The age at which children can consent to legal contracts with social media companies like Facebook without the consent of their parents looks set to be raised by three years to 16. Government Ministers had agreed to set the ‘digital age of consent’ at 13 but now face an embarrassing Dáil defeat unless they backtrack. Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party have all indicated they now favour raising the age limit to 16.
It comes as the messaging service WhatsApp announced that it has raised the minimum age for users in Europe to 16. The instant messaging app, which is owned by Facebook, said the move was in response to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). GDPR bans the processing of personal information of children under 16 unless parents provide consent. However, individual countries can lower this to 13. Countries like France and germany decided to set it at the maximum age, 16, but the government and children’s rights organisations were intent on it being set at the minimum possible age in Ireland.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has received Cabinet approval to set the age at 13. This position is backed by groups including the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Children’s Rights Alliance and the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Geoffrey Shannon.
However, the move by opposition parties toward the higher age limit could inflict an embarrassing Dáil defeat on the Government.
The LoveBoth campaign has issued a challenge to Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to publicly defend his proposed draft legislation in a debate with one of their own representatives. At a press conference yesterday, a spokesperson said “Minister Simon Harris has challenged the pro-life movement on how we can justify the status quo and keeping the Eighth Amendment. In return, we challenge Minister Harris to a debate on his proposal and the issue in general, including alternatives to abortion”. They added: “Minister Harris wants to remove the right to life from the Constitution. So our challenge to Minister Harris is: Come out and debate your abortion proposal with a LoveBoth spokesperson. There is nothing radical or progressive about taking away the right to life.”
Love Both claimed the proposed draft legislation will lead to one of the most extreme ‘abortion on demand’ regimes in the world. Campaign spokeswoman Sinéad Slattery told a news conference on Wednesday: “The referendum is about one thing and one thing only – introducing abortion on demand.”
The group were sharply critical of the political process for spending the last six years focussed exclusively on providing abortion, and nothing on providing alternatives to abortion.
In echoes of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, a new left-wing pro-life group launched on Tuesday at the GPO calling for all the children of the Republic to be cherished equally. Addressed by Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín and Dr Judy Ceannt, granddaughter of 1916 rebel, Commandant Éamonn Ceannt, the group appeals to Republicans, Trade Unionists, & activists of the left. Deputy Tóibín told supporters that while the life of the unborn deserves the protection of the law, it is also the case that “the life of the mother in all cases must be protected”.
“I have asked doctor after doctor and obstetrician after obstetrician and every time I ask them are they aware of any woman who has lost their life due to the Eighth Amendment, they have all said no,” he said.
“With the Eighth Amendment, Ireland has one of the best maternal mortality rates in the world and I would not support any law that did not guarantee the right to life of the mother. The unborn child is an individual living human being. She is the weakest and vulnerable of all human life. She has no voice. All she has currently is the Eighth Amendment and your vote.”
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which is based in the UK but trains and accredits many Irish obstetricians, has expressed its political support for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. In a statement, the college also said it was ready to train Irish doctors to execute abortions in the State if the referendum was passed on May 25th. The College also supports further liberalisation of Britain’s already very permissive abortion law.
“The presence of the Eighth Amendment in the Irish Constitution means that thousands of women travel from Ireland to the UK every year to access abortion services because this care is otherwise unavailable to them. The high cost and stress of travelling to another country for an abortion, combined with the increasing availability of abortion medication online, has seen a growing number of women from Ireland – potentially up to 1,000 year – attempting to end pregnancies this way, without any medical supervision.”
Offaly TD Carol Nolan said the Midlands is “overwhelmingly” opposed to next month’s referendum during a pro-life event where she did not rule out leaving Sinn Féin unless the party allows a conscience vote on future abortion legislation.
Speaking at the launch of “Cherish All The Children” at Dublin’s GPO, Ms Nolan said in her opinion there is a groundswell of pro-life support, saying that after canvassing in Offaly, north Tipperary, and Laois she believes there is a 70-30 split in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment in the Midlands alone. “I’ve been in a lot of counties and it has been overwhelmingly pro-life,” said Ms Nolan. “People are shocked this country is facing such a proposal. From the doors I’ve knocked, I would put it at 70:30 against”.
Ms Nolan was suspended by Sinn Féin earlier this year for having voted against the holding of a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. “It is what it is. It’s a suspension, there was a clash between my conscience and their policy and that’s how it ended up,” Ms Nolan said. “I’m dealing with it in an honourable manner and I’m continuing to work hard in my constituency for the people who elected me.”
While she hopes to return to the party ranks in the coming months, she did not rule out leaving Sinn Féin unless the party allows a conscience vote on future abortion legislation: “What I’m hoping for at this time, along with many other colleagues, is that we will have the free vote,” she said.
