ to laws against assisted suicide

A new report from the UK Parliament’s Health and Social Care committee has not recommended any change to country’s law against assisted suicide. It heard about a litany of problems in jurisdictions that have legalised the practice as well as claims in favour of it.

The report notes that, among members of the British Medical Association, those more likely to be opposed to a change were those who worked in specialities that dealt directly with patients at the end of their lives.

The report quotes from a number of witnesses who discuss the manner in which the legalisation of assisted suicide distorts the doctor-patient relationship.

It noted financial concerns that can lead people to want to end their lives prematurely as well as other non-medical concerns such as loneliness, which can influence a person’s decision.

The report noted concerns from disability rights groups and people with disabilities who suggested assisted suicide “reinforce[s] the damaging notion that disabled lives are not worth living.”


New poll shows married people are happier

Adults who are married report being far happier than those in any other relationship status, according to a new Gallup Poll.

“Any way you analyze those data, we see a fairly large and notable advantage to being married in terms of how people evaluate their life,” said poll author Jonathan Rothwell, principal economist at Gallup.

From 2009 to 2023, more than 2.5 million adults in the United States were asked how they would rate their current life, with zero being the worst possible rating and 10 being the highest. Then the researchers asked respondents what they anticipated their happiness level would be in five years.

To be considered thriving, a person had to rank their current life as a seven or higher and their anticipated future as an eight or higher, according to the survey.

Over the survey period, married people consistently reported their happiness levels higher than their unmarried counterparts, ranging from 12% to 24% higher depending on the year, according to the data.


UK Police admit wrong in action against Christian pastor 

A UK Police Force have conceded their attempt to impose speech restrictions on a Christian preacher were “disproportionate”.

The Avon & Somerset police force had issued an order to Dia Moodley, a Bristol-based pastor, who has engaged in occasional street evangelism for the past five years. The order forbade him from “passing comments on any other religion or comparing them to Christianity” and “passing comments on beliefs held by Atheists or those who believe in evolution”.

Ironically, Moodley had initially reached out to the police after being the victim of several incidents of racial abuse. However, at a subsequent meeting, the pastor was served with the warning notice, which he refused to sign.

Commenting on the case, Bryn Harris of the Free Speech Union, said: “The state does not hold a monopoly on truth and the ability to discuss and debate ideas, including religious ideas, is the lifeblood of any genuinely free society. Yet, repeatedly, we see this principle violated by unaccountable police officers and local councils who aggressively pursue their own ideological causes rather than using scarce public resources to tackle real crime.”


One in two in NI are ‘practising Christians’

One in two people in Northern Ireland describe themselves as “practising Christians”, according to a survey of over 1,000 people by the polling company Savanta which was commissioned by the Evangelical Alliance (EA).

While the UK’s 2021 census found that 80% of the NI population identified as Christian, the new research asked people whether they are “practising” their Christian faith.

The resulting report – ‘Northern Ireland: Who are the Good News People?’ – concludes that 50% of people in NI regard themselves as “practising Christians”, with 35% praying, 23% going to church and 13% reading the Bible every week.

The report also found that 38% of “practising” Catholics also consider themselves to be evangelical Christians.

David Smyth, head of EA in NI, said: “We always suspected that the Christian faith continued to play an important role in life here and this research confirms high levels of religious identification and practice. The findings in this report have challenged, surprised and encouraged us”.


‘Free’ contraceptives given to 200,000 women last year

Almost 200,000 women availed of ‘free’ contraception, paid for by the State, in the first 10 months of last year.

A 2019 Working Group on Access to Contraception, under the then Health Minister, Simon Harris, said the proposal would probably be a waste of public funds.

The State scheme is available for women aged 17-31 and, Health Minister Stephen Donnell said that latest figures show over 198,000 women availed of it between January and October last.

He also reported that 17 of 19 maternity hospitals are providing abortion.

He said the final two maternity hospitals, Cavan General Hospital and South Tipperary General Hospital, are expected to provide abortion by the year’s end.

The total number of abortions carried out in the State is expected to exceed 10,000 for last year, having numbered 8,156 in 2022. There were 4,577 in 2021, although the numbers that year were affected by the pandemic.

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