Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone and Independent Senator Ronan Mullen at a meeting of the Joint Committee on the 8th amendment of the constitution yesterday
Readers may recall there was a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
At it, representatives of the World Health Organisation Dr Abigail Aiken, Assistant Professor at LBJ School of Public Affairs, Texas; and Dr Ronald Johnson and Dr Bela Ganatra, from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research in the World Health Organisation, fielded questions from members of the committee (top).
Further to this…
Ellen Coyne, in The Times Ireland edition, reports:
Rónán Mullen, a senator opposed to abortion, had a row with the chairwoman of the Oireachtas committee examining the issue of the Eighth Amendment yesterday.
Mr Mullen argued with Catherine Noone, the Fine Gael senator, after a terse session in the committee.
A Times journalist and several TDs who were in the ladies lavatory outside the committee room at the time were able to overhear the entire exchange in the corridor. Mr Mullen was upset after he was criticised for the way in which he questioned two representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) during his six minutes of questioning.
The independent senator had claimed that the WHO was wrong for supporting access to contraception after a termination, but not mandatory ultrasound scans for women seeking a termination. Ms Noone interrupted Mr Mullen while he was questioning Ronald Johnson and Bela Ganatra, the health experts, and asked him to give them a chance to answer.
“For those six minutes, they are my witnesses,” Mr Mullen yelled at Ms Noone afterwards.
Independent Senator Ronan Mullen and Socialist Party TD Clare Daly speaking with David McCullagh, on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night
On Monday, following a challenge by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the Northern Ireland High Court ruled that the North’s abortion law is ‘incompatible with human rights’.
Judge Mr Justice Mark Horner told the court in Belfast that, ‘In the case of a fatal foetal abnormality there is no life to protect’.
Further to this, two Senators criticised the ruling yesterday – Ronan Mullen, on RTÉ’s Prime Time and Paul Bradford, in the Seanad.
From Prime Time…
Senator Ronan Mullen: “I think there are political classes that get a big hearing in the media whenever there’s a development. But what we’re not hearing, for example, and I think this is the sad thing about the judge’s decision up North is that he appeared to be ignorant of the biology. I mean it was really quite chilling the language of ‘there is no life to protect’. I know, and I have brought families in Leinster House who would be deeply hurt by that because they think there’s a perception that babies and that case are either dead already or are in some kind of pain. I know a family, for example, where there baby lived for 17 minutes; they cherished every minute; they made memories; and they were terrified.”
David McCullagh: “That was their choice.”
Mullen: “But it’s more than just a choice because they believe that why should the law say that their child matters less than any other disabled child. And they believe that if you take away legal and social protection for those children, that families like those don’t have a future. There’s no talk about perinatal hospices, the supports that we need so much.”
Claire Daly TD: “The scenario outlined by Ronan, the very sad case of a much wanted pregnancy, which only lasted for 17 minutes, I think anybody watching the programme, their hearts would go out to those people and they would hope that that was the best decision for that family. And nobody is altering that decision. What we’re talking about is providing for the other families who can’t go through…”
Mullen: “Let me tell you about another little child who I know, personally, called Louise. Her mother was told that the child would not survive and now the child is six, enjoys ballet and so on. The truth is that doctors can never be sure how long a child is going to live for. You can generally say not very long in some cases but even there, there can be surprises…”
Mullen: “If you can say that you can take away that child’s life because that child is severely…”
Daly: “Sorry, sorry, David, this is going to be incredibly distressing for…”
Mullen: “How is that fair? No, we all have to be caring for everybody.”
McCullagh: “Finish your point, finish your point, Ronan, please.”
Mullen: “I think it’s fair that we would have, that families that get that distressing news, for example, would not have to sit in maternity wards or info meetings with families who have a healthy baby. We haven’t begun to talk about how we could support those families…”
“Language is not only powerful; it is a very strong weapon. When we say the easy phrase, “fatal foetal abnormality,” we are talking about babies who have a life-limiting or life-threatening condition. They are human beings. At least one grouping representing parents who had such babies, who might have lived for a day, a week or a month, attempted to make their views known to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children two years ago but were not allowed to do so. We need to be sensitive.”
“There are no such babies as babies with fatal foetal abnormalities. There are babies with serious, profound, life-threatening and life-limiting conditions, but they are still human beings.”
Senator Ronan Mullen took issue with the UNHRC and Sir Nigel Rodley in a meeting of the Justice, Defence and Equality Committee earlier as he addressed the newly appointed chief of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Emily Logan.
“I was extremely unhappy with the behaviour of the UN Human Rights Commission recently and the comments of Sir Nigel Rodley, particularly in relation to Ireland’s abortion laws.
UN agencies are radically in danger of overstepping their remit. Certain international human rights bodies seem to be off of a frolic of their own in a way that they do not respect our Constitutional understanding of what authentic human rights are.
I would ask that your Commission would respect first of all, the diversity of different points of view of people of goodwill in our society on various issues.”
Ms Logan replied:
“It was not only embarrassing but it was shocking as an Irish citizen not just as Chief Commissioner to hear about our demonstrable history and the way we have treated women and children.”
As the committee chair David Stanton informed the Senator his time was up, Senator Mullen accused the chair of a “culture of censorship“, the chair reminded him of a “culture of good manners“.
Senator Mullen called Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn a “Yes man” when his attendance record was questioned.
Senator Ronan Mullen speaking in the Seanad earlier on the issue of Direct Provision:
The treatment of women in the system is deplorable. There are several male-only reception centres in the State. But there are none which provide solely for women. Many women who seek asylum in the State are fleeing the most gruesome and most unimaginable conditions sometimes involving sexual abuse or rape. And for these victims to be placed in a system where there’s an underlying fear perhaps in some cases of a recurrence of abuse is really shocking.
The Bishop of Galway appears to have rowed back on his strong stance on the St Vincent de Paul (SVP) donation towards a gay resource centre, telling a member of the public that he “got it badly wrong”.
There have been calls for Dr Martin Drennan to resign in the wake of his comments on Galway Bay FM last week about the €45,000 allocation to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community support group Amach.
He described gay culture as “morally wrong” and said he had a problem with the “moral judgment” involved with making the decision by the SVP.
Salthill resident Cormac Ryan wrote an email to the Bishop after hearing the interview, describing his remarks as “deeply offensive, uncharitable and unchristian”.
A reply the following day from the Diocesan email address, which was also sent to the Bishop’s Diocesan secretary, thanked him for the letter.
“My humble apologies for the hurt caused. I got it badly wrong,” it said.
Vice chairperson of Amach, Nuala Ward, invited the Bishop to sit down and talk with the organisation to discuss their work, which involved collaborating with bodies such as the Health Service Executive, the Gardaí and suicide prevention groups.
Tackling poverty is what the SVP does best. But Galway LGBT Amach! is a campaigning organisation. It even helped promote a pro-abortion march in Galway last year. That’s the opposite of reaching out to the poor and marginalised.
And it’s not as though left-wing, liberal causes are stuck for money these days. When it comes to friends in the media and funds from millionaires, gay rights projects are top dogs, not underdogs.
Did SVP Galway ask Amach! whether it would be campaigning for the redefinition of marriage next year? Might its resource centre and facilities be used in that referendum?
It’s a strange thing, but heaven help you if you dare to regret using the poor box to fund a campaigning gay rights organisation.