Government messes and slippery slopes

Government messes and slippery slopes Actress and disability rights activist, Liz Carr

Media debates can be frustrating when people are talking at cross purposes, misunderstanding or misrepresenting each other and generally being illogical.

These thoughts were prompted by Today with Claire Byrne (RTÉ Radio 1, Tuesday), when the topic was the proposed reduction in welfare contributions to Ukrainians here since the beginning of the war – the reductions are already in place for more recent arrivals.

Jim O’Callaghan TD (Fianna Fáil), a politician I have some time for, defended the Government proposals, which seem rather drastic – dropping payments from around €232 per week to around €38.

The chief argument seemed to be that in the interests of equality and consistency all should be getting the same – but logically that could mean all raised to the higher level, or all payments set at some level in between.

Tom McEnaney of Effective Aid Ukraine pointed out that the drastic reduction proposed would disproportionately affect older women and young mothers with children – they would find it difficult to impossible to get work.

He challenged Deputy O’Callaghan for praising our ‘extraordinary generosity’ to Ukrainians in the past – this would not soften the blow of the proposed measure. Deputy O’Callaghan also compared our contributions favourably to other countries, but again, logically, one could argue that Ireland could or should be better than the European norm, he also referenced just two countries that were paying higher than €100 – so why would we not match the best examples?

We have been generous, have taken more refugees proportionally than other countries, but logically that could be a source of either regret or even better, pride. Yes, resources can seem to be scarce and are certainly not unlimited, but money can be found in a crisis (e.g. Covid) and so much money is wasted – e.g., the millions used to fund abortions, money for destruction.

I fear the Government, admittedly in a challenging situation, has made a mess of the issue.

A related discussion on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Friday) was much better. Gillian Tiggs, former United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Assistant High Commissioner for Protection with UNHCR was well informed, clear and moderate. In response to the challenge of mass migration she favoured stabilisation of the countries people were fleeing from, so they wouldn’t feel the need to flee.

Most migrant people, she said, were displaced within their own countries, and many more tend to flee to neighbouring countries where was more understanding – it was only a ‘relatively tiny’ minority that fled to far away countries.

She could understand how this could still lead to local problems in these countries. Supportive of the UN in general, she was critical of the use and abuse of the veto in the Security Council. One could argue some points, but it was a refreshing contribution to a thorny debate.

Better Off Dead? (BBC One, Tuesday) tackled another thorny issue, euthanasia, with an ‘authored’ piece by disability rights campaigner and actress Liz Carr. She could see all the dangers of any move towards legalisation, but wasn’t afraid to speak to those of a different view.

Yes, it was one-sided, but as she said it should ‘redress the balance’ – perhaps she had in mind Esther Rantzen getting blanket coverage for her efforts to get assisted suicide legalised in the UK.

One of the scariest segments was her visit to Canada, showing the slippery slope in graphic detail – the euthanasia doctor who was proud of her work (she provided abortions too); the woman who found out by text that mother was euthanised after being approved for it by phone by a doctor who didn’t even meet her; the homeless man who found it much easier to access ‘medical assistance in dying’ (MAID) than to access housing; the colourful MAID explainer book for children whose family member was to be euthanised; the existence of a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline alongside a 24-hour assisted suicide facilitation hotline; the proposals to extend MAID to children from 12 years old.  ‘Let’s get out of here!’ said Liz.

Diverse contributors said it was less about suffering and more about choice, autonomy and control. Among those was Dr Kathleen Sleeman, an impressive palliative care doctor very concerned about coercion, the vulnerable being pressurised.

Ms Carr was part of an activist group of disabled people who felt vulnerable and threatened by the prospect of legislation. ‘Assist us to live, not die’ said one of their placards.


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