The recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly may not be as far ahead of the public as politicians are claiming. But we also need legislation to prevent the covert use, and abuse, of personal data in the context of a referendum.
It was nothing more than a delaying tactic, of course, when the government referred the issue of abortion to the Citizen’s Assembly. But twenty years from now, it is likely to be seen as a defining moment. The reality is that Ireland’s abortion laws deny women who become pregnant their human rights in a number of different ways. And the disheartening truth is that, between them, the politicians gathered in Dáil Éireann didn’t have the guts to put this right.
Their first instinct was to play for time. And so they figured out a way that they could kick the can down the road.
Their second was to acquire a fig leaf for whatever action they might be shamed into taking in the long run. It worked in relation to the referendum on same sex marriage: that issue was referred to the Citizen’s Assembly, which then recommended changing the constitution to allow gay men and women to marry.
With that piece of paper to hide behind, all the government had to do was act like obedient little boys and girls. And if any troglodytes shouted ‘foul’, they could plead that they were only doing what a representative group of citizens had sought.
In relation to abortion, a fig leaf would be even more helpful. You can imagine the cuter hoors among our political class chuckling up their sleeves. It was a good wheeze alright. Let the Assembly tell us what to do – and sure aren’t we only following orders either way! Some may have actively wanted any notion that our abortion laws should be liberalised to be rebuffed. Well, if that was what they had in mind, they had another thing coming.
DILEMMA OF CHOOSING
That the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly stunned the slow-coaches in Leinster House is an understatement. All the evidence confirms that the 89 citizens who ended up voting on the issue took the process extremely seriously. They listened attentively to the evidence presented to them by various medical and legal experts. They also sat patiently through the arguments put forward by Repeal the Eighth activists and anti-choice campaigners alike. And they listened closely to the Chairperson of the Assembly, Justice Mary Laffoy.
They then delivered what amounted to a political bombshell. A significant majority of 64% were in favour of allowing abortion, without restriction as to reason, up to 12 weeks. There was an even greater majority in favour of the availability of abortion in cases of rape and incest, as well as fatal foetal abnormality (89%). In effect, what the Citizens’ Assembly recommended would bring Irish abortion laws more or less into line with best European practice.
While the final details would need to be teased out as to how these recommendations might be enshrined into Irish law, it was, and it remains, a victory for common sense, respect, tolerance, compassion and inclusiveness.
The anti-choice brigade – what Hot Press dubbed the Anti-Happiness League many years ago – have tried to sensationalise the recommendations as “abortion on demand.” It is a phrase which totally disrespects the reality of how women think of, and deal with, abortion. It creates an image of women laughing all the way to the clinic, thinking that this is great craic altogether, and sure what harm if I am back again in a few months time.
The truth, is that no one wants to be confronted, ever, with the dilemma of choosing to have, or not to have, an abortion. The decision is not one that is taken lightly. But it is often the only thing to do, and women know it. The vast majority of women who have abortions are happy in the long run that they made the right choice.
There are women who regret it. It would be stupid to pretend otherwise. But then there are also millions of women all over the world who desperately regret that they didn’t have an abortion or who suffer terribly as a result of a pregnancy which goes full term.
PITIFUL, DISHONEST STUFF
Clearly, the consensus reached by the Citizens’ Assembly was not what the political establishment wanted. They were hoping for staider recommendations – for example, allowing abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and maybe rape – that would allow them to wring their hands and piously proceed, while still occupying some mythical, high moral ground.
They wanted an easy get-out clause. Look, we are moving an inch! But when they got common sense, they protested. They argued that the Assembly was ahead of the people. And they began the process of pussy-footing and ass-covering, their obvious fear of Mothers of Ten everywhere in stark evidence.
It is important not to get too personal about issues of this kind. But it is necessary to put on the record just how appalling it was to hear Micheál Martin, the leader of Fianna Fáil, describe himself as coming from a “pro-life” background – and then trot out a story about a woman he knew who was a product of rape who got very angry when people suggested that she was not entitled to a life.
This is truly pitiful, dishonest stuff. No one who is pro-choice says or believes that anyone is “not entitled to a life.” What they do say is that it is entirely up to the woman who becomes pregnant, by whatever means, to decide whether or not she wants to continue with the pregnancy. The unassailable truth is that every embryo’s life is in the gift of the woman who carries it. If she commits suicide, then no birth will occur. This is a stark but unassailable fact of life.
