Restrictions don't reduce abortion rate
Sir - Restrictions to abortion do not reduce the rate of abortions. In other words, the Eighth Amendment has not saved any lives. The recent 'Abortion Worldwide 2017' study shows that abortion occurs as frequently in the two most restrictive regimes as the two least restrictive regimes.
If a woman is in need of an abortion, she will find a way whether that is travelling abroad or obtaining abortion pills without any medical supervision.
By repealing the Eighth Amendment we can ensure that women who need abortions will be able to access them without risks to their health and undue financial burdens.
Let's stop pretending that abortion does not exist in Ireland. We can continue to let the women of Ireland be put at risk or we can introduce a compassionate and safe environment for women to access the health services they need. Repeal the Eighth.
Sort out the issues in the North now
Sir - I had to put in writing the frustration being felt by the Irish people, on both sides, at the lack of will on the part of the two larger political parties in Northern Ireland.
The people have said that the Good Friday/Belfast agreement is working and has been celebrated all around the world on its 20th year birthday anniversary of the two larger parties has become tedious with real issues being left unresolved.
As George Mitchell said, "we have come a long way to get to this point", so let's keep it going for the youth of Ireland who have not had to suffer the atrocities and heartbreak of the Troubles. Social issues as well as other important work have been neglected but five parties were elected and they could form a power-sharing government and do the majority of the work that has been ignored for nearly 16 months.
The Executive can be resolved later. Sort out social and economic issues now. The inevitability of a 32-county Ireland will happen but not in the lifetime of this Government or the next so let us get on with giving the people on all sides the best possible life on this beautiful island we have, in peace.
Vote Yes and set the balance right
Sir - Referring to the upcoming referendum, my father recently told me that before I was born, he was presented with a moral dilemma: "If there is a medical emergency while your wife is pregnant, would you choose to save her or the baby?"
The ideology at the time was to favour the potential of the unborn rather than the living mother who had a family depending on her. Thankfully, it was a question of theory, there was never an emergency and I was born safe and healthy. But had there been a crisis he would not have hesitated to save my mother, and in his position I would choose the same.
Now we live in a time where such thorny questions are not automatically referred to the man of the house. However this is partly because of the Eighth Amendment which takes the decision away from a patient, her family and her doctors. An emergency patient who is pregnant still does not have the right of consent over medical procedures. The Eighth Amendment and the Human Life in Pregnancy Act tie the hands of doctors and deny consent to patients. If a procedure is deemed necessary to save the foetus, the mother's consent is not required. If an abortion is necessary to protect the long-term health of a patient who is pregnant, this is not allowed unless her life is under imminent threat. Bear in mind that most Irish women seeking abortions abroad are in their late twenties or older, most are married or in long-term relationships, and most already have children. This is a difficult decision for anyone to go through, and when you have a family that needs you, your health should not be valued less than a potential life.
This letter is only about my dad and me because we have a vote on it. It's about a right we take for granted over our own healthcare, but which is denied to the women we care about.
Next month we have the chance, by voting Yes, to set the balance right - to where it always should have been - and to finally give Irish women control over their own bodies.
Ciaran Mac Lochlainn,
Best to trust the woman to choose
Sir - To make someone a criminal we should agree that the action they took is condemnable in all circumstances. Given the agonising choices all sides of the debate agree women are making, surely it is better to trust her to make the right decision for her circumstances rather than condemn her as a criminal.
Leaders showing lack of leadership
Sir - Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, April 8) sums up the abortion referendum campaign perfectly in his column. If I was a repealer I would be genuinely worried but as a long-standing pro-life advocate I'm not surprised.
There is a long history in this country of people being in favour of legal protection for unborn babies. That is why in 1983 a referendum to enshrine constitutional protection for unborn babies passed handsomely. Such protection couldn't be removed on the whim of politicians or a directive from Europe.
The leaders of the two main parties have shown a complete lack of leadership on this issue, it's as if they consciously or subconsciously want this referendum to fail.
Micheal Martin came out in favour of the 12-week proposal despite his party overwhelmingly backing retention of the Eighth Amendment at their ard fheis last October.
Then, as Mr Harris pointed out, Leo Varadkar hopped aboard this train "a full week behind Micheal Martin... and it weakened momentum".
We often hear from some politicians of the "journey" they underwent which caused them to change their views. With such fickle politicians no wonder people are confused and the campaign is "flagging". Tanaiste Simon Coveney was a boost to the pro-life campaign.
Leaving aside his U-turn he showed he didn't trust his fellow politicians when he tried to bring in an initiative which was completely unconstitutional. Their lack of belief and conviction in what they are doing is so obvious.
An abortion-on-demand regime for unborn babies up to 12 weeks' gestation is simply too much for the middle ground. This campaign will chug and stutter along for another six weeks. I'm sure all these politicians will be glad when the "journey" is over and won't be too bothered if the referendum is defeated.
Statements spark unnecessary fear
Sir - I am concerned that recent statements are causing unnecessary fears for women. They suggest that obstetricians are curtailed in their ability to care for pregnant patients who are seriously ill.
Across the world only a tiny proportion of terminations of pregnancy are related to obstetrical care.
Ireland's law fully provides for the small number of cases relating to necessary obstetric interventions.
Where it arises, the duty to intervene to save the woman's life is clear.
Under the present law we have full freedom and support for the requirements of ethical and safe practice.
The threat to the woman's life does not need to be imminent.
