Emotion replacing morality on the flat screen

Emotion replacing morality on the flat screen Cora Sherlock

Some of you will be glad I’m not going to spend a full column on the referendum but I have to say I write this part with a heavy heart, a sense of bereavement at having lost something special, a sense of dread for the little lives that will be lost under our shiny new abortion laws. They will never be seen in the media, will never see the light of day. Their “hard cases” will be invisible, airbrushed out of our consciences and consciousness.

The media played a leading role in the destruction of the right to life.  The Eighth Amendment, which arguably saved the lives of thousands of children, was given nothing but bad press for years.

The reality of what abortion involves barely saw the light of day, abuses in the abortion industry were ignored as investigative journalists headed for cover. With one or two notable exceptions media presenters gave a hard time to those supporting a ‘No’ vote, while those campaigning for repeal were given soft interviews, with an odd sop to impartiality.

So many times we heard the line “would you force a young rape victim to carry the ‘rapist’s baby’ to term?” but never “would you force death on an innocent baby?”.Both questions needed to be asked but only one was.

Watching the Nine News (RTÉ1) last Saturday night was painful and embarrassing, as emotional young women in particular crassly celebrated a decision that will lead to the deaths of children. It felt like dancing on graves.


At one stage there was a reference to the reaction of “those on the ‘No’ side” and it cut to a brief comment from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin – even after the ‘victory’ RTÉ seemed to feel the need to reinforce the narrative that opposition to repeal was primarily a Catholic thing.

One of the more reflective and nuanced post-referendum discussions was on The Sunday Show (TV3) last weekend. Sarah McInerney chatted to Cora Sherlock, still flying the pro-life flag as best she could, Mary O’Rourke, former TD, who had voted ‘No’ for the unborn baby but could appreciate lots of the repeal points, and journalist Sarah Carey, a ‘Yes’ voter who could understand lots of the ‘No’ points.

By Monday morning the indecent haste to push on for abortion legislation as quickly as possible was the latest pro-choice narrative. (This was the 36th Amendment and they haven’t even enacted the Seventh yet!) This point was promoted heavily on last Monday’s Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1). Even as Aisling Kenny reported from a temporary Savita memorial, she kept asking those present about pressing forward with the legislation.

Later the Today With Seán O’Rourke programme featured Bishop Kevin Doran, long-time front line defender of the rights of the unborn. In answer to a question, he suggested Catholics who voted ‘Yes’ knowing and intending abortion to be the outcome, should consider going to Confession. A Catholic bishop promoting Catholic teaching and encouraging reconciliation sent texters and tweeters into outrage mode.

John Murray of DCU said the Church should ignore the idea of “what’s useful to them” and forget about popularity. John Downing of the Irish Independent, a ‘Yes’ voter, lambasted the extremes of secular intolerance (“free speech for people who agree with me”).


To move on – “we believe those children have a right to live, they’ve committed no crime” – this was from a missionary priest in Biafra during the mid-60s, when civil war in this breakaway area of Nigeria caused a devastating famine. Biafra – Misean Dearmadta (TG4, Wednesday of last week) told the story of how the Irish missionaries already in the area turned their attentions both to feeding the starving people with the help of generous contributions from home, and to tacking the political obstacles to ending the war.

In face of great danger they smuggled in food at night and also journalists to reveal the atrocity to the world. For the first time we got to see starving children on screen, and in those days this suffering prompted a generous response and made political waves – they challenged UK complicity in the war atrocities of the Nigerian government and were even accused of prolonging the war.

The heroism of nuns and priests was exemplary, as they cheerfully cast aside cares for their own safety in order to serve their people. Misean Dearmadta – forgotten indeed.

Pick of the week
The Big Questions
BBC1, Sunday, June 3, 10 am

Nicky Campbell presents topical debate on religious and ethical issues, live from Brunel University, London.

RTÉ1, Sunday, June 3, 11 am

Mass for Corpus Christi, from the  ruins of Killone Abbey in Co. Clare. Special prayers for exam students.

RTÉ Lyric fm, Sunday, June 3, 6 pm

The greatest unknown music of all: Bach’s Church Cantatas, with Tim Thurston.

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