I was going to say here that there was a time when it was deemed acceptable in Ireland to incarcerate a woman who was pregnant, to force her to have a child even if she desperately didn’t want to. As a sensitive and reasonable person, you might consider this unthinkable. But as recently as 2014, a refugee, who had been raped in her homeland, was actually carved open against her will to deliver the baby she was carrying by Caesarean section, after she had been denied an abortion. She is currently pursuing a case against the State for the damages inflicted on her. The same thing could happen again tomorrow.
So let us be clear about the pro-choice argument. If a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, it is a matter of basic human rights, that she is entitled to make a decision entirely on her own behalf, and without having to apologise to anyone, or to travel outside the jurisdiction in which she lives, to end that pregnancy by having an abortion, if that is what she chooses.
On the other hand, depending on her own personal religious, philosophical or personal convictions, she is equally perfectly entitled to decide to carry on with the pregnancy. And if she does so, she should be afforded every support that the State can offer, to assist her in carrying that decision through in a way that is least damaging, and makes her and her child as comfortable and as safe as possible.
This is important. Almost to a woman and a man, people who are pro-choice are hugely supportive of women who decide to have children. That is their track record. They want nothing more than that every woman, and every child, be given the best possible chance of flourishing and being happy, healthy and well educated. But they do not believe that it is right that any woman should be forced to go through with a pregnancy that threatens her sufficiently, in whatever way, for her to decide that she would prefer a termination.
USE OF PSY-OPS
I suspect that the recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly very accurately reflect how people under 50 in Ireland feel about the issue of abortion, and the regime that they want to see introduced here. Indeed, the Assembly may well reflect the views of the entire population: the idea of forcing a woman to go through with a deeply unwanted pregnancy is anathema to many of our older citizens too.
But, as was the case with the same sex marriage referendum, our politicians are far more conservative in relation to abortion rights than the people they represent. Well, they have no mandate to stifle the process of change. They should move forward quickly now and agree on how to frame a new, more liberal regime on abortion that fully respects the human rights of women.
One other point. If and when it comes to a referendum on abortion in Ireland, our electoral laws must be strong enough to ensure that the kind of treacherous, and probably illegal, use of personal data by right-wing forces, which underpinned the election victory of Donald Trump in the US, and which drove the success of the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum in the UK, cannot be repeated here.
The fact is that the democratic process is under direct threat from the military-style use of psy-ops, activated via the vast and unregulated global network of the internet and social media. The zealots behind the Anti Happiness League here in Ireland are perfectly capable of employing these tactics and of paying for them, if they feel that they have half a chance of getting away with it.
The time to act in relation to this is now. Not to do so would be a massive dereliction of duty on the part of our legislators.
The Irish-American singer Thom Moore, formerly of Pumpkinhead and Midnight Well – has died. Here, Hot Press editor Niall Stokes pays tribute...Read More
It was Wednesday June 14th, 1995, when the terrible news of Rory Gallagher’s death was first phoned through to the Hot Press office. In more ways than one, it was the end of an era. On Wednesday November 8th that year, a commemoration service was held at Brompton Oratory in London. The ceremony ended with a tribute, which was delivered by Niall Stokes, editor of Hot Press. As a special remembrance of Rory, on what would have been his 70th birthday, we reproduce here the full text of that tribute.Read More
The Tánaiste Simon Coveney has intervened in the abortion debate, taking a conservative position which opposes the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee. Niall Stokes explains why he should reconsider.Read More
In the latest issue of Hot Press, editor Niall Stokes asks Simon Coveney to reconsider his position on abortion.Read More
A message from Hot Press editor, Niall Stokes, from our special Dolores O'Riordan tribute issue.Read More
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Darren Randolph was Man of the Match. But how did our other players fare last night? And what team will Martin O'Neill pick for the crunch World Cup tie on Tuesday?Read More
Storms have been afoot, with devastating consequences in parts of Ireland. Step back, however, and they illustrate the extraordinary power of the wind. So why is Ireland not a world leader in wind-generated power?Read More
Women in Ireland should be allowed to control their own fertility.Read More
The emphasis in Mental Health Week is on the well being of everyone who has to grapple with any of a variety of Mental Health issues. Indeed, at some point, that probably includes almost everyone in Irish society.Read More
It was a tough and gruelling encounter - but Ireland deserved to win the crunch World Cup tie against Wales, and to progress to the play-off stage.Read More
