Friday 30 September 2016

'I trust Irish women to make their own decisions and I'm sorry you don't have faith in them' - Sydney Rose to pro-Life campaigner Cora Sherlock

Sasha Brady

Published 24/08/2016 | 17:34

Hot topic: Brianna Parks on stage at the Dome in Tralee on Monday night
Hot topic: Brianna Parks on stage at the Dome in Tralee on Monday night
A picture Brianna Parkins tweeted of herself wearing a 'Repeal the Eighth' T-shirt

Sydney Rose, Brianna Parkins, has debated the eighth amendment comments she made during the Rose of Tralee festival with pro-life campaigner Cora Sherlock.

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The competition found itself at the epicentre of a social media storm when Sydney Rose, Brianna Parkins, used her time on the stage to challenge the controversial eighth amendment.

"I think we can do a lot better here in Ireland," Brianna told host Daithi O'Se. "I think it's time to give women a say on their own reproductive rights. I would love to see a referendum on the eighth coming up soon. That would be my dream."

Her comments sparked plenty of debate around the country with many commending her for broaching the issue of abortion on stage, while others - including festival chair Mary Kennedy - believed the festival was "not the place" for politics.

The investigative journalist explained why she made the divisive comments during a debate with pro-Life campaigner Cora Sherlock on the Ray D'Arcy Show today: "I got out on stage and my women's activism was referenced. I talked about issues at home and thought it was very pertinent to bring up issues here as well."

Ms Parkins said she felt comfortable in a festival that brings women together to bring up the topic.

A picture Brianna Parkins tweeted of herself wearing a 'Repeal the Eighth' T-shirt
A picture Brianna Parkins tweeted of herself wearing a 'Repeal the Eighth' T-shirt

"We had 65 intelligent, educated women. Obviously to make it this far [in the competition] they're well read, well versed on either side. There was a diverse range of opinions, it's not like nobody talks about it behind the scenes. We have strong opinions and we weren't afraid to talk about them."

However, Ms Sherlock disagreed that it was the right place to discuss the subject of abortion.

"The feeling that a lot of people seem to have is that the Rose Of Tralee festival shouldn't be really be politicised," she said.

"People maybe watch the Rose of Tralee for a break from the more serious, hardcore, political programmes."

The pro-Life campaigner explained that "it's difficult to dip your toe into the abortion debate" and it wasn't appropriate to make a comment about it on mainstream TV.

"You can't just say something and then not say anything further about it. For example, does Brianna know what Ireland's record is like in terms of looking after women in this country?" she asked.

"If she was going to introduce a political issue to the festival this year, why didn't she talk about homeless, pregnant women because that's a very serious issue that we have in this country."

Ms Sherlock added: "This idea that someone can come out and make this statement and say that they want women to have a chance to talk... there's nothing new about that. Unfortunately we're having a lot of people talk about it from that side.

The solicitor said that she would like to see a platform given to women who "regret their abortions" and her comments prompted Ms Parkins to explain what she had been advocating on stage.

"My opinion is we should repeal the eighth," Ms Parkins said.

"But what I actually said on the stage - in the capacity of being a Rose contestant at the festival - is that I wanted women to have a say.

"I trust women to make the best decision for themselves and I think it's time that my generation in particular had a say on their reproductive rights. That's what I'm advocating" she explained.

Ms Sherlock was then invited by stand-in host Kathryn Thomas to explain why she was against the repealing the eighth amendment: "I'm against a referendum on the abortion issue because if a referendum passed and the eighth amendment was removed... that actually removes a human right from our constitution, it removed constitutional protection for unborn babies in this country."

However, Ms Parkins argued that it's a woman's right to decide if she wants to carry a pregnancy to full term or not.

"I trust Irish women to make their own decisions and I'm sorry you don't have faith in them," she said.

To which Ms Sherlock replied: "I do trust women, I don't trust abortion."

Their conversation sparked plenty of reaction online and while many praised both women for engaging in a respectful debate, others took sides in the divisive issue with feelings ranging from anger to frustration.

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