Speaking to Independent.ie, Patrick McCrystal, Executive Director of HLI Ireland, said he was contacted by the hotel this week to say that the event have been called off. “The manager himself spoke to me directly of 50 pages of commentary, emails and social media, that a Facebook page had been set up opposing the conference, as well as diatribe, intimidation, upset of his staff, personal visits to the hotel and threats of protest at the hotel if conference continues. In the interest of Health and safety of his staff, he had to cancel venue”. He said it was “yet another example of censorship and is an attack on free speech”. He continued: “Who decides who may speak in Ireland? This is an attack on the very foundation of democracy in our country. These women are highly respected in their fields. Yet an angry mob have decided that only certain voices are allowed to be heard in Ireland.”
A spokeswoman for the Ashling Hotel declined to comment.
Almost two out of three mothers would prefer to stay at home to raise their children if they could afford it, a new survey has revealed. When asked “If you had the option (and money was no issue) would you prefer to be a stay at home mother?” Sixty-three percent of those surveyed told Amárach Research they would. Laura Erskine of mummypages.ie said the result didn’t surprise her and added: “If the Government were to extend the childcare subsidy to stay-at-home mothers as part of the forthcoming Budget, this would certainly help mums who are returning to work for financial reasons alone.” Catherine Walsh of the Stay at Home Parents Association welcomed the results of the study and called for the Government to extend childcare subsidies to stay-at-home parents. “We would like to see childcare subsidies extended to all parents regardless of what form of childcare they use. All care has a cost. Families who choose to care for their children in the home already face the loss of one salary and unfair taxation due to the policy of tax individualisation. We welcome the results of the study and hope the Government reconsiders the its position of subsidising formal childcare over all other forms, and recognises that parents and families want choice when it comes to childcare.”
A member of the audit committee of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, John S Pittock, has resigned because he did not want to be associated with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone’s stance on abortion. In his resignation letter, he said, “It is a disgrace that the person to whom the Government has bizarrely given responsibility to safeguarding and protecting children, that they should promote the killing of unborn babies”. Speaking to Spirit Radio, Mr Pittock, former Chairman of Deloitte Ireland, said: “I just felt I didn’t want to be associated with her or her views or what she’s trying to promote in any way.”
The resignation was highlighted by Mattie McGrath, TD, at Wednesday’s meeting of the Oireachtas committee on abortion. In a statement released to media, he said the resignation raises very serious questions for Minister Zappone. “Clearly the extreme nature of her views and her bizarre contention that the definition of ‘child’ does not extend to the unborn regardless of its gestational age, is causing problems within the Department. We need clarification and certainty that Minister Zappone’s position on abortion and her readiness to deny fundamental rights to unborn children, despite being the Minister for Children, is not creating a conflict of interest in the operational running of her Department. No State Department should be used as a platform to advance personal ideology. They are there to act in the best interests of all citizens and not simply to give preferential status to one particular point of view,” concluded Deputy McGrath.
Ms Zappone has called for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and legislation for a radical abortion regime and said women will not be equal otherwise. Her spokesman said the audit committee had no direct relationship with the Minister, and no function in relation to Government policy or to the views on issues that may be taken by individual Ministers.
Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte said she thinks that pro-life and pro-choice groups should be allowed present their case at the Joint Oireachtas Committee tasked with developing concrete proposals to implement the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on abortion. She had been “flooded” with emails about the committee’s work since last Friday, with 1,500 from the anti-abortion side and a smaller number, 86, from the pro-choice side. “I’m not objecting to that. I know it’s a generic email in many cases, but at the same time they represent a lot of people. I do think the advocacy groups should not be excluded,” she said. However, other members objected as they are anxious not to delay the holding of a referendum beyond a hoped for June 2018 date.
Meanwhile, two anti-abortion members of the committee, Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Independent Senator Ronan Mullen, have claimed the committee’s witness list is imbalanced.