The Catholic Church and believers must always be “pro-life”, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said. He was speaking at the Dublin diocesan pilgrimage to Knock 2018 where he told the assembled congregants that the Church cannot be subject to conformism or compromise as it is called to preach a message that will always be counter cultural. “In our time, the Church and believers must always be pro-life“, he said. “The new family of Jesus, the Church, must always be a beacon of support for life at its most vulnerable moments and a beacon of support at any vulnerable moment of any woman or men along the path of life”.
He continued: “The Church must be pro-life when it comes to the unborn and those who are vulnerable at the end of their lives”.
A political mural in support of the repeal the 8th campaign has been removed from the Project Arts Centre Dublin. The public-finded body is also a registered charity whose aim is apolitical, specfically, to advance the cause of “education”. The Charities regulator had written to them warning them that they risked losing their charitable status by engaging in political activity that was not directly related to their charitable purpose. Unlike Amnesty Ireland, who chose to defy an order from the Standards in Public Office Commission to return an illegal, foeign donation of over €130,000, the Arts Centre decided to comply reluctantly.
Pro-life groups had not called for the mural’s removal. The Love Both campaign had said that if publicly funded buildings were to be used to advertise either side in the abortion referendum, then the only fair thing to do would be “to allow both sides equal time and space”. Spokesperson Cora Sherlock said they had repeatedly asked the Project Arts Centre to allow them to paint a mural on their building depicting the harm caused by abortion. However, “Despite our repeated requests for equal access to space in the Project Arts Centre we have received no access, nor any realistic prospect of access in the time remaining before the referendum”.
Ms. Sherlock concluded: “Perhaps the artist Maser was trying to be ironic by painting a picture of a heart to support abortion the Government’s abortion on demand plans. However, people must know that the first thing abortion does is to stop the beating heart of a small unborn child. If artists want to promote respect for all people, then they should be calling for a ‘No’ Vote to Governments abortion plans on the 25th of May.”
The Referendum Commission, chaired by Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, launched its public information campaign today ahead of the referendum on May 25th. The Commission is meant to provide impartial and factual information during the campaign. Ms Justice Kennedy says it is not the role of the body to debate the merits or the arguments on either side but to provide an independent, neutral account of what is being proposed. Toward that end, the Commission will distribute a booklet to every home across the country and a website, refcom2018.ie, will be launched offering guidance on the question people will be asked.
Ms Kennedy’s opening advice is that the forthcoming referendum is not a vote on the legislation that the Government have proposed to replace the Eighth Amendment: “Laws are made by the Oireachtas. You are not being asked in this referendum to vote on any particular law relating to the termination of pregnancy”. While this is true from a strictly constitutional perspective, it does not take into account a political perspective, which would recognises the effect of a Yes vote would be to implicitly consent to the proposed legislation allowing abortion unrestricted up to 3 months and for mental health reasons up to six months.
Longtime feminist campaigner, Nell McCafferty caused shock and dismay when she questioned some of the centrally held theses of the pro-abortion movement. Speaking at the Women in the Media conference in Ballybunion on Saturday, she said: ““I’ve been trying to make up my mind on abortion. Is it the killing of a human being? Is it the end of potential life?” She said she could not answer the question. “But it’s not that I’m unable – I am unwilling to face some of the facts about abortion.” She went on to say that “the pro-lifers are right” that allowing terminations at the 12-weeks stage of pregnancy means the dismembering of babies in the womb.
She was roundly attacked on social media by pro-choice campaigners.
She recalled the 1983 abortion referendum campaign, when “the pro-lifers were going around showing videos and telling us all that babies are being dismembered in the womb through abortion. “I thought, ‘Nonsense.’” However, she said she recently googled what a pregnancy looks like at 12 weeks. “They [the babies] suck their wee thumbs and they have toenails, fingernails and arms and legs.”
She said that in an abortion “they scrape the contents of the womb. The pro-lifers are right. Out come the wee arms and legs, and I thought: ‘Oh God, is this what I am advocating?’”
Ms McCafferty was speaking during a discussion entitled: “Celebrating 100 years of the vote for Irish women: Would the Irish suffragettes be happy with the progress to date in securing equality?” and she then compared the abortion to the mass slaughter at the Somme. She said: “Abortion was beyond our consciousness and here we are, 100 years after slaughters like the Somme and places like that, offering abortion on request.”
A group of GAA figures, including Tyrone manager, Mickey Harte, launched the GAA Athletes for a No Vote campaign in Dublin on Saturday. Gaelic Athletes for Life said the Government’s proposals on abortion are not inclusive and “seek to exclude one group of people – the unborn – from society”. The group said its members “respect and cherish women. We support them, and we believe that as a society we have much more, so much more to offer women than the death of our children”. The GAA as an organisation said it will remain neutral on the issue of the Eighth Amendment.