The Message: The Heat Is On and The No Campaign Have Been Unscrupulous

As the Repeal referendum comes into view, the No campaign's unscrupulous tactics have become apparent; Facebook still haven't addressed the abuse of their platform; Maser's Project mural has been removed; and the Catholic Church have reverted to their utterly predictable conservatism. You could say it's been an eventful fortnight.

The clock is ticking. The referendum is getting closer. Contrary to the old biblical aphorism, we know both the day and the hour, when the people will decide whether or not to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the constitution of Ireland.

And yet, just four weeks away from polling day, it is difficult to get an accurate feel for how the campaign is progressing. What we can say is that, so far, there has been a singular absence of decisive leadership on the ‘Yes’ side.

The Citizen’s Assembly did the hard graft, recommending Repeal, and the freedom to terminate a pregnancy without limitation as to reason up to 12 weeks; the Oireachtas Committee followed suit and – for a short while – the momentum was clearly behind the Repeal movement.

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, seemed to take all of these developments effectively in his stride. He had been resolutely anti-abortion, in an old fashioned and dogmatic religious way. Now, he has confirmed that his views have changed radically. In particular, he has recognised that we must end the gross hypocrisy that forces thousands of Irish women to fly to the UK, or further afield, every year, to secure terminations.

The modern Leo Varadkar understands that we need to allow for abortion in cases of rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormality. And he also acknowledges that the abortion pill has changed the landscape dramatically; that we have to be pragmatic, accept what is happening among women on the ground, and provide for the legal, medical use of the abortion pill in Ireland.


The leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, has also emerged in a far more progressive and positive light than might have been anticipated. Given the history of his party, to see him standing up in the Dáil and giving a personal commitment to the Repeal cause represented a stunning victory for common sense.

With Sinn Féin and Labour also supporting Repeal, you might assume that most of Ireland’s best-known politicians would be out there, going hammer and tongs, individually and collectively, to secure a victory. But that hasn’t happened, or not very visibly at any rate.

In contrast, the ‘No’ campaign have been very well-funded, organised and focussed. That is hardly surprising. The ring-leaders are zealots. And so, they have gone about the business of lying to the electorate in exactly the way that was forecast by Hot Press.

We said that they would be utterly unscrupulous in their tactics, and we were right. In this issue of Hot Press, Dr. Peter Boylan, the former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, deals specifically with the deliberate untruths that are being peddled by the anti-choice brigade. There is no need for me to repeat his rebuttal of those lies here. But I do want to state the facts.

1. The 8th Amendment seriously undermines the decision-making of doctors, as they attempt to deal with the health and safety of women who become sick as a result of problem pregnancies. Any suggestion to the contrary is either an exercise in self-delusion or a deliberate lie. Mostly it is the latter.

2. It is incontrovertible that the 8th Amendment has specifically and directly led to the deaths of Irish women. To suggest otherwise bends the truth beyond breaking point.

3. Emotive suggestions that a foetus can see, think and maybe even pray (that’s a joke) at 12 weeks are without any foundation whatsoever in scientific fact. Trying to persuade people to vote ’No’ on that basis is despicable.

4. As long as the Eighth Amendment remains in place, there is – and will be – no way of dealing with pregnancy as a result of rape except to force the woman to ‘have the baby’. The only alternative is to Repeal the Eighth and allow affected women decide, conscientiously, on their own terms, if they want to continue the pregnancy or to terminate it. 5. It is at best a misrepresentation of the figures, and at worst a blatant lie, to say that one in five pregnancies in the UK ends in abortion.

6. It is also a lie to say that 90% of foetuses with Down Syndrome in the UK are aborted. They are not.

7. Even more importantly, Down Syndrome is not – and will not be – diagnosed inside 12 weeks, and therefore falls outside the timeframe during which abortion will be allowed under the Government’s proposals.

8. The legislation proposed by the Government specifically precludes a diagnosis of Down Syndrome as a basis for terminating a pregnancy.

9. These facts are known to the ‘No’ campaign and yet they insist on claiming that Repealing the 8th will lead to pregnancies involving Down Syndrome being terminated. They know that this can’t and won’t happen.

10. They also know that any suggestion that there will be abortion ‘up to birth’ in Ireland is a downright lie, and scare-mongering of the most pernicious kind. But the anti-choice mob persist in making the claim anyway.


