It was another week of controversies on hot social and political topics.
News and current affairs programmes dealt extensively with the controversy about the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to a site at St Vincent’s. Inherent in most debates was the unchallenged assumption that there was a clash between best medical practice and Catholic ethos. I didn’t hear much challenging of the assumption that a secular ethos would serve patients better.
On Morning Ireland (RTĖ Radio 1) last Thursday Dr Peter Boylan, former master at the NMH, criticised the deal made with the Sisters of Charity. He couldn’t resist an unpleasant dig at the Catholic Church – “with all its bad history in relation to women's health care”. He wanted it clear that abortions (to the extent that they were legal in the future) would be done in this new hospital. Later, on Today with Sean O’Rourke, (RTĖ Radio 1) the current Master Dr Rhona O’Mahony was scathing of Boylan’s intervention, and was insistent that under the agreed arrangements there wouldn’t be a Catholic ethos in the new hospital. In fact she said the hospital would provide any procedures that were legal in the State - sounds reasonable until you bring to mind states where some activities now universally acknowledged to be immoral were actually legal.
On Friday morning on Today with Sean O’Rourke Breda O’Brien was one of those reviewing the week. I wonder if she ever gets tired of defending what might broadly be called ‘the Church’ when controversial issues hit the headlines, especially when those who might be the official spokespersons often remain silent. On the same show Junior Minister John Halligan was in land-grabbing mode in relation to the religious orders – “I would take all their land off them”. I half expected him to start singing ‘I’m Henry the 8th I am’.
On Friday’s Drive Time I got a brief glimmer of hope, when presenter Mary Wilson said thatthe St Vincent's Healthcare Group had broken their silence, but then we were told it was only a statement, though a hard hitting one that threw a curve ball into the mix. They got in a dig at Minister Harris, pointing out that originally both he and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny had publicly welcomed the deal between the hospitals and now they were so concerned with ‘misinformation’ and the Minister’s latest words on the matter that they were reviewing the whole deal.
Of course there are important issues at stake here, but considering the consistently high standards set by St Vincent’s and its excellent reputation, it seems to me that there’s more than a bit of opportunistic Church bashing going on here, especially with all this talk of religious ‘interference’.
On another front, a shadow was cast over last weekend by the final deliberations of the Citizens’ Assembly, when this unelected group decided to recommend taking away the most basic of human rights from the most vulnerable of human beings. How unrepresentative they were was shown yet again by how their recommendations were much more liberal and wide ranging than the views of the public as shown in opinion polls, and even those are exaggerated, what with loaded questions and years of media imbalance.
On last Sunday’s This Week programme (RTĖ Radio 1), Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty spoke about the Government indicating what legislation would be brought in if the people decided to remove the Eighth Amendment – but of course what legislation we’d start with would soon be eroded and liberalised as pro-abortion groups piled on the pressure on politicians who are hyper sensitive to such pressure.
Mattie McGrath TD wasn’t having any of it. On last Monday’s Morning Ireland (RTĖ Radio 1) he said he was pro-life in all situations, criticised the way the Citizens’ Assembly was constituted and the way its outcome was a foregone conclusion. Last Monday’s ‘It Says in the Papers’ slot on that same programme started with a quote from journalist Alison O’Connor, who suggested it would be ‘tragic’ if the work of the Assembly wasn’t respected. I’d suggest it’ll be far more tragic (i.e. leading to many unnecessary deaths) if the suggested changes are carried out.
On The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) last Monday morning the host started by asking “does anyone have to act on their findings?” The answer, I hope, will be a resounding NO.
Pick of the Week
The Big Big Movie: Up
RTĖ One, Saturday, April 29, 5:20pm
(2009) Marvellous animated featured, with moving opening sequence on the joys and sorrows of marriage.
MY COUNTRY, MY FAITH: IRELAND
EWTN, Saturday, April 29, 10.30pm
Fr Owen Gorman welcomes Fr John Harris, James Mahon and Maura Garrihy, as they discuss how young people of Ireland are reawakening to the ancient faith of their forefathers.
The Leap of Faith
RTĖ Radio 1, Friday, May 5, 10.02pm
Topical religious and ethical matters with Michael Comyn.