Notes from Dáil Leaders’ Questions – Wed Feb 21, 2018

Intro

Leaders’ Questions is arguably the most important weekly event in Irish politics, as the government must give answers on various topics to the opposition parties on live TV.  However, as it is held on a Wednesday just before lunchtime, its effects on the national political discourse is minimal.  Unfortunately we’re far more prepared for discussions on sports, soaps and reality shows than we are political issues.

In this new series on FPP we’ll be taking notes throughout both the Dáil session and RTÉ’s coverage, with much para-phrasing of course…

Pre-game

Host – Sharon Ni Bheolain

Panel – Rose Conway-Walsh SF

James Ward – Irish Daily Mail

Michael Lehane – RTE pol corr

Definition of unborn to be determined by Supreme Court

RCW – ‘It’s important to get it right’ – in favour of repeal

SNB – What’s the official SF position?

RCW – Our position is pro repeal.  We need an Ard Fheis to clarify 12 week issue

ML – March 6 is when referendum bill will be clarified

JW – no alternative to 12 week provision, possibly Tanaiste will provide one

SNB – re impasse on the north, SF delegation to meet PM

RCW – important to restore GFA institutions, draft agreement in place

SNB – what’s in the agreement? There have been leaks

RCW – leaks not helpful, important to focus on the entire package

SNB – many in south scratching their heads that Irish language act could hold up the talks despite your new leadership not speaking Irish

RCW – it’s about people’s right to have their Irish identity

SNB – do we have a number on speakers north of the border

RCW – I dont have them to hand, but it’s about the right to have your Irish citizenship recognized

Leaders’ questions

Micheal Martin – HSE decision to cut thousands using patches ‘Versatis patches’ these are people on chronic pain.  It was like shutting down their own a and e department.  Here are some personal stories of the importance of these patches.  Joe Duffy has been the main advocate on this issue.  The suddenness of the decision was incredible.  This was about cutting costs but it has visited great trauma – can you and minister intervene and suspend the decision?

Leo Varadkar – Ive heard the harrowing stories so I looked into it last week.  We need to understand the background to this issue.  It is being prescribed for uses other than that which it is licensed.  You do need controls to stop people becoming dependant, plus there are side effects.  It’s not just about money, ten times as many patches being prescribed here as in UK.

MM – I dont accept that, I think this is a cost-cutting measure.  The sudden overnight nature of decision was appalling.  The time for explanations is over and a decision needs to be urgently revisited.

LV – there is a process in place for appeals of these decisions, here are some stats, those who apply for the right reasons are being accepted.  

Louise O’Reilly – Thank RTE investigates for piece on Alison McCormack – people should feel safe in our hospitals.  Patients should be confident that when a mistake is made all will be done to rectify the situation.  This was missing from the treatment of AMcC when her breast cancer was misdiagnosed.  She had to ask for information, nobody came to her.  Nine months was lost.  Why was she not immediately informed?  Another case had also been misdiagnosed.  Why was there no apology – will you ensure a duty of candour?

LV – I didnt see the programme but I have read about AMcC case and I deeply regret her case and thank her for her bravery and I hope the mistakes will not be repeated.  It’s a sad truth that there will be human error and the important thing is that there is honesty about it when they happen. We recently passed legislation to improve these open disclosure situations going forward

LOR – duty of candour i not statutorily underpinned in the legislation  Can you confirm that a second patient was informed that she was misdiagnosed and that there will be full and comprehensive review of the system,

LV – This is a matter for St James, they issued a statement last night, I sincerely hope the second patient has been informed.  I am advised by Minister for Health that they’re ‘on the case’

Paul Murphy – Re – your past dog whistle campaign on welfare cheats, thus demonizing unemployed people.  Here are some stats on complete lack of people’s security to plan their lives.  Jobpath is insufficient and is effectively privatising social welfare.  Penalty rates have gone up since Jobpath was implemented, although 84 million has gone to the private companies.  Similar schemes have been shown to be fraudulent in UK.  Govt’s own figures show the jobs arent being found.  Will you now read the writing on the wall for Jobpath?

