Harris criticises Eighth Amendment debate on Claire Byrne Live

‘What we do not need is jeering... hollering, laughing, sniggering’ over complex issue

RTE presenter Claire Byrne had to ask members of the audience to 'refrain from calling people liars' after many heated exchanges between audience and panel members. Video: RTE

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris has criticised aspects of the RTÉ Claire Byrne Live debate on the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

The programme was broadcast on Monday night with advocates on both sides arguing for and against a repeal of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

Mr Harris confirmed he will participate in a debate on RTÉ next week, but called on both sides to make sure the discussion is respectful and “more matching” to the sensitivities of the subject.

Referencing the TV debate on Monday, the Minister said there were people in the audience who had endured significant personal tragedy and pain.

The discussion turned situation like a football match when there was a sensitive matter being discussed, Mr Harris added.

“What we do not need is jeering, whooping, hollering, laughing, sniggering. This is a deeply complex and sensitive issue.”

RTÉ has confirmed it received numerous complaints about the debate, which aired on Monday night.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has confirmed he is willing to debate the referendum on the Eighth Amendment with members of the No side.

Mr Coveney said he believes the best approach is to provide people with facts to allow voters make informed decisions ahead of the referendum.

The Tánaiste has been canvassing, he said, and doing a number of interviews on the subject. “What we have been trying to do is to persuade people through reassurance and facts, as opposed to having arguments that make headlines.

‘Respectful debate and conversation’

“That is what we will continue to do. The Government want to have a respectful debate and conversation with the country that reassures people who are undecided.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed he will not take part in debates but will take part in a number of media interviews.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health were speaking at an event outlining a number of measures the Government is taking to improve supports for women and to reduce crisis pregnancies.

The measures include a comprehensive education, information and promotion programme, as well as an extension to the availability and distribution of free barrier contraception.

Mr Harris said this will be supported by a co-ordinated and integrated approach to sexual health promotion which will support “safer sex” behaviours, increase awareness of risks and promote testing, counselling and other services.

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