50 Shades of Grey treated like a bit of a lark

There was a revolting hoopla surrounding the release of the film at the weekend

As if there wasn’t enough assault on traditional values, there was a revolting hoopla surrounding the release of the film 50 Shades of Grey at the weekend.

On most media discussions it was treated as a bit of a lark. There was a particularly horrible discussion on Today with Pat Kenny (Newstalk) last Friday when one female contributor was actually recommending some of the deviant practices portrayed in the film. Anyone watching the coverage of a current trial would know different. And if anyone still saw the funny side of sadism, last Sunday night’s news reports of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS would surely have cured that. But it didn’t. There was still a jocular approach on last Monday morning’s Breakfast Showon Newstalk.

Last week, I ended my column lamenting a shortage of politicians opposing Clare Daly’s abortion bill on grounds of principle. Since then I have come across such a contribution by Mattie McGrath TD, on The Last Word (Today FM), Tuesday of last week. This I found a particularly hostile interview by Matt Cooper, who became quite exercised about offering choice to women (a choice forced on the baby). This followed much softer interviews with Richard Boyd Barrett, Michael McNamara TD (Labour) and Jennifer Schweppe (who had helped draft the bill), all of whom supported the bill or its intentions. Classic media balance!


Political journalist Pat Leahy on The Late Debate (RTÉ Radio 1) that night drew attention to Deputy McGrath’s contribution. Leahy’s political observations were astute and he remained neutral on the issue – very professional! On the same show, Joanna Tuffy TD (Labour) defended the Government’s position – that they couldn’t support the Daly bill because it was contrary to the Constitution. She was quite measured, I thought, and not at all making dodgy pro-choice arguments.

Leahy thought that in all likelihood, the Government was right on this. Unfortunately, the programme was biased nevertheless – no one on the panel against the bill on principle, with two speakers on the phone campaigning for abortions in the case of fatal fetal abnormalities and only one on the phone against – Liz McDermot of One Day More made some excellent points in a most articulate fashion, e.g. suggesting that in the nature of these abortions they would be late-term. It was unfortunate therefore that she needlessly suggested everybody in the studio was in principle pro-abortion.

Apart from Liz McDermot, voices in the media against the bill on principle remained rare, but Tracy Harkin of Every Life Counts did feature that morning on Morning Ireland.

Harkin did very well but Cathal Mac Coille, having started courteously, was, I thought, quite hectoring with Harkin on whether she favoured her view being ‘imposed’ or ‘forced’ on others. Wisely, she resisted getting words put in her mouth and persisted in debating the matter on her own terms.

I thought it sounded quite off when Mac Coille, after hearing her personal story for a minute, said: “I want to avoid talking about your children, or anybody’s children, I want to stick to the principle.” And this after the constant highlighting of the personal stories of women in such circumstances who had wanted or had sourced abortions.

Later in the show, I think Mac Coille thought the better of it, or perhaps someone had a word in his ear or in his Twitter, as he assiduously put Harkin’s arguments to Clare Daly TD.

On last Sunday’s This Week programme (RTÉ Radio 1) William Binchy got to the heart of the issue: “do we value disabled children or not?” His approach to human rights was truly inclusive.

Still on the culture wars, Tonight with Vincent Browne had a two-hour show discussing the same-sex-marriage referendum on the Wednesday night. Gerry Buttimer TD (FG, pictured) suggested that “to now” marriage was about monogamy, loving union, life-long commitment and two people. Convenient, but guess what crucial element was he leaving out? Dr John Murray of the Iona Institute wanted to ask the pro-same-sex marriage speakers whether in general the mother/father model wasn’t of particular value for children. Browne said he assumed it was, “of course”, but the pro-same-sex marriage speakers never did and never do accept that.

Speaking of the way the importance of motherhood is sidelined when the double-daddy model is preferred, Ben Conroy said there used to be talk about motherhood and apple pie but now “it’s just the pie”. Nice one!