Host William Campbell (above left) meets the Iona Institute’s David Quinn (left).
With the Repeal the 8th campaign in full swing, it’s time to look back at the claims made by campaigners in previous referendums.
I ask David Quinn of the Iona Institute whether he still stands over the claims he made during the Marriage Equality campaign including this one: “Should the referendum pass, a same-sex couple could demand a right to marry in a church … In Denmark, we have already seen that the Lutheran Church, a State Church admittedly, has been forced to conduct same-sex weddings.”
Mr Quinn’s article was deeply disingenuous, ignored the main points of the book and instead focused on ‘proving’ that Mother and Baby Homes were not an Irish phenomenon.
That particular point is confirmed by me, several times throughout the book, widely known, and is hardly a revelation. What was unique to Ireland, however, was the sheer size and scale of the Mother and Baby Homes network here, as well as their institutional nature and inhumanely high infant mortality rates.
Indeed, from 1922, Ireland set the global gold standard for the gross mistreatment of single, pregnant women and girls aged 12 to 48 and illegitimate babies, as the vicious mortality rates clearly show.
Mr Quinn also ignores the indisputable evidence that the Irish Catholic version of Mother and Baby Homes was uniquely penal as opposed to the generally small and homely versions in Britain and other countries around the English-speaking world.
At present, Ireland seems to have had the largest Mother and Baby Homes in the world by a considerable margin. No doubt Mr Quinn has also searched for comparable infant mortality rates in other countries but he will not find them.
The Irish Catholic model was also distinctive in that the cold-blooded mortality rates that characterise them are several times higher than other Mother and Baby Homes worldwide.
St Patrick’s, Sean Ross Abbey and Bessboro are already confirmed as three Irish Mother and Baby Homes where mortality rates ran up to 50% and higher in various years from 1925 to 1947 and, up to a proven high of 82% in Bessboro.
Mr Quinn claims that the reason the mortality rates in the homes plummeted from 1945 to the early 1950s is not due to the several factors I highlighted in The Adoption Machine but, rather, due to the increased use of antibiotics and vaccinations.
I am fascinated by this assertion as I have never come across it during my many years of research into the subject.
The main issue with Quinn’s assertions is his implied claim that the illegitimate babies were actually included in the widespread use of these miracle drugs. Considering that the Mother and Baby Homes never employed doctors or nurses at the time, it seems odd to say the least. However, I presume Quinn can provide the evidence for his new claim or he would not have made it.
“Test trenches were dug revealing two large structures. One structure appears to be a large sewage containment system or septic tank that had been decommissioned and filled with rubble and debris and then covered with top soil. The second structure is a long structure which is divided into 20 chambers. The Commission has not yet determined what the purpose of this structure was but it appears to be related to the treatment/containment of sewage and/or waste water.”
Quinn is suddenly claiming that “we now know this [that the babies and children are buried in a septic tank] is not the case”.
I assume Mr Quinn has met his legal obligations and handed his new evidence that the experts have got it wrong, over to the current Inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes.
Mr Quinn further asserts that the money received from American couples who adopted the Irish babies was actually by the nuns on the babies still in their care, is also at odds with all known evidence.
The nuns pocketed the cash as ‘donations’ to their orders and did not spend it on the babies and children in their care.
As a concerned survivor, I have already contacted the Inquiry’s solicitor and informed them of Mr Quinn’s numerous pieces of new evidence.
Mr Quinn notes that the Catholic Church in Britain has apologised over adoption practices in the past but, fails to mention that the Catholic Church in Ireland has done no such thing despite requests from survivors for an acknowledgement and apology going back to 2012.
Quinn’s entire reason for writing this article seems to be part of his campaign for a ‘no’ vote in the forthcoming referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Mr Quinn clearly believes that hellhole, institutional, Catholic Mother and Baby Homes are a superior option to abortion.
I will not dignify his belief with a response except to note the pain he has caused to the survivor community by conflating our issues with a matter that is completely separate from us. There is no hierarchy of pain or morality.
