Last week didn’t get off to a good start. The Irish Times broke the story of the girl who sought an abortion and was subsequently, but not consequently, sectioned.
I would have thought the best outcome was both mother and baby alive, but those who would think themselves liberal and progressive didn’t hesitate to hijack a personal pain for their own ideological ends, even as they admitted they hadn’t the full facts of the case.
The media bias was evident straight away. On Newstalk’s Drive programme on the Monday evening they interviewed Prof. Veronica O’Keane who was explicitly pro-choice, and journalist Kitty Holland who wrote the story - soft interviews and no pro-life reaction.
On the Tuesday’s edition they played TD Ruth Coppinger’s gross characterisation of what happened as “incarceration, internment, imprisonment”. Also on that show they reported uncritically on the latest UN Human Rights Committee criticism of our abortion regime and gave an unchallenging interview to Niall Behan of the Irish Family Planning Association, but again there was no contribution from a pro-life spokesperson.
Worse still was the subtle bias in the interviewers – Chris Donoghue spoke of “fatal foetal abnormality” cases, where, he said, the baby “will not” survive beyond birth, when we know that many so diagnosed do survive, so “may not” would have been the more objective and appropriate term.
Sarah McInerney perpetuated another myth – women “having to travel” to Britain for abortion, when in fact they chose to go, instead of making the choice to stay here and have the baby. And then we wouldn’t have the heart-breaking stories of dead babies or their ashes brought home in jiffy bags and all the upset that entails.
These stories, I suspect, would have gained a lot more traction if it hadn’t been for the awful London fire and the political changes in Ireland.
I couldn’t bear to watch the cringeworthy tributes to outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the Tuesday, especially from those pushing for him to go for the last few months. And I couldn’t help remembering that it was his party that, after courting the pro-life vote, disrespected those voters and some of their own representatives to railroad through, in the dark of a drink-fuelled late night in Leinster House, Ireland’s first abortion bill. Babies have died because of that – the figures are released every year. Some legacy.
On Wednesday it was the turn of new Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. The media coverage wasn’t quite as bad, and there were sprinkles of hope and optimism in the air, except when we had to listen to commentators gushing about how having Mr Varadkar as Taoiseach made us a mature progressive country.
However, pretty much immediately, the media got their teeth into the controversy surrounding the appointment of Máire Whelan, outgoing Attorney General, to a vacant judicial post.
What really bugged me was how government spokespeople addressed the issue of problems with the appointment process – mostly they went off on a tangent about how competent Ms Whelan was, which wasn’t the issue at all, a point trenchantly made by presenter Shane Coleman on last Monday morning’s Breakfast Show(Newstalk).
The new Cabinet didn’t inspire confidence. We still have a Minister for Children campaigning to make it easier to abort children (by removing their main protection, the Eighth Amendment), a Minister of State for Disability Issues effectively in favour of making it easier to abort children with disabilities (he wants rid of the Eighth Amendment – and unborn children with disabilities, or ‘abnormalities’, are disproportionately targeted when it comes to abortion), and something new and rather bizarre, a Minister for Health newly tasked with organising a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, which, if passed, will have a disastrous effect on the health of unborn babies. Some country we have!
Meanwhile, those images of the burning block of flats in London will haunt us for years, as will the gaunt black shell it became in the days that followed.
If you were to rescue any good at all it was the community spirit that kicked into action. On various BBC News programmes I heard plenty to inspire – one lady said: “We don’t have much but we have each other”; we heard reports of churches, mosques, synagogues and temples being thrown open to receive people in need. Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby spoke of the “community of Christ” coming together.
Pick of the week
Fast and Not Furious RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday, June 24, 5.45pm At the end of Ramadan, a group of Irish-based Muslims share insights into the shared faith they are determined to reclaim from terrorists.
Holby City BBC 1, Tuesday, June 27, 8pm Sacha is forced to confront his faith when his religious mother sets him up on a blind date.
MY COUNTRY, MY FAITH: IRELAND EWTN, Wednesday, June 28, 7pm Fr Owen welcomes Tom and Jackie Ascough and their family as they discuss First Communion and how a family prepares.