Will the electorate in general see through this campaign of disinformation? We don’t know.Equally, we have no idea what other grotesque lies might already be being peddled by the ‘No’ campaign, via Social Media – and via Facebook in particular. It is genuinely shocking that a trans-national Surveillance Capitalist monopoly like Facebook has been allowed to run political advertising in different jurisdictions, including Ireland, without any regulation whatsoever. The effect in the US Presidential election was to skew the result significantly to the right, and win the race for Donald Trump. That process was repeated in the UK during the referendum on withdrawal from the EU.

Knowing this, we must recognise that there is a real danger that fake Facebook advertising might just help to win the upcoming referendum for the ’No’ side.

• All the evidence suggests that the ‘No’ campaign will spend big on Facebook.

• There is evidence too that they will use disreputable companies – who may have acquired data illegally – to target the most vulnerable voters.

• And they will use Soviet-style propaganda, disinformation and distortion to stir up irrational fears, about the effects of change.

And the State machinery, and the Government, are allowing this to happen under their noses.

A few weeks ago, Hot Press challenged Facebook to do its bit to safeguard democracy in Ireland by refusing all advertising to do with the Referendum. They have chosen not to do so.

They have tried to create a fig leaf, by advising readers and users ‘how to control their settings’. “Ha ha,” you might post as a Facebook comment in response. This is transparently evasive, self-serving stuff. The bottom line is that they have chosen to take the money and run.

And the reality is that this creates a black hole, where the democratic process is put in mortal jeopardy. Clearly, Facebook’s attitude is: democracy be damned. Our profits matter more. So why aren’t Facebook’s Irish staff walking out? Are they all happy to collude in the subversion of democracy here?


It gets worse. A couple of days ago, the news emerged that the Charities Regulator had instructed the Project Arts Centre to remove the famous Maser ‘Repeal the Eighth’ mural from the wall of its premises in East Essex Street, in Temple Bar.

Let’s think about this for a minute.

I was at a memorial mass in a Catholic Church recently. From the altar, the priest gave a sermon telling people that they should vote ‘no’ in the referendum. Similarly, a friend attended a funeral. The grieving family were preparing to bury their beloved – and the priest delivered a sermon urging people to vote ’No’ in the Referendum.

Now, my understanding is that the entire edifice of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland depends on the charitable status accorded to a variety of institutions. Hospitals, schools, hospices, NGOs of various stripes and religious orders are run as or owned by so-called charitable institutions. That in itself is entirely unjustifiable. But it is the way things are.

So, is the Charities Regulator seriously trying to suggest that none of the above are taking any kind of position on Repealing the Eighth? Clearly, this is not true.

And so, we want to ask the Regulator the following question: will every Roman Catholic charity be pursued remorselessly, and have their charitable status stripped from them, if they express any view whatsoever in relation to Repealing the Eighth Amendment? Because in a spirit of equity, this is what should happen.

A huge amount remains to be done by campaigners for a ‘Yes’ vote in the final four weeks of this campaign. But even more urgently, the authorities have to ensure that there is a level playing field.

Peddling lies via social media should not and cannot be allowed. Threatening to remove the charitable status of ‘Yes’ campaigners, and leaving ’No’ charities to carry on proselytising is inequitable and wrong: that too must be reversed.

If the apparatus of State fails to protect democracy, then we are all the losers. Oh, except the liars and the bullies.


Related Articles

Louise Kenny: On separating medical facts from religious dogma, and what needs to be done to secure a 'Yes'

PROFESSOR LOUISE KENNY, an obstetrician who’s witnessed first-hand the fatal consequences of the 8th Amendment, has emerged as one of the Repeal campaign’s most persuasive voices. She talks to STUART CLARK about dirty tricks, religious dogma dressed up as expert medical opinion, and what needs to be done to secure a ‘Yes’ vote on May 25.

Read More

A Yes Vote Will Offer Women "Care & Compassion" In Ireland

Speaking at the launch of the latest Labour posters in the referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment, Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin said yesterday that only a Yes vote on the 25th May "can deliver a change to our laws, and ensure that our women are no longer exported, but treated with care and compassion in Ireland".

