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Last night.

On RTÉ’s Prime Time, presenter David McCullagh spoke to Gerry Edwards, of Termination for Medical Reasons Ireland, and Tracy Harkin, of Every Life Counts, about the UN’s criticism of Ireland’s abortion laws.

From last night’s discussion:

Tracy Harkin: “I think, myself, as a mother, who has a daughter who has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disability, I find this report from the United Nations disturbing for a number of reasons. Firstly, I suppose what’s deeply distressing for many parents involved in our support network, and other charities that work with families that have lost babies to these conditions is the language the United Nations has chosen to use.”

Terms like ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, ‘incompatible with life’, they’re such harsh sounding, dehumanising terms. And I think for parents like myself and for the many parents throughout Ireland who have lost their little ones to these conditions, that’s not how they see their children at all.”

“Their experiences have not been heard by in this report which is deeply disturbing; parents have been speaking out, for example, in our organisation, Every Life Counts, for the last few years, calling for better support and services to be rolled out in maternity hospitals throughout Ireland to help them make the most of the time to parent their child, to love their child, to hug their child, to, you know, smell their child as any mother wants to.”

“And this is so important, such an important pathway to healing for these mothers and I think it’s alarming that the only option, or solution that the United Nations is fixated on is abortion. You know, these are children, human beings with severe disabilities and there’s not an agreed list, neither will be, and I think for us parents, for myself, before I had my little daughter Kathleen Rose, who’s now 9 years of age, you know she’s such a wonderful little character, she’s brought such joy to my life. Many of our parents didn’t have that time with their little ones and maybe only had minutes or days but they all said that that time was so important to healing. And there’s more and more research coming out to show that, in contrast, abortion increases despair and depression among mothers because they don’t have that closure.”

David McCullagh: “Tracy Harkin, sorry to cut across you, you talk about having services available to allow parents to spend time with their children, however short that time unfortunately may be. And I don’t think anybody’s suggesting that people shouldn’t be able to make that choice. But simply that others, who feel differently, shouldn’t be deprived of their choice, for what is best for their family.”

Harkin: “Well, I think the main thing here is accurate information and I think what’s missing from this whole conversation is also to look at what’s happened in other countries. What has the impact been of legislation in other countries. You look at the UK for example, over 90% of children with any disability whatsoever are aborted right up to birth. I mean most of us have their children with Down syndrome, Spina Bifida, in our communities, we love them, we fundraise for them. There’s a chilling effect to legislation here which the United Nations has chosen to ignore, time and time again. And it’s also important to mention that this case was brought forward by the Centre for Reproductive Rights which are a large, wealthy organisation with many millions at their disposal and their only focus, worldwide, is to promote abortion…”


Gerry Edwards: “I think it’s very important, again in the interest of language, that we are quite clear that there is a difference between disabilities and life-limiting conditions and fatal foetal anomalies which are conditions which are not capable of sustaining independent life outside the womb.”

Our son had a condition called severe anencephaly. Most of his skull was missing and his brain was missing. He could not sustain independent life, there was no question whatsoever of him surviving for any length of time. And that was confirmed to us by five different medical professionals in three hospitals in two jurisdictions.”

“My wife would have been forced to continue with that pregnancy for five more months in this country, not able to bear the social contact with other people, working with the people that she worked with, being stopped by people on the streets, in the full knowledge that our son would not die, or would not live, I beg your pardon. And this was the situation which was absolute torture for us and we made a decision which was in our best interest and in the best interest of our family.”

“And that decision required us to leave our carers, leave our family and travel to another state. We did spend time with our son, he was delivered naturally, he had an induced labour, we got to spend time with him but we would have got to spend more time with him had we been able to go through that process here in Ireland.”

“Our family members would have gotten to meet him, we would have had the dignity of having a funeral and a community to stand with us and support us in our loss. Instead we got a jiffy envelope, delivered by a courier a couple of weeks later. That’s unacceptable.”