LV – Welfare fraud is very real in every western society.  It’s people who are pretending to be poor and vulnerable.It disappoints me to hear left wing politicians defending this fraud.  Because of our actions we have been able to increase payments elsewhere.  Unemployment is down and that’s not just because of overall recovery it’s because we rock and if we did things your way we’d be like Greece and Venezuela

PM – It’s like Enda Kenny is back, you managed to attack something I didn’t say and didn’t answer the question at all.  Your Jobpath scheme has failed, what are you doing.  Since you are doubling down, why are your figures on fraud changing?

LV – My numbers are not changing…re JobPath you have to refer to ‘counter factual analysis’ which is a big long fancy term I presume will make most people listening switch off so I can’t be hurt too badly by this answer.  Again I say the unemployment figures are down

Danny Healy Rae – local question on water scheme in my area of Kilcumin [CC needs to call for order in the house] uses comparison between his area and D4

LV – Im afraid I cant answer the question as I dont have the information to hand, you should give us some notice in advance, in terms of bigger picture we’ve three billion for Irish Water plus another five in the future.

DHR – I’m going to speak a bit more about Kilcumin, every year it’s the same story the council have money for the road, basically I want my voters to see I’m doing something about this

LV – once it’s announced you’ll hear all about it, the appropriate minister has passed me a note saying it will be looked at

Post game

SNB and ML go over exchange between MM and LV but clearly biased towards Martin

JW says Leo’s logical approach to response may not go down too well

RCW – did the HSE ask for a reduction in price?  Was cost analysis done?  We’re debating this in the Seanad later?

SNB – what about the patient safety issue

RCW – If you have the money, you can get the patches and that’s not fair.  A full review must be done

SNB – on to LOR’s contribution re St James Hospital

JW – how many times have we seen patients have to go up against a hospital

SNB – Paul Murphy, allegations over Jobpath and private companies

RCW – We have also asked about this, many questions to be answered

SNB – DHR proves all politics is local

JW – nobody surprised he asked the question, he was probably expecting a sarcastic reply

FPP comment

Again I found the pre-and post-game panels to be inadequate.  Less hacks, more politicians for debate please.  That said, Senator Conway-Walsh putting Sinn Féin’s positions on the Eighth Amendment and the northern government were interesting.

When it came to the main event, based on the information presented, I actually thought the Taoiseach won the exchange with Martin over those patches.  The FF leader led with a very emotive use of his opening question, and seems to have been ably teed up by the Joe Duffy show for the past week – my mother in law knew all about these patches at the weekend.  Varadkar’s logical reply stopped him in his tracks to an extent, although when it comes to ‘courting the grey vote’, which Martin was clearly doing, then it’s very possible he may have had some success.

On the hospital case, much like the Taoiseach I didn’t see the RTE show, though gain it’s interesting to see how our national broadcaster is again involved in the framing of a question.  It certainly sounds like a terrible mistake but as Louise O’Reilly was grilling the Taoiseach I wasn’t sure if this was the right forum for such questioning as it was easy for Varadkar to deflect.  Of course at this stage I didn’t know about Deputy Healy-Rae’s line of questioning….

The highlight was of course the exchange with Paul Murphy.  The tone was combative from the moment he opened his mouth yet while LV is always quick with a jibe at the left, Murphy was absolutely right in pointing out that for all the smart comments there was no actual answer to his specific question about Jobpath.

As for Danny Healy Rae, well, this was parish pump politics at it’s ‘best’.  As a TD he’s entitled to use his time as he saw fit, and his choice was to be prioritise being seen asking a question regardless of whether or not an answer was to be forthcoming.  He was even sure to compare the needs of Kilcumin to those of ‘D4’ and I’m sure that will look very good to his constituents on his Facebook page.