If David Quinn would care to publicly debate his bizarre and unproven new claims, I will meet him anywhere and anytime. I look forward to asking him to cite his sources and produce his accredited evidence.
If he cannot produce the proof that the babies are not buried in a septic tank and, that the living babies received vaccines and antibiotics from the late 1940s and, that ‘donations’ were spent on medicines for the babies, perhaps he might have the good grace and Christianity to apologise to the survivor community he has needlessly hurt.
From top: George Soros; From left, Colm’ O’Gorman, David Quinn and Sean O’Rourke
Amnesty International Ireland has so far resisted demands by the The Standards in Public Office [SIPO] to return a €137,000 donation to fund a campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment from Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.
Amnesty Ireland’s Colm O’Gorman appeared on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke this morning alongside David Quinn, whose pro-life Iona Institute has been criticised in the past for accepting foreign donations.
O’ Gorman: “…We are in discussion with the standards in public office about a flawed amendment to the Electoral Act of 2001 that they have acknowledged is deeply flawed and that a decision they made recently is both unjust and , quite likely, contrary to law,
Sean O’Rourke: “Just tell us about the money?
O’Gorman: Well first of all it didn’t come from George Soros. It came from a human rights foundation called the Open Society which was established by a large endowment [$18 billion] from George Soros. Unsurprisingly human rights foundations give money to human rights organisations to do human rights work and that what happened in this case.
We received a donation of 150,294 US dollars – almost a 137,000 euros at the time that we received it- for our work to secure human right compliant framework for abortion in Ireland. We publicly announced that grant. We published details of it on our website in January of 2016 and we got on with our work as we would do as a human rights organisation and as others do.
In Summer of 2016, DC Leaks, The Washington-based entity that put out the hacked material from the DNC hack earlier in the Summer published materiel from a hack from the Open Society Foundation and within that there was a strategy document that talked about how they would fund a number of organisations in Ireland to work on a campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. That found its way on to global pro-life websites and found its way into the hands of pro life activists here in Ireland and then it found its way into the Irish media and a story developed on the back of all that.
Following on from that we had a detailed inquiry from the Standards in Public office Commission asking us to clarify the grant, the purpose for which we received it, to forward on to them any correspondence between ourselves and the foundation in relation to the grant. We responded in detail to that request, we supplied them with information that clarified that we had received the grant from the Open Society’s Foundation in New York, the amount of the grant received and exactly what the grant would be used to do. So, we made it clear that the grant would be used to fund a campaign, to part fund a campaign to ensure a human rights compliant framework for abortion in Ireland and that would mean the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, changes in law. We then set out very, clearly…”
O’Rourke [interrupting]:. “OK That’s the case you’ve made at length.”
O’Gorman: “No in a page and a half summary we set out very clearly the activities that would flow from that and at that point SIPO responded to say that on the basis of all that information we were not required to register the third party and that was on the 13th of October, 2016.”
O’Rourke: “But the position has been reversed.”
O’Gorman: “A year later they reverse that decision with a month to go before that campaign ends and when, indeed as people will appreciate, we have gotten on and done the work that was funded and ruled legitimate a year ago..”.
O’Rourke: “David Quinn, what’s wrong with all or any of that?”
David Quinn: “Well SIPO has said that what Amnesty is doing is in breach of the law. And Amnesty has said ‘we’re not going to obey the law’.”
O’Rourke: “Nope, we haven’t”
Quinn: “Well no in your statement you said you believe that Irish law breaches international human rights protocols and that you don’t agree with the law and you think it is far too restrictive. I happen to agree that the electoral act is far too restrictive. I think it’s far too restrictive around issues of donations but you can’t hold yourself above the law.
I mean I have been asked so many times as a director of Iona, ‘where are you getting your money from?’ and ‘Are you SIPO compliant?’ and the answer is ‘we are Sipo compliant’. I am asked: ‘Do you get money from America?’. We do not get money from America, unless you count an Irishman giving us 100 a month by standing order.”