Edwards: “It’s the responsibility of our legislators to legislate. They also have an obligation to uphold international human rights law. This isn’t imposed upon Ireland. This is something that Ireland signed up to. There was a discussion earlier on in the programme about upholding the law and Ireland is one of those countries that has pledged to uphold international human rights law and we’ll find out very soon whether our Government is going to honour that commitment it made and actually take steps to change our legal environment soon.”

Watch Prime Time back in full here


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On TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne last night…

During the newspaper review, the panel – Senator Lynn Ruane, Breda O’Brien, of the Iona Institute; Sinéad O’Carroll, of The and Ger Colleran,former editor of the Irish Daily Star – also discussed the UN’s criticism.

From the discussion…

Mick Clifford: “Breda, ‘Cabinet to defy UN on abortion reforms’ [the main headline on today’s Irish Examiner]. This is not going to go away and some people would say all roads to a referendum one way or the other.”

Breda O’Brien: “Well I’m absolutely delighted if that’s an accurate headline in the Irish Examiner because this committee is part of a huge push that there is to kind of, in a sense, the UN treaty say ‘do not give any right to abortion’ but these committees have been pushing this agenda for years. And they’re stuffed with people who share a point of view which is that the baby in the womb does not have equal rights with the mother. And of course they’re going to find that something is cruel and inhumane and degrading, but I had the privilege of accompanying a friend of mine when she had a baby with a life-limiting condition and..”

Clifford: “But there’s stories like that but there’s also the other side…”

Sinead O’Carroll:Fatal foetal abnormality is different to life-limiting…”

O’Brien:No, life-limiting condition is the term used by hospice, it’s the term used by…”

O’Carroll:Fatal foetal abnormality is the term used by doctors when they give diagnoses to women with fatal foetal abnormality…”

O’Brien: “But also, people, I think fatal foetal abnormality is one that people who have had babies with life-limiting conditions have asked to have it removed because it is so offensive. Your child is not a fatal foetal abnormality, no more than somebody with leukaemia is a cancer.”

Ger Colleran: “It’s the condition, not the child…”

O’Brien: “But that’s what, people have actually said in the media, they’ve said things like, ‘the fatal foetal abnormality’ as if that were, it’s a child who has a life-limiting condition…”

Clifford: “Breda, do you believe there’ll be a referendum?”

O’Brien: “I hope that there will be good sense and that people will see that this is a matter of equal rights and that they should leave it as it is.”

Lynne Ruane: “There will be.”

Clifford: “Ok, well, we’re going to have to leave it for that because that’s it now, we’ve run out of time..”

Watch back in full here

Previously: ‘The Ashes Were Unexpectedly Delivered To Her Three Weeks Later By Courier’

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109 thoughts on “On Message

  1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

    You can’t argue with that level of stupid but you can see them clutching at straws.I don’t think anyone in their right mind thinks people who force women to abort foetuses with FFA if that wasn’t what they wanted.

    1. The Real Jane

      No, and the issue of who does forcing doesn’t seem to be one that many journalists want to discuss. I think the remark about the nine month hostages here the other day was really extremely clever and apt, and I’d really like to see some of these people answer that question.

      Of course nobody, nobody wants to force an abortion on a woman whatever the circumstances. But it’s equally horrific to force her to continue a pregnancy against her will. Only one side is prepared to use force to deprive a sentient adult of the right to make the best choices for her circumstances.

      1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

        Well I asked BS’s most ardent defender of the 8th, and he was happy to concede on the issue if the Constitution was ever changed (which it will be, let’s face it). Which suggests no great argument to be had at all really beyond “well, but it’s the law”.

        Confusing the issue of access to abortion with the issue of sufficient and appropriate care for child with disabilities is also quite disingenuous, especially when you don’t hear these same proponents clamouring as loudly for extra funding when the issues arises.

        1. The Real Jane

          God’s will satisfied in both cases. That, sadly, is the thread that joins the monstrous abuse of women and families who are caring for a member with a disability.