Over the past fortnight, a Facebook post by long-time Hot Press contributor Adrienne Murphy highlighted in the most heart-rending way the difficulties of living with a young man with severe autism...Read More
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When you are told that you need a Public Services Card to avail of social welfare or to renew a driving licence, it is mere semantics to claim that the cards are not compulsory…Read More
When you are told that you need a Public Services Card to avail of social welfare or to renew a driving licence, it is mere semantics to claim that the cards are not compulsory…Read More
Ireland’s World Cup hopes hinge on tonight’s do-or-die encounter with Serbia in Dublin. But as Niall Stokes writes, the paucity of tactical ideas on Saturday against Georgia – a recurring theme of O’Neill’s tenure – suggests the omens aren’t good. And if the result doesn’t go our way, it might just signal the end of his time in charge…Read More
Already one of the songs of the new century, Brendan Graham’s ‘You Raise Me Up’ has been selected as the end title track in a 30-episode epic on the man who is credited – along with his daughters – as a founding figure, in the People’s Republic of ChinaRead More
The time for hiding from the lights was over. In so many respects modern Ireland was born in 1987. And central to that was the huge artistic and commercial success of The Joshua Tree...Read More
Niall Stokes draws on his best-selling book Into The Heart: The Stories Behind The Songs Of U2 to offer a unique insight into the way in which some of the greatest songs in the history of popular music came into being.Read More
From Hot Press' 2002 Annual, Bono spoke to Niall Stokes about all matters personal and political.Read More
20 years ago, U2 came out with one of their most highly-anticipated albums, Pop. Niall Stokes met the band following its release for an in-depth interview.Read More
With the damaging impact of Brexit on the UK becoming clearer by the week, the threat of a hard border in Northern Ireland is likely to be used as a bargaining chip in Britain’s increasingly threadbare negotiating strategy.Read More
The Irish Music Rights Organisation has confirmed the appointment of the multi-award winning Irish songwriter, singer and composer Eleanor McEvoy as its new Chairperson, in succession to Keith DonaldRead More
There was what might have seemed like a dramatic development in the controversy surrounding the proposed new ownership of the National Maternity Hospital. But if all that is involved is shifting ownership from one religious interest group to another, then the issue remains as fraught as ever. By Niall StokesRead More
Once upon a time, there was a vision of a digital utopia. Instead, we now have global tech monopolies, surveillance capitalism and extraordinary levels of political manipulation. Welcome to the modern world...Read More
With the decision of Enda Kenny to step down – finally! – as leader of the party with the highest number of TDs in Leinster House, a new Taoiseach is on the way. Here’s an opportunity to check back over our Hot Press interviews with the leading candidates, to see what can be gleaned...Read More
The controversy about the ownership of the National Maternity Hospital has invited a new focus on the charitable status of Church institutions – and the extraordinary and unwarranted financial privileges which they have enjoyed since the foundation of the State.Read More
And no, this is not another Hot Press article encouraging mass promiscuity. It is about Brexit, and the push from the far right to completely undermine democratic politics.Read More
The cover of Hot Press is a national institution, coveted by emerging musicians and established stars alike. Now, the historic covers of the magazine – signed by the cover stars, and beautifully printed on specially chosen art paper – have been gathered together for a free exhibition, in the National Photographic Archive, Dublin. Introduction by Niall Stokes…Read More
Confirmation of the fact that the remains of hundreds of babies were buried in a so called ‘Mother and Baby’ home in Tuam, Co. Galway is testament to just how sick the attitude to sexuality promulgated by the dominant Church in Ireland really was. In special edition of The Message, on International Women’s Day, Hot Press editor, Niall Stokes reflects on an issue that has provoked outrage and anger.Read More
On March 9, it will be 30 years since the release of The Joshua Tree, a record that transformed U2 into the biggest rock band in the world. In this issue of Hot Press, we look back to the genesis of the album, how it was put together and and what made it work. And ask: has it stood the test of time?Read More
Over the past week, astonishing revelations have emerged about Garda collusion in a campaign of vilification which painted the whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, as a sex offender. With the ‘Child and Family Agency’ Tusla being dragged into it, this has become a real horror story...Read More
With Steve Bannon directing operations, and aided and abetted by a bunch of power-crazed loonies, the answer is probably very far indeed. Things could get extremely nasty...Read More
There's a rocky road ahead. And we’re not talking about the one from Galway to Dublin. The good news is that Irish musicians have become far more politically involved than ever before. The bad news is that we are all facing into a particularly difficult and uncertain future. So how can we all – citizens, musicians and the media alike – deal with the political challenges ahead, from the Referendum to Repeal the 8th to the effects of Donald Trump’s presidency, knowing that we have entered the post-truth world – and that this is the backdrop against which fascism has been gaining momentum?Read More
