A week of great highs and terrible lows

Abortion continues as the dominant topic of debate in Ireland, writes Brendan O’Regan

It was a week of highs and lows: sporting euphoria, sporting disappointment, but most of all a continuing bleakness following the deaths in the Carrickmines fire and the murder of Garda Tony Golden.

Valerie Cox is one of the most reliable and consistent of RTÉ’s reporters and her piece on the Garda’s funeral on Today With Sean O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1) last Thursday was spot on. She quoted a local who said that morning saw “a beautiful sunrise but the darkest dawn”.  I was also impressed by the empathy, frustration and passion for justice shown by Dundalk Redemptorist priest Fr Michael Cusack in his interview.

Another reporter setting a consistently high standard is Samantha Libreri, and so it was in her sensitive report on last Friday night’s Nine News (RTÉ One) on a prayer vigil in Bray to mark the passing of the Carrickmines fire victims. Fr Derek Farrell of the Parish of the Traveling People led the prayers, and indeed the clergy have been to the forefront all week, being with their people in their time of sorrow. 

On that same news programme, Eileen Dunne rightly acknowledged the “unborn baby” who died along with the other 10 individuals.  

Sympathy for the unborn didn’t extend too much further. In fact, it felt a little like another anti-Eighth Amendment week at times. (The amendment in question protects mother and unborn baby equally.) 

On Tuesday’s Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) a writer of non-fiction sex books was interviewed and when he said one book had been banned because of a suggestion that a girl might consider a termination, Pat Kenny in turn suggested that the ban was “down to the Eighth Amendment”, a questionable interpretation. 

By contrast, on his Wednesday show Kenny interviewed Congressman Chris Smith, who was in Ireland for the launch of a pregnancy healthcare clinic in Belfast and to address a conference of the Pro-Life Campaign. Smith impressed on several issues, including his criticism of human rights violations in China in relation to sex-selective abortions. 

He regarded human rights as “indivisible”, supported measures that showed love and care to both mother and baby and was strong on protecting those with disabilities from abortion and any other discrimination. He seems to be on the more moderate side of the Republican spectrum, characterised, as Kenny said, as a “left-wing conservative”! 

By Thursday, the Ray D’Arcy Show (RTÉ Radio 1) was thumping the Eighth Amendment. Dr Peter Boylan was on the show to give maternity advice but also strayed into law and politics speaking of a “push” to repeal the amendment and his desire that we bring our laws broadly into line with our European neighbours. 

Though Boylan consistently referred to “babies” in the womb, D’Arcy didn’t challenge him on what happens to these babies in an abortion. He was worse than unchallenging on the matter when his guest on Friday was former minister Ruairi Quinn. 

Once again the Eighth Amendment was attacked and D’Arcy declared his view that “we need to legislate as if the UK didn’t exist”. Interestingly, Quinn referred to the “infant” in the equation which was welcome, but having acknowledged the presence of an “infant”, why would he then contemplate making it legal to terminate the life of the infant (should I use the ‘k’ word?), even if only in certain cases? D’Arcy didn’t ask.

Last Monday’s Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1) featured an interview with Ruth Coppinger TD about her latest protest against the Eighth Amendment – an “abortion pill bus”! Presenter Cathal MacGiolla Choille was challenging on the legal and medical implications and also on her use of opinion polls, but sometime I’d like to hear a challenge to that illogical notion of hers that abortion could be “very safe”.

Still on RTÉ presenters and reporters, Charlie Bird has been one of the most dedicated. As on the previous Sunday’s Marian Finucane Show, he was interviewed by Wendy Grace on her Morning Show on Spirit Radio last Friday about his new short documentary Charlie Bird Reports on the Missions. 

He had issues with the Church but praised the “fantastic work” of Irish missionaries. His film is on YouTube, and one of the most striking scenes showed families in Manilla whose ‘home’ was a graveyard. 

As Bird said, they were born, lived and died among the graves.

Watch it and you will be moved.


Pick of the Week

Joe Duffy’s Spirit Level
RTĖ One, Sunday, October 25, 1.10pm

How the energy and enthusiasm of young people impacts on society and religion. 

We shall not be moved: the Catholic sisters of New Orleans
EWTN, Monday, October 26, 9pm & Thursday 10am

In the midst of Hurricane Katrina six Catholic communities remain to continue their service to the people of New Orleans.

Unreported World
Channel 4, Friday, October 30, 7.30pm

From South Sudan a moving report on the aid workers trying to reunite the children and parents trapped on different sides of the frontline in the brutal civil war.