        2. newsjustin

          The argument for not changing the constitutin is that human life is not disposable Don.

          I won’t vote to change that affirmation of the right to life. You can if you like.

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Good for you. That argument will be shown to be pointless in this case once it’s changed. And it will change.

          2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Of course I’m not. Don’t start with your usual. I’m saying using the Constitution to force a foetus to be considered as a human is pointless. Because it clearly isn’t a human.

          3. Nigel

            So you regard a medical treatment for a woman bearing a fetus with with FFA as ‘disposal?’ In your rush to sanctify the dead or dying non-viable fetus you’ve utterly dehumanised and demonised the mother, the father and the medical professionals involved.

          4. Ricky Ricardo

            “You think protecting human life is pointless Don?”

            Do you, newsjustin? Restricting abortion in Ireland also affects women who are in need of medical treatment (see Michelle Harte: or who could die if they carry a child to term or in the process of delivery. Are you happy for the foetus to be valued over their lives and quality of life? What about the woman who was kept on life support, despite being braindead, because the foetus she was carrying (which in no way could survive) had a heartbeat still?

            Is that protection of a foetus’s life, at the detriment to the health and wellbeing of living women, or to the detriment of the dignity of a dead woman okay in your eyes because of a need to protect unborn life?

          5. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            What is your point? In most countries, an termination at 36 weeks would result in a birth.

            By the way, I would still be interested in what, besides the Constitution, is your argument for being against abortion. Conception is life? Some think so but the Church didn’t think so for centuries – it was a the quickening at about 4 months.

          6. newsjustin

            Nigel. Deeming it ok to end the life of a foetus is treating it as disposable. Yes.

          7. newsjustin

            Don. Forget about term limits for abortion.

            Just let me know if you think a 36 week old foetus, in its mother’s womb is a human.

          8. Nigel

            So you’re satisfied to characterise the mother of the non-viable fetus, the father and the medical personnel as monsters engaged in a casual and thoughtless act of slaughter where a dead or dying fetus inside a living woman is not a source of pain and agonised decisions and potentially tortuous outcomes, but a simple matter of disposing of something inconvenient? This is how you view the choices faced by women in this position? That if they do not go through with the birth, even if the fetus has no brain and simply cannot live for any length of time, they are actually evil?

          9. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            “mother’s womb” – emotive much?

            I’ve done this long enough to know exactly where you are going news.

            A foetus at anything over 24 weeks would be “born” and given medical assistance until it either died or lived as per current medical guidelines. Whether you think that is human or is moral or not given the huge health problems these kids can have it, again up the parents. Not your business or mine news.

            A foetus under 24 weeks, I;ll grant you, moral grey territory. But again, it’s not my choice, its not your choice, its her choice with consultation from medical professionals not someone with an agenda either way.

            And that is my answer.

          10. MoyestWithExcitement

            “So you’re satisfied to characterise the mother of the non-viable fetus, the father and the medical personnel as monsters engaged in a casual and thoughtless act of slaughter”

            Spin and character assassination. I’m not the one who sees it, newsy. You have no rational argument so you just try and paint the people you disagree with as monsters.

          11. MoyestWithExcitement

            I know. I quoted you picking up on newsy’s argument strategy to show him I’m not the only one seeing it, as I said…

          12. newsjustin

            So Don is saying that a baby (a born baby, not a foetus) that has been born after 24 weeks is not a human. Bizarre stuff.

          13. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            What isn’t bizarre is you reading that from what I said. Bizarre and stupid and so so predictable but not unexpected.

          14. newsjustin

            “A foetus at anything over 24 weeks would be “born” and given medical assistance until it either died or lived as per current medical guidelines. Whether you think that is human or is moral or not given the huge health problems these kids can have it, again up the parents.”

            – Don

            So a premature baby in an incubator may not be human. It’s for the parents to decide according to Don.