It took the combined force of Hot Press' Editor Niall Stokes and U2 journalist extraordinaire Bill Graham to thrash it out with the four members of U2 back in 1987 to uncover the method and the magic behind their seminal album THe Joshua Tree.Read More
Speculation has been mounting about a special U2 tour that would celebrate the release of their global smash hit album The Joshua Tree, 30 years on. Well, the announcement will be made this morning...Read More
The funeral took place yesterday of Frank Murray – the man who began his career as tour manager with Thin Lizzy, and worked with Elton John and The Specials, before managing The Pogues, as well as The Frames, The Lost Brothers and more, in what was a highly distinguished career.Read More
Christmas may be coming - but in the wake of the most astonishing US Presidential election in living memory, the fear that a cadre of white supremacists may get their hands on the levers of power is growing. And it feels like uncharted territory...Read More
One of the leading lights of Irish music for the past 25 years, Glen Hansard has been chosen as the recipient of the Oscar Wilde Award for 2017 – which will be presented during Oscar week in the Los Angeles. No one is more deserving...Read More
This is 2016 and very strange and deeply disquieting things have been happening in the US and here in Ireland. It might help if we stopped singing the praises of people guilty of butchering their families, Niall Stokes said in The Message, written in that pregnant pause between the opening of the polling booths and the calculation of the result in the US election. Clearly an afterword is required…Read More
There was an Irish winner tonight, as the novel Solar Bones found favour with the judges, in an award which aims to reward genuine innovation...Read More
The decision of the Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan had some culture snobs frothing at the mouth. Even Bob doesn’t seem to know what to make of it all.Read More
It was an emotional occasion when the home-spun Irish epic was unvelied in Dublin’s Savoy Cinema last night.Read More
The World’s Greatest Rock Journalist has broken a decade-long silence to discuss his potential role in the Presidential stakes…Read More
Considerable controversy has surrounded the trail-blazing Galway restaurant – but the Michelin judges say that it’s still right up there, at the top of the game.Read More
It is just over 40 years, since Larry Mullen put the note on the noticeboard in Mount Temple Comprehensive, which led to the formation of U2. As various contributions to this special issue of Hot Press confirm, that gesture changed the world for millions of people all over the globe. But that they are still together is perhaps the band’s greatest achievement...Read More
The Hot Press Collective sends a message to the people of IrelandRead More
Hot Press alumni are among the leading attractions at the upcoming Write By The Sea festival in Kilmore QuayRead More
The Minister for Skills, Training and Innovation, John Halligan put his head above the parapet in relation to the laws on prostitution in Ireland. As it happens, he was right.Read More
Irish people have moved on in a way that is genuinely impressive. Dr. Lara Kelly’s testimony on abortion is one example. But there is a new honesty among Irish politicians too that gives cause for optimism.Read More
The family of the Mayo woman, who disappeared in December 2000, have called for an inquest into her death...Read More
Anyone who has experienced the manifest beauty and wonderful joie-de-vivre of Nice at its best will have been deeply moved at the shocking mass murder on the Promenade des Anglais July 18. But Europe must look into its own heart too, to find answers..Read More
Reports that HMV are to close down their four Irish stores have been confirmed – but news reports that the company’s new online platform will go head to head with streaming giant, Netflix, are not accurate.Read More
Details are emerging of the deal, concluded yesterday, which saw Virgin Media – owners of TV3 – buy UTV IrelandRead More
The UK referendum was won by the Leave side on the promise that Britain would take back control of its borders. Their victory will stoke far right, anti-immigrant sentiment across the continent.Read More
For a wonderful 60 minutes, it seemed that Ireland might just oust the hosts France from Euro 2016. That dream may have died as a result of errors in Lyons yesterday – but the sense that Irish football is on the rise once more is a wonderfully encouraging one. By Niall Stokes.Read More
It was an enthralling day of football at Euro 2016, with Ireland getting off to a solid start in Group E – only to be trumped by a brilliant Italian win over Belgium.Read More
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A year on from our historic and momentous 'Yes' vote on Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum, we look back at Niall Stokes' pre-vote message urging the citizens of Ireland to vote for freedom, equality and mutual respectRead More
Religious control of schools promotes inequality, prejudice, division – and worse. It is also against the founding spirit of the Republic. It must be challenged now.Read More
Guy Clark was one of the greatest songwriters of the modern era – and in Old No.1, he made one of the most extraordinary and enduring albums of all time. By Hot Press editor, Niall StokesRead More
Prince was the latest in a long line of black artists - from Sam Cooke and Otis Redding to Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye - to push the envelope, both musically and culturally...Read More