O’Gorman: “Then you do take money from America?”
Quinn: “Well, it’s hardly…a 100 a month by standing order doesn’t compare with a hundred…
O’Gorman: “Hang on, David…”
Quinn: “You’ve had plenty of time to speak. One hundred and thirty seven thousand from Geroge Soros’ foundation, the Open Society and the same amount, by the way, to two other pro choice organisations. We are continually hounded about whether we get foreign funding and we field plenty of calls from journalists about this.
On this particular issue the media by and large, this programme being an exception because here we are debating it. and also the politicans have been the dog that didn’t bark. They have said practically nothing about this.
When Declan Ganley appeared on the scene in 2007 to campaign against the first Lisbon Treaty he was hounded from here to kingdom come about where he was getting his money from and whether it was foreign-sourced and was told continually that he was breaking the law – and he was SIPO-compliant – and this story went on for about a year.
The Irish Times pursued it. RTÉ pursued it. Prime Time had a big documentary about it and here we have no fuss whatsoever about this story. It has been treated by the media about as important as tax evasion by a minor celeb.”
O’Rourke: “On the question of the ruling by SIPO [ to Mr O’Gorman] you don’t like it. You say it’s a reversal of the position adopted a year ago but nonetheless they have a statutory responsibility to implement the law and presumably you beleive in adhering to the law?”
O’Gorman: “We believe in the rule of law absolutely and we believe that this decision by SIPO is deeply flawed on a number of levels. First of all, we think the principle upon which they have approached the law is deeply flawed and likely illegal if not under Irish law at least under international law.. .
O’Rourke: “Why don’t you see a judicial review?”
O’Gorman: “What I have said is, we will not comply with the instruction because it gravely violates freedoms and human rights.”
O’Rourke: “Who is the arbiter?”
O’Gorman: “…and that we will consider and use every available means that we can to challenge that decision. That clearly includes considering whether or not and if and how a legal challenge to that decision is the most appropriate way to do so. It is absolutely our right or anyone else’s right in this Ireland who if they have been the subject of an administrative decision by a regulator that they feel in unjust or unlawful to initially indicate…
O’Rourke: “But why don’t you take the view that you will challenge it as opposed to saying you won’t comply with it?”
O’Gorman: “What do you mean…Of course we’re challenging it as I have just said…”
O’Rourke: “No, you said you won’t comply.”
O’Gorman: “Sean, we have repeatedly made it clear that we will challenge this by every means necessary. Now if people want to take a sentence and take it out of context and try and make a big drama out of it to get a bang too on radio, I’m not suggesting you are doing that, but that’s a matter for them. We’ve been really clear about our position. Now I want to respond to some of the things David said. First of all, it is not true that the three organisations got similar amounts. One of the organisations got a very small amount, was subject to the threat of criminal prosecution by SIPO and then returned it.:
Quinn: “This is the Abortion Rights Campaign?”
O’Gorman: “The Abortion Rights Campaign…but that’s actually not true..”
Quinn: “But it is nevertheless foreign funding for a political campaign…
[talk over each other]
O’Gorman: That’s one of the things you said that wasn’t true. The next thing that isn’t true..
Quinn: “You are being pedantic. They were receiving money from a foreign source for a political campaign which is against the electoral act.”
O’Gorman: If you make a point and it’s inaccurate I’m perfectly entitles to correct you. That was wrong.”
Quinn: “It was in breach of the law that’s why it was handed back.”
O’Gorman: “The next point is that if you are accepting an overseas donation, albeit from an irish citizen who is living in the states, that is a breach of the electoral act..”
Quinn: “If it’s for a political purpose.”
O’Gorman: “It is also the case that wehn Iona launched a campaign seeking funds for itsd Marriage Equality referendum in 2014 and suggesting for instance if we can get a 100 people to give us a 100 euros each…
Quinn: “It was SIPO compliant. You are not SIPO-compliant.”