In summary, this was my third time reviewing the Leaders’ Questions for FPP and my original hypothesis, that this is something the whole country should be watching every week, has not changed a bit.  JLP

#IANWAE

 

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Irish Independent’s framing of poll suggests ‘Brexitisation’ of #RepealThe8th debate

THE ISSUE

Many feel that one of the factors that contributed to both the Brexit and Trump victories  in 2016 was the mainstream media’s attempts to appear ‘neutral’ [for sales reasons every bit as much as ones involving ‘fairness’] which often led to over-compensating in their coverage of the perceived ‘losing side’ ahead of election day.

THE MEDIA

Article by Philip Ryan in Irish Independent on February 18, 2018

Poll shows strong support in favour of abortion referendum – but ’12 week’ proposal splits public

A total of 40pc said unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks was ‘about right’, while 8pc said it ‘did not go far enough’, a combined 48pc in favour.

However, 33pc said unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks ‘went too far’ and a further 19pc were undecided – a combined 52pc against or unsure.

THE COMMENT

The headline reads ’12-week proposal splits public’.  Actually, any poll result that isn’t 100% in favour of one side can be called ‘split’.  So what is Philip Ryan of the Indo trying to do here?

Well, let’s look at the numbers being presented, starting with the pollsters themselves.  The article calls it a ‘Kantar Millward Brown poll’ which suggests a degree of, pardon the pun, ‘independence’ about the source, though if you actually go to the firm’s website you’ll see that pretty much all of their polls are done for the Indo.

But here is where I want to be absolutely clear…I am not suggesting that the Irish Independent is somehow secretly working on behalf of one side of the abortion debate.  This is something different, yet it is potentially just as harmful to the #RepealThe8th movement.

The article begins by pointing out that as many as 63% of respondents are in favour of Eighth Amendment Repeal.   It then adds that ‘A total of 24pc are opposed and 13pc do not know or offer no opinion.’  That shows a clear separation between the different viewpoints, in favour, against and no opinion…three distinct camps.

But the reporting starts to get a little, shall we say, ‘murky’ when we get to the part about the proposed ’12 week’ provision.  Remember…this post is not meant to debate that issue itself, rather the Indo’s reporting of a poll on it.

As you can see from our highlighted quote above, when it comes to these particular figures, the author has chosen to throw the ‘undecided’ percentage in with those who feel that 12 weeks is ‘too far’.  Why is that?  Surely the fact that they haven’t stated an opinion means the number should be kept separate, just as it was with the overall figures?

The answer is simple, at least in my opinion.

It’s not so much that the Indo wants you to vote a particular way in the referendum…it just wants to be able to write a headline that attracts attention from both sides.  So by ‘cooking the numbers’ to suggest there’s a category where the ‘No’ camp is actually winning, they are effectively ‘throwing them a bone’.

Many use the term ‘clickbait’ for such manipulation in the framing of a headline, but I’m not wild about that as it suggests that it only happens online.  I’d rather call it ‘lookbait’ as not only has it always featured in the print media [mostly tabloids though not exclusively], but also it is essentially uses the same principle employed by advertisers.  That scantily-clad woman holding the beer on the billboard isn’t there because if you buy the product you’ll get to meet her, yet they certainly don’t mind you thinking you will, even if it’s for a split second.

But to return to the #RepealThe8th movement, it’s very important that they remain mindful of this type of skewed media coverage and highlight it whenever they can, otherwise that 63-24 gap could get a lot closer between now and the referendum itself.  JLP

#IANWAE

Impressive words and actions from Varadkar on #RepealThe8th announcement but how media will frame the debate remains to be seen

THE ISSUE

After much urging to announce both date and format regarding a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, Leo Varadkar’s government has finally done so.

