Simon Harris criticises ‘obscene’ abortion posters using his photograph

Posters contain picture of Minister for Health, Fine Gael logo and graphic imagery

Minister for Health Simon Harris. File photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Minister for Health Simon Harris. File photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris has described the graphic abortion-related imagery posted in his Wicklow constituency as “obscene, horrific and unethical”.

The poster campaign features a picture of Mr Harris on what looks like a Fine Gael election poster. Behind the Minister, there is an image of what appears to be an aborted foetus.

The posters, erected in north Co Wicklow ahead of the May 25th vote on the potential repeal of the Eighth Amendment, do not identify who erected them, which is in breach of the State’s electoral laws.

Mr Harris said the imagery had been “upsetting for my family” and for his constituents in the Bray area. Up until this, the campaign had been civil and urged voters on both sides to ensure that remained the case.

The posters were erected outside primary schools and on Main Street in Bray.

The Minister is advocating a Yes vote in the referendum and has pledged to introduce legislation to allow for access to abortions up to 12 weeks and in exceptional circumstances thereafter.

Mr Harris said he understood that Wicklow County Council would be taking the posters down. It is understood that complaints about them were made to An Garda Síochána.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the images were “loathing and obscene”.

‘Unsettling’

Speaking at the launch of the Grandparents for Repeal campaign in Dublin on Tuesday, former Labour TD for Wicklow and Bray resident Liz McManus said the images were “certainly very disturbing and unsettling”.

She said she had been subjected twice to “poison pen smear campaigns” during elections. The first time it had happened, her vote went up, she said.

“I feel, essentially, people are decent. They are not going to be frightened into casting their vote in a particular way simply because somebody is trying to frighten them,” she said.

Ms McManus said it was “actually disgraceful that children are being exposed to these things”.

“But when it comes to adults, I don’t believe that people are swayed by such graphic images. In a sense, you have a feeling that there’s a desperation on the other side that’s actually resorting to this kind of scare tactic.”

At the same event, Gemma Hussey, a former minister and Fine Gael TD for Wicklow said she believed the “shocking” poster would “do Simon Harris good”.

“I don’t think it will be helpful. Somebody very stupid has designed it.”

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