On Tuesday of last week the sad story of the healthy baby aborted in Holles Street Hospital was the main story on RTÉ News at Nine, a welcome acknowledgement of a high profile casualty of repealing of the Eighth Amendment.
Next morning on Newstalk Breakfast presenter Ciara Kelly mentioned it first in her review of the newspapers, but curiously it was absent from RTÉ Radio One’s ‘It Says in the Papers’ on Morning Ireland. On the Wednesday it was also a big story when the couple involved settled their case, but once again it was absent from the 8.10am ‘It Says in the Papers’ on the Thursday, though mentioned on the 7.10am version. I didn’t come across much discussion of it in the current affairs shows, even though it was closely related to the ongoing controversy about the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH). Last Friday’s Drivetime (RTÉ Radio One) had the parents’ solicitor describing the couple’s “harrowing cruel journey”, the ongoing lack of apology from the hospital, or the consultants involved. Yet there was reference to a report that sought to ensure “safe legal terminations”.
That NMH issue has given huge opportunities to Catholic Church bashers (hate-speech merchants?) and they have reacted with gusto. The narrative driven by the media has been that a Catholic maternity hospital would cause suffering for women. Now, apart from the crass ingratitude for the years of excellent healthcare (of the type that doesn’t involve terminating babies), there was no mention of the babies that will suffer when abortions (the opposite of maternity) are done in the new maternity hospital. On a more positive note Jimmy Sheehan (co-founder of the Blackrock Clinic) was interviewed on The Last Word (Today FM, Thursday) and he was critical of and upset at the “cheap shots” of politicians against the nuns despite their “extraordinary contribution” to healthcare.
Newstalk Breakfast made a brave move by questioning the value of Pride Month with journalist Larissa Nolan. She suggested that Pride was too long at a full month, was subject to too much “corporatisation”. But other angles weren’t explored – e.g. how the demand for acceptance has become more of a browbeating every June, with the odd spectacle of rich corporations jumping on the Pride ‘brandwagon’, State institutions supporting Pride, busses and Garda cars sporting the rainbow colours and a Bród stamp (with accompanying t-shirt!) from An Post (why?).
Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, is another of the hot button issues of the moment, and with the euphemistically named ‘Dying With Dignity’ Bill going through the Oireachtas at the moment (and getting a lot more media attention than the Foetal Pain Relief Bill), it certainly could be described as a matter of public controversy and current public debate, which puts a particular onus on broadcast media to be fair, impartial and objective. One day after reading out two ‘apologies’ about presenter bias, Newstalk featured a hugely skewed treatment of the issue last Friday on Lunchtime Live. They will no doubt maintain that it was fair to have interviews with two high profile pro-euthanasia campaigners, Gino Kenny TD, sponsor of the bill and Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland, with no-one to put the case for the other side. This was followed by several callers and texters supporting them, along with one text suggesting that this was an effort to “legalise murder”, not representative of the rational opposition to this bill from large sections of the medical profession especially in the hospice movement. Later on the show returned to the issue with a caller who used to be in favour, still believed in people having the choice, but had concerns about unintended consequences e.g. pressure on people to make the choice.
Not unrelated, on Liveline (RTÉ Radio One, Wednesday) stand-in presenter Katie Hannon had a moving interview with Gerry Simpson, brother of pop star Dermot ‘Spyder’ Simpson whose career was unfortunately cut short by a road accident that left him in a coma. The care given to him by his family was truly inspirational and Gerry stressed how important God, prayer and faith was to them during these challenging times. They rose to the challenge, big time and with big hearts. I was particulary touched by how convinced they were that Dermot was aware of his family, despite the coma – they so much valued his smile when they told him jokes.
I’m sure many listeners got a smile from that.
Pick of the week
EWTN Saturday (night) July 3, 12.30 am
A powerful app that uses striking video is taking the world on a remarkable journey through the development of a baby in the womb.
RTÉ One Sunday July 4, 11 am
Bishop Denis Nulty, Fr Paddy Byrne and Canon Patrick Harvey lead the Embrace FARM ecumenical service of remembrance and support for families affected by farm accidents.
RTÉ One Tuesday July 6, 7 pm
Scannal looks back to June 2001 where young innocent school girls attending Holy Cross Primary School in North Belfast were targeted during loyalist picketing.