Read More

Irish Nobel Laureate William C. Campbell calls for a repeal of the 8th amendment

A remarkable 1,200 Irish scientists have signed a letter calling for the Repeal of the 8th Amendment to the constitution – including many of our most eminent academics.

Read More

Photos of the Together for Yes pop-up shop relaunch

The pop-up shop opened in Temple Bar last night with hundreds of people queuing in advance.

Read More

From Youthquake, to Repeal The Eight

Europe began to change in earnest in Paris, in 1968, when students and workers united in defiance of the French right, and in opposition to the dead hand of patriarchy. A lot has changed in Ireland in the interim – but Repealing the 8th is the next vital step towards freedom...

Read More

100 Voices For YES: Irish Artists Speak Up For Repeal

Over the coming days, as we move closer to an historic opportunity for the people of Ireland to get rid of an archaic part of the Constitution, we'll be sharing the words of singers, artists, filmmakers, authors and more, who are urging people to vote for Repeal.

Read More

Activism and slogan jumpers: brought to you by the support of the Irish public

Supporters of the Repeal movement once again showed their dedication and determination to the cause, as Temple Bar was packed out with queues for the relaunch of the limited REPEAL jumpers.

Read More

Irish Govt Outlines New Measures To Reduce Crisis Pregnancies

The Government has outlined a series of measures planned to improve supports for women and reduce crisis pregnancies, as they continued their campaign for a Yes vote in the Referendum on May 25th.

Read More

Irish musicians and artists encourage men to vote YES

Bob Geldof, Tracey Thorn, Tom Dunne, Steve Walls, Nick Seymour and Sharon Horgan are encouraging men to stand by women and vote YES to repealing the 8th.

Read More

100 Voices For YES: Irish Artists Speak Up For Repeal

Over the coming days, as we move closer to an historic opportunity for the people of Ireland to get rid of an archaic part of the Constitution, we'll be sharing the words of singers, artists, filmmakers, authors and more, who are urging people to vote for Repeal.

Read More

A Yes Vote Is "Only Way To Deal With So-callled 'Hard Cases'," says Senator Bacik

With just nine days to go until Irish citizens will be voting on the removal of the eighth amendment from the Constitution, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik has said that voting Yes on May 25th is the only way to deal with so-called ‘hard cases’ and to show real compassion to women and their families.

Read More

Repeal The 8th: We Must Keep Battling Until The Polls Close

Opponents of the 8th Amendment have been battling for over 34 years to remove from the constitution a deeply insulting and paternalistic clause that equates the rights of a woman with those of an embryo. The hope is that honesty, reason and gentle persuasion can win the day. Oh, and a soupçon of home truths...

Read More

100 Voices For YES: Irish Artists Speak Up For Repeal

Over the coming days, as we move closer to an historic opportunity for the people of Ireland to get rid of an archaic part of the Constitution, we'll be sharing the words of singers, artists, filmmakers, authors and more, who are urging people to vote for Repeal.

Read More

Women's "health at the heart of repeal campaign", insists Limerick TD

With just than two weeks to go to the referendum on repealing the eighth amendment, Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan has said it is important that voters "keep women’s health at the forefront of their minds".

Read More

100 Voices For YES: Irish Artists Speak Up For Repeal

Over the coming days, as we move closer to an historic opportunity for the people of Ireland to get rid of an archaic part of the Constitution, we'll be sharing the words of singers, artists, filmmakers, authors and more, who are urging people to vote for Repeal.

Read More

Eamonn McCann: The Repeal Movement is Unstoppable..And The North Too Will Rise

By canvassing for a ‘Yes’ vote in the abortion referendum, women on both sides of the border will advance the cause of freedom in Northern Ireland, as well as the Republic.

Read More

In The New Hot Press: 100 Irish Voices Proclaim YES

With just over a fortnight left to polling day, the artistic community and beyond is uniting to urge Irish men and women alike to vote yes.

Read More

8th Event Planned For Today Is Cancelled

A statement reads:"It is with regret we announce that the below event (scheduled tomorrow, Friday 4th May) is postponed in light of the sad news that Monica Barnes has died.Thank you for your understanding."

Read More

Enough is Enough: 35 years of the 8th Amendment

Members of the Fine Gael Party pressing for a yes vote in the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment will, this Friday morning, be joined by Fine Gael TDs of 1983 to discuss the need for repeal.