Seamus Mulconry, General Secretary of the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA), said that where migrant children were concerned Catholic schools played “a massive role in integration.” He expressed “total surprise at commentary that Catholic schools are not inclusive. The reality is very different.” In a discussion afterwards, Dr Anne Looney, executive Dean of DCU’s Institute of Education, said she believed “the term ‘baptism barrier’ is extremely offensive for Catholics and shouldn’t be used.” Mr Mulconry said that in all of last year the CPSMA received few queries about the need for baptismal certificates when it came to school admissions.
State-run primary schools will no longer provide sacramental preparation classes for Catholic students during the school day under new changes, with faith formation as a whole being phased out. This is irrespective of the wishes of parents. The move means it will be up to parishes and parents in these schools to organise sacramental preparation outside normal school hours. The move affects 12 community national schools across the State under the patronage of local Education and Training Boards with almost 4,000 students. They were originally established ten years ago as multi-denominational schools which allowed for religious instruction and sacramental preparation for Catholics. The Church at the time warned that provision of faith formation for Catholic pupils was a “minimum non-negotiable requirement” for its support for the new school model.
Minister for Education Richard Bruton has welcomed the move. “Clearly, it is line with good practice models…” he said. “The idea of a community national school is a clear multi-denominational school which welcomes all faiths and creates an environment where faith is respected, without any particular faith being promoted,” he said. “This anticipated decision reflects the evolution of that model.”
Ms Justice Laffoy, the Chair of the Citizens’ Assembly, has defended its recommendations and rejected claims it was misled into taking a liberal stance on abortion. “I believe the legitimacy of the Assembly’s recommendations is built upon the robust process applied to our consideration of the topic,” she told the opening public session of the joint Oireachtas Committee on abortion yesterday. Asked by Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell if she thought the assembly members were “somehow misled into voting as liberally as they did,” Justice Laffoy responded, “It did not mislead the citizens, and it was not responsible for a liberal approach.”
Independent Senator Ronan Mullen defended the Eighth Amendment, saying “thousands of lives have been saved by having this amendment”. He argued representatives of certain bodies which appeared before the assembly, such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) were “not neutral” and said it was inevitable they would attempt to “sanitise” abortion. Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick said he was “personally shocked” that 64 per cent of assembly members recommended the termination of pregnancy without restriction should be lawful.
The committee will meet again on Wednesday of next week.
Legal permission will no longer be required by courts in the UK before life-supporting treatment is withdrawn from patients with severely debilitating illnesses, a high court judge in London has ruled. As long as doctors and relatives of the patient are in agreement and medical guidelines have been observed there is no need to bring a lengthy case to obtain judicial authorisation, Mr Justice Peter Jackson declared. His ruling affects those deemed to be in persistent vegetative or minimally conscious states. The ruling was welcomed by pro-euthanasia groups. Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Compassion in Dying, said: “[This] is a helpful step towards a clearer, more person-centred view of end-of-life care. When all parties – family, the hospital and treating doctors – are agreed on what someone would have wanted for their care, it seems absurd to require a costly court process to confirm this.”
The Chairwoman of the Citizens’ Assembly will speak at the opening public session of the joint Oireachtas Committee on abortion today and will urge the assembled TDs and Senators to view with “respect and due consideration” the recommendations of the Assembly. She will also defend the process that led to the Assembly’s surprising, radically pro-abortion recommendations. “I am aware that the results caused surprise across some sections of society but I truly believe they were reached not by chance or accident but following a thorough and rational thought process each member undertook as they stepped up to the ballot box,” she will say.
The majority of the Assembly voted to remove article 40.3.3° from the Constitution. Sixty-four per cent of members recommended that the termination of pregnancy without restriction should be lawful. Furthermore, they also recommended a provision be inserted into the Constitution that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman.
While the researchers could only surmise what was driving these changes, they do not think the culprit is an ‘upsurge in virtue’; rather, it might simply be that teens are spending more time online instead. “It’s an important factor in how young people organise their time today, so I wouldn’t be surprised if future research found it to be a part of what’s driving change,” Dr Park said.