‘I Think It Will Be Difficult To Keep This Debate Factual’


This afternoon.

The Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution launched its final report, after examining the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly in relation to the Eighth Amendment.

During the launch, Gavan Reilly, of TV3, asked the following question:

You’re proposing the terms of a constitutional referendum but you’re also proposing what a new legislative regime should be afterwards. Are you at all worried that the two issues might be conflated in people’s minds? And that they won’t see this as being a referendum on the repeal of the 8th amendment but whether rather it should be a referendum on 12 weeks on request or something like that? And that perhaps there might be people who are in favour of repeal who may vote against it on the basis of what you’re proposing afterwards?

In response, chair of the committee Senator Catherine Noone said:

“The point is that in a referendum, people, it’s proven that people don’t always vote on the issue and this referendum will be slightly different because I think people will engage to a large degree with it.

There will be a lot of misinformation. I think it will be difficult to keep this debate factual. And, you know, there’s a lot of opinion in it, naturally. So, it will be a difficult process. Ok. Assuming that we have a referendum, the Taoiseach has indicated that there will be one. I mean I’ve heard voices saying ‘oh who’s said that there’ll definitely be a referendum, it has to be led through the Houses’.

“I personally can’t envisage a situation where we wouldn’t have one. But once the debate starts, once the referendum campaign kicks off I suppose, once we definitely know there is one, it’s open season.

“Nobody can control who gets on the airwaves. RTE, in particular, are very tied in terms of showing two sides of an argument, it’s only right that they do.

“But, you know, anyone can get on the airwaves essentially and people will be opportunistic and  I would say politicians, and I’m one, a lot of us here are, we should let other voices into this to a large degree aswell.”

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said:

The process for the Citizens’ Assembly and the process for the Eighth Committee were required to consider both and that’s what we did. I think in many ways that brings into play the evidence that we heard.

“I think, I mean people would have asked if it was a straightforward repeal, without saying what was likely to follow…

“…I think giving people an expectation, following a very robust process, a two-stage process, I think is helpful in actually addressing that issue.

“Because there’s a whole lot of people out there, like, for example, the point that Danny made, about what was the evidence that most impacted you.

“For me, it was a combination of evidence in relation to, Mary O’Toole, the [senior] counsel from the X case, together with Rhona Mahony and Peter Boylan, for example. When you actually, how profound it was to hear a senior counsel say we know what the law is now. The law is that a woman is entitled to a termination if her life is at risk.

“And then we heard, and only if her life is at risk, and then we heard the medics tell us that the, is it a 20% risk, is it a 50% risk, how do you evaluate that risk?

“When you put those two things together and I made the point, you think of someone’s wife or partner, you think of a daughter, you think of a sister, you think of a child and that child hoping that their mother would be cared for in a way, in a healthcare environment.

“They’re the kind of arguments that we’re going to have to make. But I think the evidence that we heard was so convincing that we have got to go out there and not only hope that this referendum happens but really encourage the early holding of a referendum.

“But we also have to get out there and lead in a referendum campaign and make sure that we don’t do what happened in the divorce referendum and that was that we had to go back a second time and there was a ten-year timeframe. I think there’s an obligation  on us to do that and to use the information, not conflate it, but to use it in a very powerful way. “

The report can be read here

29 thoughts on “‘I Think It Will Be Difficult To Keep This Debate Factual’

  1. Christopher

    I think the electoral commission should be able to shut down patently false arguments such as were peddled by Iona during the marriage equality referendum.

    1. Donal

      I think broadcasters should be empowered by the referendum commission to be able to state where incorrect facts have been claimed by either side in a debate.

      This might work by:
      Claim made on some broadcast/print medium
      Claim challenged to commission as patently false
      Commission decides on that particular claim
      Publishes a daily/weekly list of claims that, if they are repeated on airwaves, can be immediately challenged by the presenter and a statement made the the ref com has found that claim to be false

      Lots of work for the commission of course….

      1. Joe Small

        The Commission is a very small operation – its staffed from SIPO and doesn’t have the resources to do all of the above.

  2. Increasing_Displacement

    Wouldn’t it be great if this referendum could be voted on by those of child bearing age alone.
    The bitter church going past it oul fart generation will obviously be against it but also be unaffected by it.

    1. Custo

      Except, of course, for the many thousands of those of that age who have been campaigning for access to abortion for decades. But apart from that, yeah man. Right on.

        1. dav

          well they’ve been telling women what to do with their reproductive organs for years so maybe now it’s time to shut up and listen to the women of the country..

          1. dav

            and where is it said that men can’t vote? Your strawman argument of “won’t somebody think of the fathers” is noted

        2. The Ghost of Starina

          are you saying men can never be of child-bearing age because of their perpetual immaturity?


          1. b

            dav – “and where is it said that men can’t vote?

            I was responding to this, try to keep up

            “Wouldn’t it be great if this referendum could be voted on by those of child bearing age alone”

        3. well

          You get participation trophy, you can’t really argue you have as much skin in this game, it’s not you that could be killed by the pregnancy.

  3. dav

    Wouldn’t be a fan of Catherine Noone but she handle it well enough, considering the abuse she got from mullins and the other idiot

    1. LW

      Wasn’t aware of her before this, but I think she’s done a really good job, in a very difficult position

  4. snowey

    i think people should know what the legislation will be – if the repeal works.
    Otherwise they are voting blind.
    I will vote to retain the 8th unless I now the lay of the land after wards or at least the proposal…

    You’d be insane to vote out something and not know what the alternative is.

    unless you of course wanted abortions for all….which I suspect most of the repeal campaign do want but won’t admit it because they know it’ll never pass with public,

    1. Donal

      I have not seen anyone in the government suggest that making available the proposed legislation that would follow repeal would not be done

      1. Donal

        Also, repeal does not automatically make abortion legal in the state, it simply means that legislation that may follow will not be unconstitutional. Repeal could be approved and no legislation follow for years

        1. snowey

          i agree with you .
          but technically the legistlation and the 8th amendment are 2 separate item , but linked.

          I was just saying….

  5. Joe Small

    Well , going on the various levels of abuse just amongst the largely pro-choice commenters above its going to be a dire referendum campaign.

    1. Boj

      Sadly it is this abuse and arrogance which drives people into their shells….mind made up etc rather than examine it themselves. Some people simply cannot accept ending a viable pregnancy no matter what the circumstances. Other people call them names. I’m still trying to come to a decision myself…its a tough one. Also this talk above of excluding men and old women from the vote is dangerous. I know its only pootalk but does give a worrying insight into how they think.

  6. newsjustin

    That’s a very insightful question from Gavan Reilly.

    The proposed legislation should, of course (as it will be), be made known in advancd of the vote. Removal of 40.3.3 is not being proposed in isolation. No one, on either side, believes that 40.3.3 will be removed and then nothing else will happen.

    It will be good to see the legislation, shows how stark the choice is.

  7. Yellow Cheese Dog

    There is a ‘special place’ for billionaires who push the abortion agenda, interfere in the electoral process and persistently undermine national sovereignty.

    I hope (for their sake) the lackeys got paid in advance.

    1. Alastair

      And there’s the first contender for alternative facts in this thread.

      Like the woman says “‘I think it will be difficult to keep this debate factual“.

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