THE MEDIA

Article by Rónán Duffy in The Journal on January 30, 2018

‘We’re asking people to trust women’: Repeal referendum to be held before the end of May

“We know that thousands of Irish women, women from every single county in Ireland, travel abroad for abortions every year. We know that women obtain abortion pills through the post to end their pregnancies without any medical support or counselling or supervision. So we already have abortion in Ireland, but it’s unsafe, unregulated and unlawful. In my opinion we cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions,”

THE COMMENT

After much waiting, we have finally heard from the Irish Government on the issue of the Eighth Amendment, and for the most part it was the news we wanted to hear.  The referendum is to be held at the end of May, and for the most part, the vote is to be on a straight repeal.

It is natural for Pro-Choice campaigners to remain sceptical, however.

First, I have questions on this intervention by the Attorney General on the need to have wording left in the Constitution which allows the Oireachtas to legislate.  Why wasn’t this information given to both the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee?  Or, if it was, then why are we choosing to ignore their findings?

And second, this quote from Duffy’s article concerns me…

Speaking at Government Buildings this evening about his own views on the referendum, Varadkar said that he would be campaigning to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Given that Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail has managed to contort his own position into something similar to the Taoiseach of late, I sincerely hope that the Irish mainstream media does not consider the two ‘Civil War party’ leaders to be the foremost spokespeople of the Yes campaign between now and the referendum.

They are both leaders of political organisations that have been given free votes to their parliamentarians so we would hope that parties with stated positions on Repeal, as well as other organisations, will be given sufficient time to present their case when the debate takes place in the public domain.

All of that remains to be seen, but for now, this can only be seen as a positive step.  JLP

#IANWAE

Discussing the Civil War parties’ positions on #RepealThe8th and #housingcrisis is not discussing the issues

THE ISSUE

I know Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are the two largest parties in Dáil Éireann, but it will always be the position of this site that the ideological differences between them on virtually every issue are minimal, yet to listen to mainstream media you’d think their views are all you need to hear.

THE MEDIA

Podcast by Inside Politics in Irish Times on January 24, 2018

Fianna Fáil Divided / Leo’s Bank of Mum & Dad

THE COMMENT

The Irish Times podcast annoys me more and more every time I listen, but since one of the purposes of this site is to point out the inadequacies of Irish mainstream media, I must continue.

In the latest instalment they spend just over half an hour covering two major issues in Irish politics without so much as even hinting at the position of a party that could be considered ‘left of centre’.

Like I said under ‘The Issue’, I know they are the two largest parties and this is probably why the national newspaper chooses to focus on their positions.  However, I would suggest it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ argument as to whether the media attention is driven by the popular vote or vice versa.

This is why the Irish ‘Left’ needs to get its act together and push for a united front to force the Civil War parties to come together.

#IANWAE

Ruth Coppinger TD highlights Government delay in carrying out recommendations of its own Citizens’ Assembly #RepealThe8th

THE ISSUE

Despite advice from both the Citizens Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee to proceed with a straight Yes/No referendum on Eighth Amendment Repeal, the Virtual Coalition Irish government of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the so-called Independent Alliance continues to drag its feet on setting a date.

THE MEDIA

Dáil Speech by Ruth Coppinger TD on Oireachtas.ie on January 17, 2018

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FRuthCoppingerTD%2Fvideos%2F1569784969778805%2F&show_text=0&width=560

“…this Dáil set up the Citizens’ Assembly in an outsourcing fashion and assumed it would come back with a much more minimal recommendation. There is always a danger when we entrust ordinary people with important decisions. They might actually listen, engage and fact-check the evidence they hear. They might come up with essentially compassionate and pro-choice recommendations. The recommendation of 12 weeks on request came from the Citizens’ Assembly.”

[full text of speech at the end of this post]

THE COMMENT

I can’t make a comment that’s any clearer than Deputy Coppinger’s statement to the Dáil and those of like-minded TDs.  We need a date for straight repeal referendum now.  Only then can the true debate begin.  JLP

#IANWAE

I am sharing time with Deputy Bríd Smith. I welcome the people who are in the Gallery for the debate but there are hundreds of people outside, members of the Strike 4 Repeal movement, in freezing cold temperatures, listening to the debate. Young people in this country are watching this issue like no other political issue and it will be the biggest political and social issue in 2018 and for many years to come. The people outside are waiting to hear the response of the Dáil to the all-party committee report and the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly, and an action plan from Government outlining what will happen and when it will be implemented.

