Eighth Amendment: facts and ideology


Sir, – The Committee on the Eighth Amendment may have made the inevitable referendum official (Home News, October 19th), but campaigners have already been in referendum mode for months.

And already we must examine the role of the media in how the issue is being covered. What exactly is the role of the media? Is it merely to function as an amplifier for the campaigns or should it demonstrate an investigative function?

If it serves merely as a broadcaster of the argument rather than an examiner of the arguments then it’s little more than an obsolete arm of social media. It has but to retweet the campaigns’ soundbites and sit back satisfied that its job is done.

If, however, the media decides to act as it is supposed to act in a liberal democracy, then it will seek to distinguish between the ideological and the factual.

One side claims that pregnant women should be considered more important than the foetuses they carry, in any and all circumstances. Another side claims that the foetus and the pregnant woman are wholly equal. Another side claims that the pregnant woman is more important than the foetus if she got pregnant in a certain way. Another side insists that the health of the foetus determines if the woman is more important. These are ideological stances, based on sincerely held beliefs that may or not be informed by facts. I have summarised these stances in one paragraph. It’s not hard.

It is the things claimed as facts by campaigners that journalism must examine. Parroting the statistics, studies and incontrovertible truths of the campaigns, is not journalism. Does abortion cause breast cancer? Is Ireland the safest country in the world to have a baby? Does comprehensive sex education and access to contraception lower the rate of abortion? Abortion causes depression? Abortion saves lives? The Eighth Amendment saves lives? Does Iceland really have no babies born with Down syndrome?

Will broadcasters and print journalists just repeat these claims or will they investigate, challenge and inform?

This unavoidable referendum will inevitably be a vicious, acrimonious and destructive event. The media will be in a position to make hay on the anger and vitriol. They can choose to promote and broadcast the “big fight” or they can choose journalism.

I retain the naive hope that every word uttered by campaigners will be dissected by journalists. The naive hope that journalists will understand “balance” as being the pursuit of truth. That good journalists will inform rather than merely describe. – Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.

Sir, – Andrew Doyle (October 27th) writes that repealing the Eighth Amendment will “permit the legislature to do its job, the job we have elected them to do”.

So if our legislature has such a good record in doing the jobs we have elected them to do, why did we consider it important to specifically enshrine children’s rights in our Constitution in 2012?

Should we not simply have trusted our politicians to do their job in relation to protecting the rights of vulnerable children? Or perhaps Mr Doyle will be looking for the repeal of the children’s rights amendment also so that justice can be administered “unencumbered by nebulous complications”.

I am not so sanguine about successive governments’ record on protecting citizens in vulnerable situations. What rights that are enshrined in our Constitution, for often voiceless people, should stay there. – Yours, etc,


Windy Arbour,

Dublin 14.