Campaigners for a No vote in the forthcoming referendum on the Eighth amendment have accused the other side of conducting the majority of “hostile” behaviour during the campaign.
Niamh Ui Bhriain, chair of the Save the 8th group, accused Yes supporters of "sickening and appalling" behaviour in targeting people who backed retaining the Constitutional provision.
“Yes campaigners have torn down half of the No campaign’s posters,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday. “How does that help a fair or democratic debate? I think in fairness if you look online, most of the hostility, most of the ill-temper seems to come from the Yes campaign.”
Ms Ui Bhriain was responding to a question about the "increasingly contentious" campaign tone on both sides.
She said she was aware of one woman whose child had been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition but who was a supporter of a No vote. The woman had to suspend her Twitter account, Ms Ui Bhriain said, after receiving “extreme hatred and vitriol from Yes campaigners, directed not just at her because she wanted a no vote, but directed at her child”.
“I know from other mothers who have been in this situation that they have received similar abuse from Yes campaigners online and I think that is sickening and appalling. I have to tell you that I don’t see No campaigners engaging in that kind of abuse online.”
Ms Ui Bhriain cited the example of Traveller actor John Connors who, she said, had received an "extraordinary torrent of racist abuse" after coming out in favour of a No vote. Referring to his Traveller ethnicity, she said those who abused him had identified as Yes voters.
Responding to her comments, the Together For Yes campaign, said with support continuing to build for its position across the country, the No campaign was focusing on “misinformation” to distract from the “real issue”, namely the “harm” of the Eighth amendment.
"At the same time, Together For Yes is continuing its focus on giving a platform and voice to the thousands of women across Ireland whose lives have been affected by the Eighth amendment, either by forcing them to travel abroad or take an illegal abortion pill at home with no medical support," it said.
Ms Ui Bhriain was speaking during an event organised to highlight the story of Sandra Caulfield whose daughter Hope Rose was born in September, 2017 with Edwards Syndrome and died after nine days.
Supporting the No campaign, Ms Caulfield accused the Government and Yes campaigners of “exploiting” her experience, and similar experiences of other women, to promote repealing the amendment.
“One of the hardest things myself and my family have found profoundly difficult during this referendum is the lies that have been told and the hurt that has been caused,” she said. “It has been said that babies with life-limiting conditions suffer in the womb. This is untrue.”
She said the campaign had led to “sick children being used as weapons against healthy children”.
Ms Caulfield said the words used to describe a child’s condition were very important - “life-limiting” was the correct term, she said, as opposed to “fatal foetal abnormality”.
“The women and the unborn babies of our country deserve better than abortion, there is no compassion about ending the life of an unborn child,” she said.