The nub of the issue is that people want a simple repeal referendum by late May because that is the optimal time for the maximum participation of young people. Lest anybody be under any illusion, young people are the people most affected by this decision. This Dáil is not made up of young people but of a very unrepresentative sample of society in many ways. They want a referendum that will lead to change and real abortion legislation.

At the very minimum, that legislation must provide for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks. If anybody thinks that repeal can be avoided or that we can put it off until the autumn or until next year, if that was even contemplated, there would be a revolt among young people. If anyone thinks we can have a repeal referendum with very little change following it, that would also lead to a huge reaction. The tide cannot be held back on this issue any longer.

I have spoken on the issue of abortion a lot. I am tired of listening to myself, never mind what other people are tired of listening to. This is for a reason. It is because the idea of bodily autonomy is an absolute for young people. Abortion rights are what people want – not on this or that ground, not a “deserving” abortion. The concept of abortion rights is what most young people and a growing section of the population now believe in. Political parties cannot just hide behind repeal and think they can sail through the referendum without saying what will follow it. They cannot try to pretend they stand for things that they may not stand for. They can cut that out as well because—–

Deputy Simon Harris: We are not doing that.

Deputy Helen McEntee: We are not doing that.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: I am talking to the whole Dáil. In effect, this will be a referendum on abortion rights. In a sense, that is only natural. I do not think that this Dáil has the guts or the composition to bring in abortion legislation without a massive public endorsement and a push to do so. The concept of 12 weeks will be key in the referendum.

Solidarity-PBP is obviously pro-choice. It was the only fully pro-choice formation in the Dáil up until recent times. Hopefully, that will change. We have played a lead role in arguing this case and in the active movement for repeal. Solidarity-PBP recognises that these are historic recommendations. It is only four short years since the very same parties, arguing for change, voted in a 14-year jail sentence for women. That is a fact. What has brought this change about? We have heard many on the committee and others saying they were on a journey. The phrase has become very well worn and they have decontextualised it from the actual reality. People may have been on a journey but they were pushed to go on it, in many cases kicking and screaming. Change has been forced from outside. The evidence that was heard at the committee was very important. I played a role in arguing and advancing some of that evidence, very importantly in the case of the abortion pills, which are a crucial factor in the decision that has been reached and which have been cited by many people. The civil disobedience that was undertaken with regard to the abortion pills was also hugely important. The use of the abortion pill tripled in about three years, since particular actions were taken by organisations like ROSA and others. We need to be honest about where the change has come from.

We also need to be honest that this Dáil set up the Citizens’ Assembly in an outsourcing fashion and assumed it would come back with a much more minimal recommendation. There is always a danger when we entrust ordinary people with important decisions. They might actually listen, engage and fact-check the evidence they hear. They might come up with essentially compassionate and pro-choice recommendations. The recommendation of 12 weeks on request came from the Citizens’ Assembly. I also want to put on record that socioeconomic reasons up to 22 weeks unfortunately was not agreed by a majority of parties and groups but it was advanced by a strong minority. It was a bit of a cop-out, to be honest. Many women will not be able to fall in to a 12-week timeframe for many reasons and usually they will be the most vulnerable, the poorest and the youngest. All we are doing is continuing travel outside the State.

The other question I want to address is disability and severe abnormality. It is quite clear that people who are anti-abortion are going to use very emotive arguments about disability, Down’s Syndrome, etc. We have heard them already throughout this campaign. It is the case that the committee did not take a majority position of support in respect of severe abnormality. I take no moral lectures from anybody about a woman who would make a decision on those grounds. It is not a cake-walk bringing up a child with a severe disability. I refer particularly to parties and individuals who have done nothing to make their lives better and who have voted for cuts in disability services, etc.