O’Gorman: “Not when you launched the appeal, not when you were challenged about whether or not you would be SIPO compliant, you initially refused to register with SIPO.”
Quinn: “Why are you making it about Iona, We are SIPO compliant.”
O’Gorman: “You are now, David.”
[talk over each other]
O’Rourke:: “Are you drawing an equivalence between him theoretically getting a 100 euros from the states with you getting 137,000?”
O’ Gorman: I am trying to draw a link between someone who is telling us he believes the law is unjust and that we should comply with it? When he is making it very clear that he doesn’t.”
Quinn: We do comply with the law. We are SIPO comploiant. You arenot SIPO compliant and so far you are getting away with it.”
Michael O’Brien: “All we have is denial, denial, denial. And the one thing that I will propose: that the assets of the Catholic Church be frozen and frozen now. Until the mother and babies, the institutional abuse, the clerical abuse and the magdalene laundries – all that is sorted out for once and for all so that this country can move, as it did years ago, as a peaceful country. And not for us to be listening, day after day, day after day. Because when you talk about abuse, I feel, as if it only happened to me a few minutes ago. And this is the problem we have.”
“The Catholic Church has denied and denied and covered up, from the first day. And not one Bishop, not one who covered it up has been brought into one of our courts.”
Claire Byrne: “Michael, do you not feel that things are moving? When we have the Taoiseach saying, only yesterday, that the church must measure up to the responsibilities that they accepted. Do you not feel that that’s a fundamental shift?”
O’Brien: “I can’t believe the Taoiseach any more because I remember when they removed the ambassador from the Vatican – a big hullaballoo. What did he do? He sent him back again. He put an ambassador back in there again. And went soft on the church. And because the mother and babies [story] came, this disgrace upon all of us, a shame upon all of us, that this thing happened, he now, again, is battering, shouting at the church.”
“I’m shouting at the church because I know what the church done to me and what two or three individuals of the church done to me. It’s easy to stand there, you, David [Quinn]. You know nothing about being raped and buggered. You know nothing about it. I do. I do. And four of my brothers and three of my little sisters – the same thing happened to them. Eight of us from the one family.”
Byrne: “Ok, Michael, I just…”
O’Brien: “So don’t…”
Byrne: “I just don’t want to put David in a position where he’s seen as a denier because he is not.”
Gorman: “It might be useful for me to say something and I completely understand where Michael’s anger and upset and I think it’s quite righteous where it’s coming from. But I do just want to say David [Quinn] and I were talking earlier on about the first time we were in a television studio and on that occasion David was advocating for the church to sell off every asset the church possessed until it properly compensated and dealt with these issues. So…”
David Quinn: “Thank you.”
Gorman: “So, to be fair, David’s been clear. David and I don’t agree on a very significant number of things but, to be fair, he’s also looked for, he’s generally looked for accountability on these issues.”
Byrne: “And I’m glad you made that point. We did ask out Claire Byrne Live/Amarach research panel: should the Government seize church land and property to compensate victims of clerical or institutional abuse – 69% said yes and 17% said no, 14% don’t know. Which is interesting. Because only in the last couple of hours, Minister Leo Varadkar says that property cannot be seized and that, if we ran a referendum on it, that that referendum would be lost. I know that Simon Harris suggested that, over the weekend, that perhaps we could do that. I don’t know, David, if you have a view of that.”
Quinn: “I mean it’s extremely likely it would be lost because you, you’d have to change the constitution in such a way that you make it easy for the State to seize property and, you know, it wouldn’t just be the church that would be affected. Basically, you’d give the State incredibly sweeping powers to seize property. Obviously, in terms of the compensation scheme, the 18 orders around the institutions must contribute their fair share and so the Comptroller and Auditor General released a report and so, if they’re not paying their fair share. Mind you, it also showed, of the 18 orders, most have paid what they said they’d pay and it’s important to put that on the record. The two, which are the biggest ones, which are the Christian Brothers the Mercy sisters, who ran most of the country’s institutions, they have yet to meet their obligations. I hope that happens in time. It ought to happen in time.”
