Cora Sherlock pulls out of TV abortion debate

Love Both spokeswoman says she is unavailable; RTÉ declines Steen as replacement

Abortion debate: Cora Sherlock had accepted a Prime Time invitation to face Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photograph: PA

Abortion debate: Cora Sherlock had accepted a Prime Time invitation to face Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photograph: PA

 

The Love Both spokeswoman Cora Sherlock has pulled out of tonight’s televised debate on the RTÉ programme Prime Time.

Ms Sherlock accepted the invitation to debate the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which bans abortion in almost all circumstances, last Thursday. She was to be joined by the Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín in calling for a No vote in Friday’s referendum on whether to repeal the amendment. Minister for Health Simon Harris and Prof Mary Higgins agreed to argue for a Yes vote.

RTÉ was told today she was unavailable and that Maria Steen could take her place. The broadcaster said it could not agree to Ms Steen’s participation, however, as she had appeared on its first televised debate, on Claire Byrne Live on May 18th. RTÉ sources said the broadcaster would not be dictated to about who should appear on tonight’s programme.

It is understood Prof Higgins will now not participate in the debate and it will be a head to head with Mr Harris and Mr Tóibín. The decision by RTÉ is based on the No side refusing to put forward anyone but Ms Steen for the show. Prof Higgins will instead participate from the audience.

The Save the 8th spokesman John McGuirk said that RTÉ was “playing outrageous games” and that it would not allow the broadcaster to “do to us what they did to Seán Gallagher”, in a reference to the 2011 presidential candidate whose appearance on a Frontline debate resulted in the broadcaster paying the businessman substantial damages.

Ms Sherlock could not be reached for comment.

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