We have the scope of practice needed to guarantee best international standards of care to women in pregnancy. Indeed, Ireland has an excellent record by any measure of performance, with very low numbers of women who tragically die in pregnancy.
Dr Mary Holohan FRCOG, FRCPI,
Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist,
Unfair deal over nursing homes
Sir — Well done to Maeve Sheehan in her report ‘Extra fees leave nursing home residents in debt’ (Sunday Independent, April 8) for highlighting that our Fair Deal Nursing Home Scheme is no longer fair for many vulnerable older people.
The members of the Irish Association of Social Workers support the call of the advocacy group for older persons Sage, that no older person is left without some disposable income after contributing to all the costs now of living in a nursing home.
As social workers, we believe that the issue must be resolved, by robust action by the Department of Health, for a review of legislation and the individual assessment of what each nursing home receives under the Fair Deal scheme, so as to ensure everyone living in a nursing home has some reasonable income left every week.
Chair (Irish Association of Social Workers),
Blight of litter left in the countryside
Sir — We recently arrived in Ireland for a month’s stay, our first visit to your country.
We drove from Dublin to Castlecomer, the first stop on our journey.
A resident asked us of our first impression of Ireland, and without much deliberation the word ‘litter’ came to mind. We thought perhaps we should soften the response, but that was our actual impression. We would have expected litter in a large city but not in the Irish countryside.
We do understand that littering is a problem with individuals, but surely there is some organisation that is responsible for correcting the problem.
Since then we have travelled to Kenmare and Killarney. We are happy to see that litter is not an issue here.
Castlecomer is too nice an area to be a dumping ground. We hope you find a solution to the litter problem soon.
We have found the Irish people to be friendly and helpful; and even the weather has been kind to us.
Nancy Moen and Colette L Tissue,
Long live print journalism
Sir — Most official book burnings, like the Nazi book burnings, have been about control. If we don’t support print journalism, we will not need to burn books.
As George Orwell said: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want: everything else is public relations”. I feel good print journalism is the first line of defence for democracy.
Online information and stories can be reduced to personalised streams of content to match our opinion. They can be controlled by filters and algorithms. “Fake” news is not all we have to be concerned about.
Also, often during a flick through a newspaper, I will be exposed to uncomfortable facts I would not choose to read elsewhere. They will cause me to examine my own thought process. In fact, recent studies show that although most people consume information that matches their opinions, being exposed to conflicting views tends to reduce prejudice and enhance creative thinking.
Expose ourselves to conflicting views. Keep the ink flowing.
Taking a lead on internet regulation
Sir — You know the story: “How awful, there will be an investigation, protect the privacy. Consent classes, kids need to be taught about respect, sex education isn’t good enough... etc, etc.”
A consent class is not going to cut the mustard!
Children are being groomed with our full consent. A boy watching porn for hours is being groomed by what he’s watching, it’s making him and everyone he wants to be intimate with vulnerable. He’s too young, he’s a child. It will form his sexual life from here on, and he will hurt those he wants to love.
If a priest or teacher was showing him porn, we’d have very clear laws on our side to stop and punish them. But when it’s the internet, it would appear that no one is accountable, no crime is being committed — but he remains as vulnerable, if not more so, because his friends completely support him.
If Cambridge Analytica can figure out I’m a 45-year-old woman who’s looking for slippers and is not very likely to vote for Trump, then it and its rivals can surely figure out when a 13-year-old is searching for pornography and plague them so much with ads and pop-ups that they lose the desire to proceed.
This doesn’t have to be difficult. Ireland has led the charge on many issues, so let’s try this one. The good technology is there, the good people are there, and I’m ready to sign up for those terms and conditions.
Not wanted or not wanting?
Sir - Reading Declan Lynch’s thoughtful article (Sunday Independent, April 8) about the dearth of black faces at Augusta during the Masters, I was reminded of a similar situation I experienced during the thrilling Ashes Test at Edgbaston in Birmingham in 2005, between England (who won) and arguably the greatest team of Australian cricketers to visit England. But in this case, the reasons were a little different.
Birmingham is made up of many cultures, which include the cricket-mad people of West Indian, Indian and Pakistani extraction. Yet during the two days I attended Edgbaston the only brown or black faces I saw belonged to those cleaning the ground at the end of play. When I asked an Asian taxi driver why this was so, he told me they were not wanted there.
We batted the subject back and forth in a friendly exchange during my journey. Then I asked him what he would say if his daughter brought the great Shane Warne home for tea? He very politely refused to engage with the question. Not wanted there or not wanting to be there? The latter, I think.
We can’t all be categorised
Sir — “A typical 20th Century man was like a block of wood, mute and distant except when he blazed out in violent rage.”
This is what I read from your columnist Steve Biddulph in a rant about Irish maleness (Sunday Independent, April 8).
He also goes so far as to say the men he has worked with all over the world all had the same problems as himself. If ever there was a clear example of a man living in a bubble, this was it.
I was never like any of the five “mask” types he describes and neither were my friends. Indeed, I feel bold enough to say the vast majority of Irish males in the 20th Century were responsible adults, caring and providing for their families, doing their best in sometimes difficult circumstances to put their children on the right track.
Were we perfect? No. But our best seemed good enough.
The trouble with all these psychologists and psychiatrists is that they spend an inordinate amount of time studying and dealing with broken or difficult personalities, and they can end up believing the whole world is like that.
Any person who “felt an enormous hole inside (him) every waking second” needed help.