        1. Anne

          I think I’ve seen her wearing skinny jeans.. *

          I only tuned in for the end of it.. Doesn’t look like she got a chance to get a word in with your wan Breda spouting nonsense*

          (*ducks for cover)

    1. Anne

      Life limiting is so much ‘nicer’ though… you haven’t a clue what it means, but it’s generally nicer.

      We should call every serious diagnosis life limiting going forward. You won’t have a bull’s notion of what you’ve got, but it’ll sound ‘nicer’.

      Breda O’Brien and that other god botherer want to deny the fact that the fetus will not survive, with wanting terms like ‘life limiting’ used.

      Making these women skulk off abroad is a disgrace in this day and age.
      And there’s thousands of them.

        1. nellyb

          Not if one believes in eternal life, but it’s cautiously not used since it is perceived as a weak argument by forced-birth proponents themselves.
          If one believes in eternal life, then ‘life-limiting’ term is an oxymoron. they should start using term ‘physical life limiting’, out of respect for own beliefs. Watch this space :-)

      1. pedeyw

        Life limiting is a great replacement term for confusing a number of conditions. It’s a classic move from the likes of breda, if you can’t argue logically, make it sound more vague and complicated, and imply that the other side want force everyone into it.

    2. Daisy Chainsaw

      Ms Harkin’s daughter is 10. Obviously her condition wasn’t a fatal foetal abnormality… but the so called “prolife” groups never let the truth get in the way of exploiting a child with disabilities to further their own ends.

        1. Anne

          Unless Daisy Chainsaw has a child with disabilities herself and is using that to further the cause.. eh, no she’s not ‘doing it now’

          1. Anne

            Oh we have a bit of a twisted little pup with you, don’t we.
            A fetus not surviving outside the womb and a child being sick are two different things.

            A child who is ten years of age and who has a ‘life limiting’ disability as the mother puts it, should not be used to further the pro life cause.. to point out that exploitation is not saying the child isn’t sick enough. The fetus wouldn’t become a child if it had a fatal fetal abnormality. It’s nothing to do with how sick or not a child is.

            Think harder when you’re trying to do some trolling..

          2. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            That’s not strictly true. I was told my foetus/baby had one of three syndromes (they couldn’t tell which). It might die in utero, it might die directly after birth, or it might get better. They couldn’t exactly say which but implied it was the second of the three, which it was. But it’s obviously not quite that cut and dried in all cases. Best not to talk in absolutes on either side.

          3. Tony

            Seriously Anne, you are a perfect example of the bitterness and frustration that occurs when ambition exceeds intellect.

          4. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            Sorry: I wasn’t clear. I was referring to your statement that:
            “The fetus wouldn’t become a child if it had a fatal fetal abnormality.”
            Mine had a FFA but at 12-16 weeks they couldn’t say for definite (say for instance if I wanted to go to England for an abortion immediately and wanted definite reassurance that it had an FFA).

          5. Anne

            “Mine had a FFA but at 12-16 weeks they couldn’t say for definite”

            Sorry to hear that.. Were you told a possible FFA then?

            There are cases where it is definite I would think. In definite cases of FFA, obviously the fetus wouldn’t be viable outside the womb..

          1. pedeyw

            But by implication you’re saying that anyone that points out any form of exploitation is themselves being exploitative. Which is a very worrying position to take.

          2. Nigel

            Tony’s right, pedeyw. It’s not really Orwellian as such. it’s actually a tu quoque fallacy. Tony specialises in them.

          3. Tony

            I’m not saying anything as road as you say. Just thought s one obvious example. Hi nige!

          4. pedeyw

            Thanks, Nigel. Orwellian seemed as close as a term as I could think so it’s good to know there is an actual name for the fallacy.

          5. Nigel

            Yup. Tony attacks the things people say on the grounds that they do not live up to ideals expressed within whatever it is they’re talking about – as in your criticism of the use of FFA to describe a child who did not have a fatal condition is invalid because you are being just as exploitative in criticising her parents as her parents are for airing it publicly – or to an imaginary set of arbitrary ideals he creates on the spot. That’s why they call him ‘Tony Tu Quoque.’