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil need to end the posturing and hammer out a deal, which will provide the country with a sustainable government.Read More
The Proclamation of 1916 was a powerful document. In recalling the momentous events of a hundred years ago, it is important not just to honour those who took part in the Rising, but- even more so- to see what we can learn in order to best shape our future...Read More
Where now for the Labour Party, after an electoral annihilation the scale of which outstripped all their worst fears?Read More
As the nation heads to the polls, it’s vital to consider not just the candidates vying for our votes, but the type of country in which we want to liveRead More
When Enya released Watermark in 1988, it WAS the beginning of one of the most remarkable chapters in the story of Irish music. With Nicky Ryan and Roma Ryan ever-present as collaborators, 80 million album sales and dozens of awards followed. Now, after a seven year hiatus, she is back with a new record, Dark Sky Island, and a determination to take the collective’s music to the world in a different way.Read More
Darkness seemed to be everywhere in 2015. It is hard to maintain any sense of hope, when barbarism is so militantly on the rise. But if we don't, we surely will be lost...Read More
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As the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour finally approaches Irish shores, it's time to once again celebrate U2 - not just the best of Irish, but the greatest rock band in the world.Read More
As recently highlighted by Roopesh Panicker, it is outrageous that, in 2015, educational discrimination on the basis of religion is still the norm in Ireland.Read More
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We've come a long way since the '60s, with music, literature, movies, TV and journalism all playing their part to reduce the stigma of mental illness. But reason must still prevail if we are to continue to make strides.Read More
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Amidst the shock and grief of Johnny Lyons' premature passing, we pause to give thanks to a truly unique character for the countless laughs and many golden memories he gave us. Shine on, sir...Read More
As rental prices of houses and apartments skyrocket, especially in Dublin, thousands of Irish men, women and – unforgivably – children find themselves at grave risk of homelessness. Between them, local politicians and the Government must find a solution – and fast...Read More
It is easy to vilify those who take banned substances in the pursuit of sporting glory, but some of those who would be named and shamed are far more sympathetic figures than we would like to admit...Read More
...Or Ireland at least. Blazing rows erupted and staff members had to be pried apart, but the votes are in and the 50 best Irish gigs since Hot Press's inception have been settled on.Read More
The response to the tragedy in Berkeley was powerful and moving. But it is hard to listen to celebrities claiming a special relationship with God, when there are so many victims of tragedy – and of oppression– to think about...Read More
Sunday June 14 marks the 20th anniversary of the legendary Rory Gallagher's tragic death. While the world has changed in many ways, the trail-blazing guitarist's impact is still keenly felt...Read More
It was a joy to be alive in Dublin on the day the result of the referendum was announced. But there is still some way to go in the campaign for the separation of Church and State...Read More
"We're uncompromising. We're uncompromising to a fault I think. Because sometimes we're wrong. Sometimes we wind-up up blind alleys. You know. Maybe Radio Ethiopia sucks. I Don't know. Me and Patti are the only ones that like it in the world. But I don't care 'cos when we put that on we feel great." - Lenny Kaye [First Published in Hot Press Volume 2 No 7, September 1978]Read More
The referendum on same sex marriage is an opportunity for the citizens of Ireland to vote for freedom, equality and mutual respect – and in doing so to show the rest of the world what these words can really mean...Read More
With Hozier, HamsandwicH, Paul Brady, Le Galaxie and Kodaline all doing well, we are witnessing a small boom in Irish music. So how can we ensure that it lifts an even greater number of Ireland’s finest into the charts?Read More
Irish people who genuinely believe in free speech need to support the scrapping of our blasphemy laws.Read More
These are turbulent times, as Sinn Fein and socialist Independents find themselves in the unprecedented situation of topping the opinion polls. However you view this, pause to be thankful that there is no hard-Right movement of significance in Ireland, and no apparent appetite for one...Read More
It was one of those special Dublin nights. The occasion was a fund-raiser for a new short film, entitled Descend, directed by Hedi Rose, and written by Irish-based Texan screenwriter Margaret Miller. The location was upstairs in The 51 Bar on Haddington Road.Read More
Like paying to have your rubbish collected, Irish Water is another stealth charge, the genesis of which goes back to the decision to abolish household rates...Read More
Check out her take on 'Dreaming'...Read More
When U2 released their latest album Songs of Innocence, it was the subject of heated controversy. While the arguments aren't over yet, the attention is gradually turning to the music...Read More
The hacking of Jennifer Lawrence's phone, and the leaking of her private photos, was a criminal action – and much of the subsequent reaction was downright nasty.Read More