Abortion and left, right views

 

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole (March 27th) is concerned about a “right wing firestorm of fake news” impacting the result of the abortion referendum. He is particularly worried about Save the 8th’s decision to hire Kanto to build our website. This concern about fake news is welcome, if misplaced.

After all, the most egregious examples of fake news in this campaign to date have come not from campaigners against the referendum, but from the media itself.

It was a newspaper, not a campaign, that ran a front-page story saying that 75 per cent of GPs backed the Government’s abortion proposals, and continues to stand by it even though the “poll” on which it was based turned out to have been conducted on twitter.

Indeed, on the same day Mr O’Toole worried about “fake news”, The Irish Times uncritically reported Simon Coveney’s proposal for a two-thirds majority for future changes to the abortion laws – something a first-year law student would know to be unconstitutional.

The rise of social media as a news and advertising platform is directly correlated with falling trust in established newspapers. Every single Irish newspaper has adopted an overt campaigning position on the Eighth Amendment – a position that reflects the views of their journalists, not their readers.

To clarify the position, Save the 8th will not be delivering leaflets on silver platters, delivered by riders on white chargers, although the idea of delivering Mr O’Toole’s own leaflet in that manner is increasingly tempting.

Nor will we be engaged in “Brexit-style tactics”, whatever that means. Kanto is building our website and online platform, and performing some data analytics for us based on incoming traffic and ad engagement. It is not engaged in any voter profiling or voter targeting. One of the reasons for this is that the Irish market is too small for such voter targeting to be necessary or cost-effective, and in any case, it would be almost impossible to do it effectively due to Irish data protection laws which make it functionally impossible to link a voter’s social media profile to the electoral register (which is not available for use by political parties or campaign groups).

The kind of targeting the Irish media has been worrying about is most efficient in a large multi-candidate race, where targeting large groups of voters is too expensive, and you want to target a specific demographic.

In Ireland, because of the small electorate, reaching nearly every voter with an online platform is comparatively inexpensive, and the target groups you could profile, in theory, would be too small.

It makes no sense for us to target small segments of the electorate when we can just, with relatively little expense, target the whole electorate.

We have registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo), and will be pursuing a vigorous, fair, and robust campaign. We hope media organisations which are campaigning will do the same thing. – Yours, etc,

JOHN McGUIRK,

Communications Director,

Save the 8th, Dublin.

Sir, – I note the recent reporting of the engagement of Kanto, a social-media analytics and campaigning outfit, by one of the pro-life interest groups, to assist in their objectives during the current debate.

Previous engagements of Kanto and their ilk have resulted in the focus upon, magnification and leveraging of, highly divisive issues within their given debates.

As this subject is already the most divisive in Irish society, it will be interesting to see how Kanto will earn their crust. – Yours, etc,

DANNY RAFFERTY,

Raheny,

Dublin 5.

Sir, – What has been described as a U-turn by Simon Coveney is not, in fact, a U-turn. The Tánaiste has always supported repealing the Eighth Amendment. He has merely changed his mind on the 12-week limit on access to abortion, having realised that the 12-week limit is the only way to help women and girls who fall pregnant by rape or incest. He came to this realisation, as have hundreds of Irish politicians, by reading the reports of the Citizens’ Assembly, the Joint Oireachtas Committee, and the submissions of countless women and girls who have real-life experience of abortion.

Mr Coveney is to be praised, not chastised, for using real-life, factual, reliable evidence to challenge his own preconceptions and coming to a position that best serves the women and girls – not least his own daughters. If the polls and Dáil votes are anything to go by, he is far from alone. – Yours, etc,

ANNA KINGSTON,

Cork.

Sir, – Tánaiste Simon Coveney has taken a mere two months to perform a complete U-turn in his views concerning abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.

Yet he has, apparently without irony, labelled as “reckless” those who argue that politicians should not be given a constitutional blank cheque when it comes to abortion legislation in case they change their minds!

So how does he attempt to silence such “recklessness”? By recklessly proposing a measure that was immediately shot down by his fellow Cabinet members as unconstitutional. – Yours, etc,

NICK PARK,

Executive Director,

Evangelical Alliance Ireland,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – Before the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 is finally passed, in order to allay the fears of those who feel that politicians cannot be trusted and to assuage the Attorney General’s worries, I would like to propose an amendment to said Bill, to read as follows:

“Provision may be made by law, if supported by not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the Houses of the Oireachtas, for the regulation of termination of pregnancy”.

This text would replace the current text of Article 40.3.3. – Yours, etc,

PETER GILL,

Clare Island,

Co Mayo.