The response of a huge number of Deputies has so far been to run for cover. A huge number have still not declared where they stand on this. If examining one’s conscience was an Olympic sport, numbers of Irish Deputies would be winning gold medals. There was a great play made around the time of the marriage equality referendum that everyone held hands in the Dáil and walked out and won the referendum. That was not the case and it will not be the case here because parties will not be united. There is not a party whip. The winning of the referendum will be down to huge numbers of active people, young people, women and communities.

For politicians who are feeling troubled, it is very simple. The two questions they need to ask and answer are these: first, whether they support abortion being legal or illegal, because it will continue regardless and, second, whether they actually support forcing people to remain pregnant who do not want to be pregnant. That is the logic of supporting a ban on abortion. People say there are extreme views on both sides. I do not think I have an extreme view. My view is that the person involved ultimately should make the decision. I think that is a humane view.

We need to give huge credit to the active campaigns like those from the people who are outside the House this evening. The protests have mushroomed in the last years, with the repeal jumpers being worn, people taking part in repeal protests and the strike for repeal. Women have themselves defied the unjust ban by ordering abortion pills online and we have seen events like the abortion pill train, bus, etc. that I mentioned. The recommendations of the committee arise from those social movements that have taken place on the ground.

Many people have invoked 1983 and 1984, the year that followed the eighth amendment, the crass hypocrisy around Ann Lovett, the Kerry babies, etc. There is now a growing movement for gender equality. We have seen it with Trump and with the #metoo movement. The movement taking place outside on repeal is the exact same. It is a movement for bodily autonomy and for abortion rights. The time is up now for politicians to be hiding on this issue. There is no hiding place left. Young people will not accept any further procrastination or restrictions.

I ask the Minister to state the date of the referendum. It has not been set. That is a key demand and question in the minds of people outside. The information we got from the Tánaiste earlier that the Government is not going to move a repeal Bill until early March is leaving it extremely tight. We need at least six weeks plus 30 days’ grace before the referendum can be called. Maybe the Minister would clarify that. To be clear, it has to be repeal simpliciter. This was debated by the committee. I do not have time to go into it. We will then need a complete scrapping of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

Irish Times lets Fine Gael off the hook big time in end-of-year love-in, er, I mean, podcast

THE ISSUE

The Irish political conversation is dominated by a narrative that insists the electorate’s only two options for government leadership are the so-called ‘Civil War’ parties.

THE MEDIA

Podcast by Irish Times – Inside Politics : ‘The Year In Politics’ on Tuesday, December 26, 2017

‘…people feel they can relate to these people more because they feel they have lived the same experiences they have…’

THE COMMENT

Over in the US, Donald Trump and his Republican-led government are constantly moaning and groaning under the weight of repeated challenging reporting from publications like the New York Times.  Too bad its Irish namesake doesn’t give our own recently-appointed political leader similar treatment, if this ‘end of year’ summary is anything to go by.

Essentially the all-male panel has given Leo Varadkar & co a free Party Political Podcast.  Wherever these are recorded, I pity the poor cleaning staff because they’ll have their work cut out removing all of Fine Gael’s 2017 political woes that have been swept under the carpet.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten that this is the party that had to admit defeat on the water charges.  Well, when I say ‘admit’ defeat, I actually mean grudgingly concede it.

Apparently we are meant to have forgotten the fact that Varadkar rose to power under an electoral process within his party that was chronically tilted away from the grass roots members, meaning all he had to do was shmooze his way through his fellow TDs to get the nod.  This weighting method is very similar to that which saw Hillary Clinton controversially secure the 2016 Democratic nomination at the expense of Bernie Sanders.

Apparently we are meant to forget the homeless crisis still prevalent in the Republic, simply because the Taoiseach says so.

And apparently we are meant to forget the disgraceful whisteblower controversy which nearly sparked a Christmas election and ultimately cost the Tánaiste her job.