Donald Clarke: “…People who do not believe in the Catholic doctrine, do not believe in all the things that are being said, should not take part in its rituals. These seems a very, very modest proposal to me…”
You may recall how, last year, ahead of the same-sex marriage referendum, David Quinn said:
“If they can beat us badly on marriage, they’ll feel they can beat us on the abortion issue. So this is really, really an important battle – not for just what marriage and what the family is all about but for the pro-life section of the constitution, too.”
Mr Quinn, in today’s Irish Independent, writes:
“The big majority of voters in this country, like in every democratic country, vote mainly on the basis of the economy. Only a minority will vote on the basis of social issues. Some of this minority will be attracted to a party because it is ‘liberal’ on social issues and others to a party that is ‘conservative’ on those same issues.”
“…Journalists will incessantly ask a politician who is socially conservative about issues like abortion. It will become very hard for that candidate (or his or her party) to show voters that they also have interesting things to say about the economy which is what will allow them to reach out to more voters. This immediately makes them ‘niche’ candidates and can limit their electorate prospects.”
“Liberal candidates do not have this problem. Their support for the likes of abortion will find favour with most journalists. They won’t be harassed about it at press conferences and will be perfectly free to talk at length and directly to the electorate about the big economic issues. This allows them to appeal to a much bigger section of the electorate than they would if they were seen as social issue candidates only.”
“My suggestion is that if you are pro-life, and you have a Renua candidate locally, find out if they back the Eighth Amendment and if they do, then consider giving them a vote. If pro-lifers don’t do that,then all of those who lost the Fine Gael whip over the abortion issue, not just the members of Renua, might begin to wonder if the pro-life vote is worth courting in any way, shape or form.”
David Quinn Founder of the Iona Institute, outlines the No Campaign’s strategy for May’s Marriage Referendum.
A masterclass in them and ussery.
Stay for the call and response.
David Quinn: “The referendum coming up is one of the most important we’ve ever faced and, actually, it’s connected, to my mind, with any possible abortion referendum.
If we lose this badly, I think they will have an abortion referendum in 2017. If we keep this close, or we manage to win, it’ll frighten them off an abortion referendum for years to come. So I think, actually, this is connected to protecting the 8th amendment of the constitution which is a pro-life amendment.
So the two issues are linked. If they can beat us badly on marriage, they’ll feel they can beat us on the abortion issue. So this is really, really an important battle – not for just what marriage and what the family is all about but for the pro-life section of the constitution, too.”
“Now what’s at stake here? An awful lot of people around the country, at the moment, who are inclined to vote Yes are asking themselves, ‘well, sure what’s the harm? If two nice fellahs who love each other get married, how does that affect me, what’s the harm? what else does it affect?’ And they can’t think of what else it affects, so they’re inclined to vote Yes.
Now that Yes support is actually quite soft. A lot of the opinion polling is showing it’s soft. So there is still a battle to be fought and it’s a battle we can win if we can persuade enough people, actually, there are consequences that haven’t been thought of yet, that haven’t been flagged to people because, as we know, our media are just, almost completely on the side of the Yes campaign.
And we’re essentially hearing propaganda all the time. Marriage equality, yes to equality, yes to love, equal love, all these sort of mantras and soundbites the whole time.
And I mean I go on a few programmes here and there but it doesn’t compare to very soft interviews with gay rights campaigners on the Late Late Show or the Saturday Night Show or the John Murray Show or the Ray D’Arcy Show or whatever the case may be so there’s been almost uninterrupted propaganda for years.
And it’s intensifying at the moment because they’re trying to get as big a lead as they possibly can before the referendum properly begins towards the end of this month.”
