Sunday 15 September 2019

Nothing rousing about this rabble

Last week's Claire Byrne Live referendum special
Last week's Claire Byrne Live referendum special

John Masterson

I am writing this before the Referendum Poll on May 25. By today the result will be known and will be being picked over in all media. I did not vote as I was out of the country that day. I would have 100pc voted Yes.

Whatever the result, I found the campaign deeply disheartening. As a barometer of Ireland's maturity, I get a reading of a country that is low on tolerance.

I have the height of regard for Claire Byrne. She is as good a current affairs broadcaster as you will find. But when I watched the RTE debate deteriorate into clapping and cheering that would have made an appropriate soundtrack to a Katie Taylor fight, I felt nothing but sadness for this country.

Would there be similar passion to sort out homelessness, restructure our education and health systems, and have a planning system which enabled world class business to set up in Athenry?

The next morning, as I drove to work, I was confronted at a roundabout by two young men holding a poster of an adult-sized foetus.

It was five-feet high and eight-feet wide. Both were wearing dark glasses and I would not recognise either on the street. One photographed me as I drove past.

I can only assume they were doing a straw poll measuring support. I did not change expression, despite my disapproval of both message and method, and was thankful I was not driving children to school.

I am a man. I will never become pregnant.

I do, however, know some women who, for a variety of reasons, have chosen not to complete their pregnancy.

None found it an easy decision. None had been raped. None were carrying a child with probable disabilities. None regretted it. I am sure I know many other women with similar experience but they have kept their experiences private.

It is not an everyday topic. I have once been asked for advice about the matter and provided what information I could.

I had hoped that this abortion debate could be less rancorous than the previous Church v Dublin 4 liberal conflicts. During my days presenting the morning show on KCLR, I noticed that the topic did not produce a flurry of texts as it would have in the old days. It hasn't taken long for the hatred and name calling to resume.

Without strong opinions we would have no leaders and Ireland needs leadership throughout the community.

How do we cope with the desirability of passionate people expressing views to which others are diametrically opposed, with scarcely any middle ground?

We have moved on. I doubt if there is more than a handful of women of childbearing age who ever think about the 'rhythm method'.

Women totally ignore the unchanged Church teaching. The opportunity to divorce has not changed commitment to marriage. The marriage equality legislation has brought happiness to many and given Ireland pride of place in the world.

Whatever the result of this referendum, Irish women will seek abortions to deal with their personal private situation. The vote was about whether they could do it at home or abroad.

In either case it is support and understanding they need in their home country, and not name calling and guilt trips.

Sunday Independent

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