Varadkar accuses No campaign of targeting Boylan
Taoiseach: Top doctor has a right to his views
The pro-life campaign is targeting prominent Together for Yes campaigner Dr Peter Boylan, the Taoiseach has said.
Speaking yesterday in the Dáil, Leo Varadkar hit out at what he described was an attempt "to personalise" the referendum campaign around Dr Boylan, who is the chairperson of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
His comments came after Dr Boylan appeared on a heated debate on RTÉ's 'Claire Byrne Live' on Monday, where both sides of the campaign repeatedly shouted down each other.
"(Dr Boylan) has the right to his view, just as doctors or former judges on the No side have the right to their view," Mr Varadkar said.
The Taoiseach was responding to Independent TD Mattie McGrath's suggestion to the Dáil that the Government had given Dr Boylan "free rein" to paint "the worst possible picture of the Irish maternity system and services".
"Nobody should be individually targeted because they hold a particular opinion on this issue and I regret that in the final days of this campaign people have started going for the man or woman rather than talking about the issue," the Taoiseach said.
"Whether that is done by the Yes side or the No side, it is very wrong."
Dr Boylan has been a prominent campaigner, appearing on the 'Late Late Show' and his picture has featured in Together for Yes adverts.
He was booed and heckled during his appearance on 'Claire Byrne Live'. The Yes panel also featured Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who was also booed.
Some 650,000 people tuned in, with the average audience increasing by up to 53pc as the broadcast continued.
However the show has come in for criticism, with audience members clapping, cheering and booing during what was billed as a robust debate.
At one point, consultant obstetrician Dr John Monaghan told Dr Boylan he should "go back to school" after Dr Boylan suggested a foetus was not fully developed after 12 weeks.
Senator Catherine Noone (FG) was among those to criticise the show.
"I have great respect for Claire Byrne but her team let her down - the show was poorly planned disorganised and quite frankly like a circus," she said.
"This kind of TV does not serve the public who wish to be informed of the facts and the evidence."
Speaking on the 'Pat Kenny Show' on Newstalk yesterday morning, Dr Boylan said host Claire Byrne "did her best," but the debate went downhill.
"It degenerated, it started reasonably well but the Trumpian playbook was opened and abuse started to be hurled," he said.
RTÉ has received a number of complaints about the show - but has staunchly defended it.
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It declined to release the exact figures because the campaign is ongoing but will release figures after polling day.
The broadcaster said the show gave "an equal opportunity" for both sides to air their arguments "which both sides did passionately and trenchantly".
"Impartial analysis of 'Claire Byrne Live Referendum Special' will show that when the number of speakers on each side of the referendum question and the airtime afforded to them are both taken into account, the programme gave an equitable and fair opportunity to both sides to express their views," a spokesperson said.
"While the programme did its best to include as many voices as it could, it was not possible to speak to everyone and it was made clear to every audience member in advance that there was no guarantee they would get to speak on the programme."