Wednesday 12 December 2018

Final Results

Repeal the Eighth Amendment?

Yes 66.40% 1,429,981

No 33.60% 723,632

  • Constituencies declared: 40/40

Referendum Hub


'I am absolutely horrified' - mother's shock after pro-life group asks schoolgirl for funds

Pro-life group asks schoolgirl for funds 'in error'

(Photo: Stock image)
(Photo: Stock image)

Denise Calnan and Maeve Sheehan

A mother has expressed her shock after her 16-year-old daughter received abortion referendum campaign material in the post.

The letter, which requested 'to be opened by the addressee only', arrived last Friday afternoon to the schoolgirl's home in Dublin and requested finances to fund the pro-life group Family and Life's campaign.

According to the girl's mother, the six-page letter contained "propaganda" material about the Eighth Amendment and requests to fund the campaign.

The letter, seen by Independent.ie, asks the reader; "what kind of family is it where it's OK to kill the tiniest and weakest members?"

It continues to say that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, "abortion "clinics" will pop up all over Ireland, in Dublin... Dundalk... Waterford... Cork... Limerick... and Galway. They will be an ugly blight on our towns and cities, a constant reminder of the normalisation of killing."

The second page of the letter, signed by the group's founder and director David Manly, reads; "Based on history, it is an absolute given that the horrors I've just listed will strike Ireland if we lose this referendum."

Speaking to Independent.ie, the mother said they cannot understand how or when the girl shared her contact details with the group. She said her daughter was "red-faced" reading the letter.

"I am horrified, absolutely horrified," she said.

"[My daughter] was absolutely mortified and shocked. She didn't have the words and she really didn't know what to make of it."

She continued; "The letter came on the Friday afternoon, my daughter was visiting family for the weekend so when she came back up yesterday I told her there was a letter there for her," she said.

"I could tell by her, she was very red-faced and embarrassed. I asked her what it was. It was a six-page letter with a standing order mandate included and a pre-paid return envelope. The letter was from 'Family and Life', with an address on Mountjoy Square in Dublin.

"The letter was six pages long and goes into some extreme details, you can just imagine, and some detail into the work and the battles they've won in different countries.

"There was all sorts of propaganda about what will happen if the Eighth Amendment is repealed.

"The crux of it was they needed funding in order to speed up the campaign and there was a deadline of 21 days.

"If I read this to you, your hair would stand on end."

The letter detailed the funding the group would need to print booklets and leaflets and to carry out billboard and bathroom door advertising campaigns.

It said the group will need €100,000 to print booklets for canvassers, €100,000 for a "massive ad campaign" and an extra €45,000 to pay additional staff who have given up work to join the campaign. There was a range of finance options included in the letter.

It read; "David, how much should I send today? As I said, I'm going to be exceptionally blunt... if you can send€50 right now, then I'm asking you to make it €75 instead. Think of what you can give up to send €75 instead of €50, and ask yourself is that sacrifice not worth it."

"This is a do or die request, we have just three weeks to raise essential last-minute funds for the campaign."

Family and Life, which raises close to €1m a year in donations from the public, acknowledged this weekend what it called "an unfortunate and exceptional error". The organisation said the student gave her address at its stall at the National Ploughing Championships last year and the organisation was not aware that she was a minor.

However, the parent said her daughter was 15 when she visited the National Ploughing Championships. She claimed that seven of her daughter's classmates, who were on the same school trip, also received similar letters from Family and Life.

She said she contacted several government agencies last week with her concerns, including the Data Protection Commissioner, but without satisfaction. "I am really frustrated having gone through the channels with a complaint like this that I met a blank wall," she said.

The Standards in Public Offices Commission confirmed last week that legislation doesn't provide for the acceptance or non-acceptance of donations for people under 18.

Family and Life's director David Manly said it was "neither the policy nor the practice of Family & Life to contact under-age students for money or any campaign".

Adults who support the organisation's work are asked for their names and address in writing, at public events and conferences, he said. "We would not knowingly accept 'school students' or those under-age."

He added that there was "no fail safe way to guarantee that every received name and address is that of an adult", especially at busy events.

Mr Manly said he has written to the family concerned and will take steps to ensure it does not happen again. "This was an unfortunate and exceptional error; it has been addressed, and should not happen again," he said.

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