Court decision is a bonanza for chat shows

Court decision is a bonanza for chat shows Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper hosting Tonight on TV3

On Tuesday night of last week the Catholic Bishops made a significant intervention in the Eighth Amendment debate, issuing a humane and measured statement. On the Nine News (RTE 1) that night, Archbishop Eamon Martin expressed dismay that the right to life of unborn children could be “obliterated” from the Constitution.

On Wednesday’s Morning Ireland Bishop Alan McGuckian stressed that the unborn were “one with us” in common humanity and that we were in danger of losing our “clarity” on the matter.

On Wednesday night, following the depressing Supreme Court judgement, the Tonight programme (TV 3) featured Maria Steen (Iona Institute) and Peadar Tóibín (Sinn Féin) who ably presented the pro-life position. Donal Lynch (Sunday Independent), arguing for repeal, said it was a “fate worse than death to be born to someone who doesn’t want you”. Worse than death? He accepted that in abortion “yes, a life does end…a nascent life does end”. There was some unhelpful interrupting going on between Noone and Steen and presenter Matt Cooper upbraided Steen for this, though Noone had made the first interruption.

Dr Peter Boylan seems to be guest of choice (or pro-choice) for the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) on this issue. On the Thursday morning’s show Kenny asked Boylan about that day’s poll showing 70% of GPs unwilling to apply abortion pills, and both Kenny and Boylan were quick to question how representative the poll was.

It was largely a soft interview (shock!) but when Boylan suggested that ‘surgical abortions as described by the anti-repealers will not be considered in this jurisdiction’ Kenny asked if he wouldn’t therefore support these being prohibited. No, said Boylan, it might very occasionally be necessary. Hmm…

On Today with Seán O’Rourke (RTE Radio 1) on Friday, obstetrician Dr John Monahan said it wasn’t practicing medicine or healthcare to abort the healthy unborn baby of a healthy pregnant mother. He outlined the huge resource implications for this proposed ‘GP-led service’. Despite the doctors’ poll, Dr Mark Murphy of Doctors for Choice said there was a huge number of doctors willing to do the abortions and spoke of the need for abortion in cases of failed contraception.

Former President Mary McAleese upset a few apple carts last week with her attack on the Catholic Church’s attitude to women. In a sense she’s the gift that keeps on giving to anti-Catholic elements in the media.

On various shows, many commentators (including several liberal Catholic priests) agreed with her but weren’t happy about the tone.

Her challenge to the Church to state what it was going to do to be more inclusive of women if it wasn’t going to entertain their ordination merited serious discussion but her “empire of misogyny” and “codology” remarks came across as ill-considered and dismissive of dialogue. It came across as if she’d said “I don’t understand this theology so it must be codology”. In one clip she added “I’m not even going to be bothered arguing it”.

Fr Brian McKevitt went to bat for orthodoxy on Thursday night’s Prime Time (a brave move on International Women’s Day), while, shortly afterwards, Jackie Ascough of Catholic Comment played that role on Tonight (TV3). Ivan Yates suggested to author Martina Devlin that McAleese’s remarks had been “deliberately offensive” while Matt Cooper let Devlin interrupt Ascough on several occasions – the opposite of his attitude to Maria Steen the night before.


Ms McAleese was interviewed last Monday by a well-informed and incisive host on his Today With Seán O’Rourke show. As regards the “strength” of her language she said she was just trying to be “factually accurate”, but inflammatory metaphor is hardly the path to factual accuracy! On Church teaching on women’s ordination she said “I have to accept that” and later “I absolutely accept the authority of the Pope”. She told the heart-breaking story of the abuse of a brother of hers – emotional and unexpected. In relation to the Eighth Amendment she was still thinking and reading, with no decision as to how she would vote. She said she was “strongly pro-life”, but also strongly influenced by Dr Peter Boylan and Dr Rhona Mahony (not by pro-life obstetricians?).

She felt the Eighth, which she had supported, might not be doing effectively what it was intended to do, and seemed inclined to distinguish between the repeal vote and the legislation that would follow. Oh dear.


Pick of the Week
RTÉ 1, St Patrick’s Day, 11.55 am

Charming animated version of the Story Of St Patrick.

EWTN, St Patrick’s Day, 5.30 pm

Fr Bernard McGuckian, SJ, travels to the Hill of Tara in Ireland to explore the life of St. Patrick and his impact on the world.

Channel 4, Sunday, March 18, 6.30 am

The family meets the school counsellor and Fr Hubley to uncover what is to blame for the constant bickering between them.

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