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

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Wise words as Blindboy tells podcast listeners to keep their eyes [and minds] open on the net

THE ISSUE

There’s a lot of crazy shit on the internet, but that’s no reason to ignore the web altogether.  Much better to get engaged and know how to identify and, when necessary, challenge the crazy.

THE MEDIA

The Blindboy Podcast on January 24, 2018

Finucanes Ointment

“Lads, I will stress…I’m not an economist.  I’m somebody that got a name for themselves by wearing a plastic bag on their head.  So when you hear me talking about things like neoliberalism…don’t take my word for it, go and do your own original research from far more reliable sources than me…”

THE COMMENT

It’s a highly entertaining 77 minutes of audio content even without the message that is the focus of this FPP post.  I highly recommend you listen for the three monkey stories alone.

But whatever about Blindboy’s [aka Rubberbandits] topic of the day, his words in the quote you see above speak volumes and can be applied all across the world wide web.  I know many people much younger than myself who steer clear of online content because they fear it is a haven for trolls, WUMs and clickbait.

Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that the internet is NOT a haven for trolls, WUMs and clickbait, but if you persevere you can quickly learn to spot them as mere weeds in what can actually be a Garden of Eden for rational thought and shared knowledge once you know where to look and how to handle the information you’re consuming.

Going back to Blindboy’s general content for a moment, maybe I’m not crazy about the c-bombs, but that’s possibly more my own issue than it is his, and it certainly doesn’t stop me from subscribing and you know what, I’m not a million miles away from throwing him a few bob on Patreon either…one thing is for sure, no matter how edgy his themes may get, his ever-increasing listenership will surely guarantee him a permanent sponsor in no time.

Meanwhile we can all do with following his sage advice.  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

Trump has done nothing but shut down key parts of government since he took office but you wouldn’t know it listening to Democrats and media

THE ISSUE

Whether it’s through stupidity, unwillingness or incompetence, the Democrat leadership cannot get across the simple message that Donald Trump’s agenda of racism, misogyny and pro-corporatism is bad for the American people, and the mainstream media isn’t much better.

THE MEDIA

YouTube clip by Dan Rather on The Young Turks on January 22, 2018

The Government Shutdown Ends With a ‘Promise’ For DACA Vote From the GOP – The News With Dan Rather

“…if most of the media ignore the year-long slow-motion shut down and if Democrats don’t raise enough stink about it, maybe it’s because too many of us have signalled that we’re on board”

THE COMMENT

Shortcomings with relief efforts in Puerto Rico.  Throwing millions off their medical insurance by hacking away at Obamacare.  Going after Medicare and Social Security.  Gutting the staff at the State Department.  Rescinding regulations for the sake of it.

Those are just some of the actions Donald Trump has taken since being sworn in just over a year ago, yet in recent days he has been able to frame the word ‘shutdown’ as meaning something that is only harmful to the US military, which already receives more funding than any other nation by a long, long way.

At first I was annoyed at myself for not realising that what the President has done since taking office is effectively a massive shutdown in itself, but I’m not involved with politics and government on a daily basis – the point is so simple and obvious that we have to wonder why his primary opposition, namely the Democrats and, as he calls them, ‘The Fake News Media’, haven’t been highlighting it all weekend?

Thankfully we have people like the legendary Dan Rather to get the message out there.  And as he points out, it’s possible that the general public is also complicit to an extent.

As I recently pointed out here on FPP, the likes of Chuck Schumer with his ‘bowl of Jello’ and Nancy Pelosi with her ‘poop Sundae’ simply don’t have the charisma necessary to deliver the kind of soundbites needed to combat Trump’s twitter tirades.  Meanwhile we have Dick Durbin gleefully using the word ‘bipartisanship’ as if it also necessarily means ‘fairness for the American people’.

Besides…if anything should have clinched the message battle for the Democrats re the latest shutdown it should have been that absolutely disgusting ad which suggested they would be responsible for any future murders by illegal immigrants.  That was nothing short of Hitler-esque propaganda [script most likely written by Stephen Miller] which speaks volumes for the intelligence levels of the demographic at which it was aimed.

The party badly needs new leadership.  Whether or not Mitch McConnell keeps to his word on DACA by February 8, the Democrats have left themselves wide open for negative press between now and then for having caved far too easily over the spending bill.

And there I was, very close to writing a post here praising them for finally showing a bit of fight.  Why do I allow myself to get so deluded?  JLP

#IANWAE

PS – As I’m about to publish, Trump has tweeted this :

I rest my case.

 

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.

The Young Turks’ Cenk Ungur lets loose on corporate Democrats as time runs out to secure DACA deal

THE ISSUE

The Republicans and Democrats need to agree on a budget before Friday otherwise the government will ‘shut down’, ie there will be no money to pay federal employees.  As the Senate must have at least 60 votes to pass a spending bill, even though the Democrats are in a minority their cotes are needed and thus they have some leverage and they are hoping to use this to finally secure a deal for the so-called ‘Dreamers’ or children of illegal immigrants who have proven themselves to be productive members of American society.

THE MEDIA

YouTube clip by The Young Turks on January 15, 2018

“…you’re weak, you’re losers, you’re pathetic.  How do you expect us to get excited, to show up to the polls, for these loser Democrats who can’t figure out a way to fight against fucking Trump???”

THE COMMENT

The reason we are outraged by Trump’s recent ‘shithole’ remark [not even going to bother with the word ‘alleged’…we all know he said it] is not because such words that shouldn’t ever be used in politics…in his case, it was all about the fact that he was referring to entire nations of people.

Of course there are times when the use of ‘salty’ language is absolutely necessary, and in this clip of the Young Turks, host Cenk Ungur rightly calls out the corporate Democrats for their meagre attempts to use their leverage in the government spending bill to secure proper legislation for the Dreamers.

It’s not often that Ungur gets this animated – though to be clear, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because if he went on a tirade for every clip he’d be no better than Alex Jones.  This is definitely the kind of time-sensitive issue where a verbal kick up the backside is exactly what it required.  Whether it will do any good remains to be seen – I’m not so sure Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi know how to use YouTube, let alone subscribe to the Young Turks.

#IANWAE

Trump calls for national discussion of ‘Fake News’ – would that include his beloved Breitbart and Fox?

THE ISSUE

THE MEDIA

Video by The Young Turks on Sunday, December 10, 2017

THE COMMENT

There are many different ways the President annoys me [‘believe me’] but this issue involves two of the leading ones – his downright hypocrisy coupled with his labelling any media reporting he doesn’t like as ‘Fake News’.

On Saturday Trump called for Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel to be fired because he incorrectly tweeted a photo showing the crowd at the President’s latest rally in Florida, suggesting that there wasn’t much of a crowd.  It turned out the picture was taken before the rally began, but even though the reporter merely tweeted rather than filed an article, apparently it should cost him his job.

This is hypocrisy on its own, for as we all know that if firing is the standard punishment for a ‘Fake News’ tweet, then President Mike Pence should be in the White House now after Trump shared three phony anti-immigrant videos not so long ago.

But there’s more…with the crucial Alabama Senate election taking place tomorrow, one of Republican candidate Roy Moore’s accusers recently admitted to writing part of the inscription on her high school yearbook – the Young Turks give a very good account of how it got spun by the likes of Breitbart and Fox News.

No doubt the White House will claim the tweet at the top of this article covers all media outlet but everyone knows that it’s one rule for the right-wing sources and one for everyone else.

#IANWAE