          6. pedeyw

            Tony, I did say by implication as opposed to it being your intention. I was just following your reasoning through to it’s conclusion.

  2. Anne

    Is Breda O’Brien accurate here too?
    ” because this committee is part of a huge push that there is to kind of, in a sense, the UN treaty say ‘do not give any right to abortion’ but these committees have been pushing this agenda for years.”

    Doing a bit of an Enda on it there I think…

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      because this committee is part of a huge push that there is to *kind of, in a sense*…”

  3. Gers

    Hey the thickos pro-life, how hard is it to understand that allowing abortion doesn’t stop you from not having one? You get the idea of “choice”? I still awaits for Ireland to come out of the dark ages – this day will come precisely the day abortion (on demand) will be finally allowed.

    1. newsjustin

      When will you understand that all people have a duty to protect the lives of all fellow humans? The argument that “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one” is as feeble as saying we shouldn’t criticise countries who impose the death penalty because, heh, it’s not our country.

          1. Anne

            Good.. now lets say you needed to get your leg or your arm or your kidney removed, as it was a danger to your health, would you have an issue with that?

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Well then maybe you can see her point. A cluster of human cells is not a human being.

          3. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            On the other hand, a leg can’t develop into a human being.
            This is kind of a stupid argument, really…

          4. pedeyw

            No but If my kidney didn’t work and was going to definitely going to die at some point in the next few months I would rather have it removed before then.

          5. MoyestWithExcitement

            ‘Might’ is the important word there. The point is a cluster of cells is not, today, a human being. If you want to regard it as one, that’s fine but to legally oblige everyone else to is when there’s a problem.

          6. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            You’re never going to get someone who believes it’s murder to come round, really, especially by trying to get them to say a foetus is like a leg.
            You just have to get the law changed and let them deal with that. Which is what will happen. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

          7. Anne

            “especially by trying to get them to say a foetus is like a leg.”

            It’s great that you can read my mind isn’t it?
            I’m trying to do no such thing..

            Seriously like, would ye not sorta butt out before we finish.. No?
            Just a suggestion like..

          8. MoyestWithExcitement

            It literally is not a person. So we can add ‘coming up with your own special definition of words’ to spin and character assassination making up the guts of your argument.

          9. Anne

            I direct a question to someone.. and someone else answers it and then someone else tells me my intention. I must remember to not bother me hoop getting involved, like I usual do.

          10. Anne

            A Napoleon complex is a term describing a theoretical condition occurring in people of short stature.
            I’m not of short stature.

            And her name is And-your-point-is-what-exactly. I’ve put the hyphens in there for you.. it’s not Andy. That’d make it Andy our point is what exactly? You goon.

      1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

        It’s comparing apples and oranges really. You may think life begins at conception but others don’t. I think we would both consider a fully grown adult to be a human. But not everyone thinks someone who viciously rapes and murders a granny deserves to be alive.

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Why would it matter if I was or wasn’t? It has no bearing on my position on abortion, as pro-life but pro-death penalty groups in the US would show.

          2. newsjustin

            I’m curious. So are you in favour of the death penalty for some criminals Don?

            Anyone who claims to be pro life and in favour of capital punishment is an absolute hypocrite IMHO.

          3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            No, I’m not.

            That is completely compatible with my views on abortion as I do not considered a foetus to be human and even if I did, it’s none of my business what a woman decides to do. It’s her choice and she doesn’t need to explain that to me in the slightest.

          4. newsjustin

            So even if you did consider a foetus to be human (which you don’t) you STILL would be unconcerned if that human were aborted. Wow.

            I’m glad you don’t support the death penalty.

          5. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            “So even if you did consider a foetus to be human (which you don’t) you STILL would be unconcerned if that human were aborted. Wow.”