Read More

Foetal Images Outside Maternity Hospitals Slammed As New low

The displaying of large images - purporting to show foetuses before abortion – is a new low in the ongoing referendum campaign, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Read More

TD Reports Removal of 8th Posters To Gardaí

Jan O’Sullivan has referred the removal of Labour Party posters on the Referendum to Repeal the Eighth to the Gardaí in Limerick City.

Read More

Charities Regulators Have Questions To Answer Over Removal Of Repeal Mural

The removal of the Maser Repeal the 8th mural at the Project Arts Centre is being described as an "affront to democracy and freedom of expression".

Read More

Repeal the 8th Described As "Workers' Rights Issue"

The Repeal the 8th movement has been strengthened by the news that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is now vocally supporting the campaign.

Read More

Inclusion Ireland Joins Together For Yes Campaign.

Labour Party spokesperson on Disability, Kathleen Lynch has welcomed Inclusion Ireland joining the Together for Yes civil society group to repeal the eighth amendment

Read More

Govt. Approve "General Scheme" of legislation if 8th Amendment Is Repealed

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris has announced a so-called "approval of the general scheme of the legislation" which the Government would propose if the 8th amendment is repealed.

Read More

Tánaiste Makes U-Turn Over Abortion Stance

Simon Coveney now says he's publicly backing Repeal the 8th.

Read More

The first Pro-Choice App is now available online

The 'Eight-App' will keep users informed of upcoming events regarding the 'Repeal' movement.

Read More

Government Minister Publicly Declares Support To Repeal the 8th

Minister of State Jim Daly, who is a "practising Catholic", says abortion is an "every-day reality" and legislators have a "duty of care to respond to the reality".

Read More

Government Urged To Develop Cyber-Security Capabilities

Ireland is falling behind in its efforts to protect itself from cyber criminals and State sponsored cyber-warfare.

Read More

Repeal the 8th Referendum To Be Held In May

After dragging its feet, the Government has confirmed that a referendum to repeal the Eight Amendment will be finally held in early summer.

Read More

"Clear Rationale" From Govt. Needed On Departure From 8th Recommendations

Labour Party Leader, Brendan Howlin TD has welcomed the decision to proceed with a referendum on the 8th amendment in May, but has said that Government needs to provide clear rationale for the departure from the recommendation of the Oireachtas Committee.

Read More

Call For 8th Amendment Referendum To Be Held In May

A member of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment has called for the Taoiseach to unequivocally commit to holding a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment in the month of May.

Read More

Regulation Sought For "Rogue" Crisis Pregnancy Agencies

It's "imperative" that the Minister for Health brings in regulations to ensure that rogue crisis pregnancy agencies are no longer able to give dangerous advice to vulnerable women, urges Labour Party spokesperson on Health Promotion, Martina Genockey.

Read More

Government Warned It "Cannot Overplay Its Hand" On Abortion Referendum

Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has said that the Cabinet has "little or no freedom for manoeuvre on the nature" of the abortion referendum it has committed to hold.

Read More

Call For All-Party Approach To Repeal The 8th

The Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin, has called for an all-party approach in the Oireachtas on the passage of the abortion referendum bill.

Read More

New Repeal the 8th Documentary

A new short film shows behind the scenes of the Citizens’ Assembly.

Read More

Why the Eight Amendment affects all women

If there is one thing that Philomena Canning of Midwives for Choice would like you to know, it's this: the 8th Amendment is not just about abortion.

Read More

Sinn Féin TDs Clash Over Eighth Amendment

In an extraordinary war of words, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin has publicly criticised his party colleague Peadar Tóibín for sensationally claiming that the Oireachtas Committee set-up to examine the Eighth Amendment law has shown favouritism towards the pro-choice stance.

Read More

Candlelight vigils to be held nationwide in memory of Savita Halappanavar

Seven vigils have been scheduled across various counties on October 28th to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the passing of Savita Halappanavar.

Read More

'Handmaids' appear outside the Dail ahead of the Dail Committee on the 8th Amendment's first meeting this Wednesday

Read More

Advertise With Us

For information including benefits, key facts, figures and rates for advertising with Hot Press, click below


Find us elsewhere