“Now, I’ll get into the substance of the issue in a moment but I mean there’s a lot of heart to be taken from this fact: there’s been many referendum campaigns in which the position favoured by what we call official Ireland and Dublin has started out way ahead and has lost, so there’s been EU treaty referendums, where the pro-EU side has started off massively in front and it’s lost.
There was the recent Seanad referendum, started out way in front and lost, the Oireachtas inquiry referendum started way in front and lost and the children’s rights referendum of 2012, I think it was, the end of 2012, with four weeks to go, the Yes side and it was on 74% and the No side was on 4%. There was practically no No side.
There was John Waters and Kathy Sinnott and a few other people. The No side and the children’s rights campaign spent something like €18,000, the Yes side spent over €1million and all the media on their side and yet, on the day itself, within a space of four weeks, the No side went from 4% to 42%.
Now if that can we done, we can do it in this referendum but do, we can do better because a lot more people are energised to support a No side this time than last time. So don’t be depressed by opinion polls.”
David Quinn: “The right to marry in our constitution comes with the right to found a family and that means the right to have children. When you give someone the right to marry, now you can’t stop people having children if they want to, and they’re not married and they want to have children, they’re going to have children.
But there’s a legally recognised right to have children when you marry under our constitution. So when you’re giving a right to marry, you’re giving a right to have children also. So when you’re giving a right to men to marry you’re also giving them the right to have children, you’re giving two women the right to have children. Now when you give two men the right to have a child, what is missing from the child’s life?”
Audience: “A mother.”
Quinn: “Precisely. And the converse, if you give two women the right to have a child what’s missing from that child’s life?”
Audience: “A father.”
Quinn: “A father. Now this is simply the most basic facts of life. It’s literally baby stuff in every possible sense of that word because it is completely simple to understand and it is literally about babies. And it’s about mothers and fathers. And it’s about the birds and the bees. So, when we talk about giving people rights, you’ve got to consider, would anybody else’s rights be affected. And conversely, by that, would anybody else’s rights be harmed and taken away?
You see people often say, ‘this is like giving the right of a black person to marry a white person because, in certain American states and in South Africa inter-racial marriage is banned and they try to compare this to that, or they try to say it’s like the American south where they had segregation or South Africa where they had apartheid but when blacks were given equal rights, nobody else’s rights were affected. So it was completely fair and acceptable and defensible.
There was nobody…when a black person could sit anywhere they liked on a bus or use any drink fountain or go to any school or get married to whom they liked, nobody else’s rights were affected – least of all the rights of children. But if you give two men the right to have a child, this comes with the right to marriage, or two women the right to have a child, which comes with the right to marriage, it affects the rights of children.
Because if we believe a child is going to have a mother and father, we cannot possibly countenance same-sex marriage, just can’t do it. And the Government knows perfectly well that this is what’s going on.
The Government knows perfectly well that the change in the article involves the family – we are redefining the family. We are kicking out of the law the notion that a child ought to have a mother and a father because what is recognised by our constitution at the moment is the family of man, woman and child.
And we know that not all married couples have children. But we also know that every child has a mother and father and that’s much more fundamental. And even if every man and woman can’t have a child, if they adopt let’s say, they’ll still give the child a mother and father.
So what we’re really saying in our constitution right now is the family is founded on a union of a man and a woman and if a man and a woman got married, and they have a child, that child will have a married mother and father who’re committed to their welfare – that’s what we’re saying.
It is simply a recognition of basic facts of life. Now I believe in calling different things by different names. The union of a man and a woman is clearly different from the union of a man and a man and should be given a different name. I mean a bike and a car are two modes of transport but you give them different names to give them so you know, you can distinguish between the two different things.
So even if we did allow same sex marriage, it will remain a fact that the union of a man and a woman will still be different and should be called something different. So, what’s going on here actually is, we are being asked to pretend that two different things are the same.
We’re being asked to pretend that the union of two men and two women is the same as the union of a man and a woman when they’re clearly not the same and this is why using words like ‘equality’ is completely misleading.”