            Get a grip, you can’t be surprised by that at all. That’s like me saying I;m surprised you think a foetus is a human person.

  4. KirkenBrenner

    “Your child is not a fatal foetal abnormality, no more than somebody with leukaemia is a cancer.”

    No one said it is, you horrible, horrible little woman.

    This party-line diversion is one I’ve seen pop up more and more frequently in the last year or so. Utterly dishonest, but par for the course for the likes of O’Brien and Sherlock.

  5. Clampers Outside!

    Mincing language to make the news hit softer…. no thanks.

    Mincing language is often done by those giving condolences… ‘sorry for your loss’, ‘I heard he’d passed away’, ‘commiserations on her passing’ etc…. I’ve often heard mourners say, he’s ‘dead’ not ‘passed away’.

    My point…. people want the truth, not wishy washy language. Harkin speaks from her standpoint which is, let’s all stick through the sorrow and be gentle with kid gloves and empathetic, etc. Not wanting this, and wanting facts, and facts to be spoken in truth and not forcing your own sympathetic and misplaced empathetic tendencies on others situations does not do that other person any good unless they want it. Mr McCullagh and his family, clearly do not, and should be afforded all the respect their situation requires to have it dealt with in the respect and truthful language that that deserves…. not some faux ‘do-gooder’ bullcr*p.

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      I hate it when people say I “lost” whatever – where did you lose them? Tescos? The park? Did you look in the recycling, sometimes I find things there.

      1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

        Why get worked up about how someone else deals with death? Each to their own.

        1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Turn of phrase innit. I mean, I don’t write a Guardian think piece on it but I do think of odd places they might them. Mainly because it made me laugh inappropriately every time someone said it at my sister funeral. Luckily they thought I was just losing it with all the grief and all. She would have approved.

          1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            Sorry to hear that.
            Actually, reminds me of that clip from The IT crowd, where whassisname can never think of what to say to people at funerals. His boss said “Just say “I’m sorry for your loss”, then move on”. He goes up to the widow and says “I’m sorry for your loss. Now move on”.
            Heh. Funny every time I see it.

      2. Nigel

        People struggle with ways to express grief and loss. Using common terms like that is a way of making a difficult thing that much easier. Expressions of condolences have simple forms because to be at the receiving end of that much complex raw emotion at a time of grief would be unbearable and yet to receive no words of sympathy and support would be unbearable. ‘Sorry for your loss’ and ‘They passed’ seem simplistic and cliched up until the point where you’re giving or receiving such sentiments, then their easily understood and simply stated formulas are a blessed relief. On a personal level, of course. Clampers is right that as a policy debate the need for truth and facts is paramount,

        1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          True but people need to talk about death more so they can feel comfortable calling it what it is. “I’m sorry they died” feels more honest to me.

          1. Nigel

            True, but I think the time to talk about it in depth comes before hand or later. If you\re talking to a recently bereaved person your uppermost concern should be what they can bear without pretending it didn’t happen.

          2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            I mean more generally, not at the funeral! :)

            I think society needs to talk more openly about it, what it means for those dying and those left behind. It’s the loss and not being able to express that that affects people and badly. Of course some people won’t want that but…. I;m not sure what I;m trying to say. Just that it would help to be able to talk more openly about how life can really really suck without euphemisms and covering things over until they are pretty and easy.

          3. Nigel

            Yeah as a society we’re well behind when it comes to talking about death and how to deal with it – even as a practical matter. Make a will now, people! Don’t leave it till it’s too late!

          4. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            You’d think with the Irish love of a good funeral you’d be better!

            Everyone sucks at it I think, universal.

          5. Tony

            What utter tosh. Who are we behind and what evidence do you have, Not a clue and one is the answer you total spoofer.

        2. Anne

          They should change a death certificate to a ‘no longer with us’ certificate..or a ‘reach life’s limits’ certificate. Reached life’s limit on such and such date for date of death.

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