- 15 May 18
With just over a week left to vote, both sides are campaigning hard, tensions are rising and the gap between the two sides is – apparently – becoming smaller. Last night Claire Byrne Live hosted a debate to discuss the upcoming abortion referendum – and it's left a lot of people very angry...
There has been a hugely negative reaction to the Claire Byrne Live show on the Referendum to Repeal the 8th Amendment, broadcast last night. The show was a live 'debate' on the referendum, with equal representation of both 'Yes' and 'No' positions. But there was a strong feeling that the 'No' side, aided on occasion unintentionally by Claire Byrne, had strong-armed their way to more onscreen time – and that RTÉ may well have failed in its duty to ensure equal time and equal representation.
Representing the Yes campaign were co-director of Together For Yes, Orla O'Connor; Sinn Féin TD and party leader Mary Lou McDonald; and former Master of The Maternity Hospital, Holles Street and current chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Peter Boylan. Representing the No side were Irish Catholic author and Iona Institute spokesperson Maria Steen, Fianna Fail TD Mary Butler and obstetrician Dr John Monaghan.
The special extended programme was supposed to shed light on what exactly the referendum is about and what your vote on Friday May 25th will mean. However, many viewers were left furious after there was constant disruption from the audience, with repeated clapping and often boorish cheering throughout the discussion. Yes supporters in the audience last night were visibly upset and distressed about the way the debate was being conducted, with false information being projected from the No panel, without consequence.
A significant number of people took to twitter last night and this morning to criticise Claire Byrne and her team for not giving a fair representation of both sides and for giving more time to No campaigners in the audience than Yes.
The programme started with Claire Byrne reminding participants that it was a difficult and emotive debate, which should be approached with respect and care. However, it quickly got out of hand with shouting and cheering from the audience throughout, cutting a lot of the debate off. Senator Catherine Noone, who was in the audience tweeted afterwards commented "I have great respect for Claire Byrne but her team let her down tonight- the show was poorly planned, disorganised & quite frankly like a circus."
Paddy McKenna from Joe.ie also tweeted "Disastrous ‘debate’. Horrendous to see the whooping and hollering with so many people like Gerry and Gaye Edwards who have been through the most traumatic experiences present in the audience."
There was almost no attempt to calm the audience from anyone working on the show. There seemed to be a serious lack of control and absolutely no implementation of order. The question has to be asked: was Claire Byrne up to the job?
At one point, Peter Boylan asked the audience to please calm down and stop the clapping and cheering, but to no effect. Viewers at home were quick to tweet about the disastrous show, with many reminding people that there were women across the country who have gone through an abortion that were watching it and finding it distressing.
Irish Times columnist Roisin Ingle tweeted: "As a person who had an abortion I feel sick watching @rte tonight. We’ll look back at this referendum & be deeply ashamed. It’s not right. What I needed to do when I had a crisis was nobody’s business but my own. So much healing needs to happen when this is all over."
Spokesperson for Parents for Yes, Sinead Redmond wrote; "I'm a mother who had an illegal abortion. I'm a mother who nearly died from my most recent pregnancy. There is not a shred of consideration for us from many on #CBlive from many in studio. I can't even begin to describe the sickening hurt. Think RTE should provide a support line."
There was also a lack of respect – amounting to a form of bullying – shown by members of the 'No' panel, with Dr John Monaghan at one point suggesting that Dr Peter Boylan needs to go back to school if he cannot get his information correct – despite his 40+ years of experience. Claire Byrne did not offer the opportunity to Dr. Peter Boylan to respond.
Unfortunately, the perception might be that the No side came out on top, albeit in a disrespectful and offensive manner.
What is important, from a 'Yes' perspective, is that we still have over a week to campaign and there is still a lot you can do. Get out and canvass, talk to your family and friends, read and educate yourself on what exactly the referendum is all about – and most importantly, come Friday, use your vote wisely and vote YES!