Nobody expects the mainstream media to completely ignore a government’s positives, but what this IT podcast has done is to summarize the Irish year in politics thusly…’Sure isn’t it great that our top cabinet members are all so young?‘ [paraphrase]

And as one of the leading bits of ‘evidence’ of the effects of having such youthful leadership, the ‘lads’ cite the Eighth Amendment debate.

Despite the fact that Fine Gael’s own Citizens Assembly recommends repeal and legislation, and despite the fact that the Oireachtas Committee recommends repeal and legislation, the government position at the time of this podcast was that a decision is yet to be made on how to proceed.  No guarantee has been forthcoming that a straight yes or no choice on repeal will be offered to the Irish public.

Yet somehow the panel twists this state of affairs into one that represents a sweeping generational change.  Well, for this conservative jurisdiction that may be true to an extent, but given that Fine Gael are the country’s most conservative mainstream party [just about ahead of Fianna Fáil], do we think these ‘young pretenders’ have reached their current positions by cultural revolution or because the elder statesmen ahead of them on the ladder gave them a helping hand along the way?

And the final insult for me from this podcast came when they made the most ludicrous segue from the potential impact of FG’s boy wonder on the Irish electorate to the ‘youthquake’ experienced in Britain’s general election campaign that brought Jeremy Corbyn extremely close to Number 10.  I had to switch it off after that so you’ll have to listen yourself to find out what they said after that.

Here’s to a 2018 where Ireland’s political establishment, both in Leinster House and the media, are called to account whenever they ignore at best, or put down at worst, progressive issues.  JLP

#IANWAE

Inevitable attack on #RepealThe8th movement targets Amnesty Ireland and Colm O’Gorman

THE ISSUE

Colm O’Gorman is both Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland and a leader of the #RepealThe8th campaign, thus making him a prime target for the so-called ‘Pro-Life’ movement.

THE MEDIA

Article by Amnesty International from Amnesty.ie on Friday, December 8, 2017

CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS UNDER THREAT FROM DRACONIAN LAW AND AMNESTY COULD FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES

SIPOC wrote to Amnesty International Ireland only last year to acknowledge that its work on reforming Ireland’s abortion laws, which includes the work supported by the OSF grant, was not in breach of the [Electoral] Act

THE COMMENT

My attention was drawn to this matter by a string of ‘outrage’ posts from the usual right-wing suspects on Twitter such as John McGuirk and Evert Bopp.

The perennial trolls make several references to supposed ‘illegal actions’ by Amnesty.ie and have been recycling the same argument all weekend.  Obviously only a fool would take their social media opinions at face value without making an effort to get Amnesty’s side of the story, which is very different as you can see by the above link.

What interests me about this is how the law in question is being applied.  Ireland is great at passing laws but when it comes to enforcing them, not so much.  While it does look like Amnesty was in technical violation of the said Act, it also seems that they were singled out by the authority in question, after previously being advised that they were ok.

Imagine a road with a 60km speed limit on which cars travel daily above and beyond that level without penalty.  Suddenly a group of ‘concerned citizens’ inform the gardaí about one vehicle in particular, after which an officer is dispatched with a speed gun to patrol the road to catch that one suspect without checking all the others.

We could use another analogy, calling this a political equivalent of racial profiling.  Amnesty [and by extension the Irish mainstream media for not covering this to the liking of Messrs McGuirk and Bopp] are being accused of political bias when you would have to question the motives of those who initiated this controversy by registering a string of complaints with SIPOC.

I wonder how much scrutiny of funding the likes of Iona Institute and Libertas could handle.

With public opinion strongly in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, it was inevitable that the so-called ‘Pro-Life’ movement would work behind the scenes to pull any kind of stunt they could to try and tip the scales the other way.  It’s a shame that they have managed to persuade and official body to help them in their cause, but hopefully enough people see sense to realise for what it is and not take it any further.

#IANWAE