Voting in the referendum


Sir, – The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution is a severe burden on disabled people, who are more often unemployed, have fewer financial supports, have restricted access to travel and more often have their wishes ignored in the event of a crisis pregnancy. However, disabled people are more likely to experience crisis pregnancy due to limited sex education, limited awareness of proper contraceptive use and vulnerability to abuse.

As an adult with Asperger syndrome, with one mature child with Asperger syndrome, I am acutely aware of the moral surveillance of disabled people. Only 51 per cent of the Irish population agree that we have the same right to sexual fulfilment as everyone else, and only 37 per cent agree that we should be permitted to have children (National Disability Authority, 2011).

Disabled people are entitled to the same choices in sexuality and reproduction as everyone else. Equality of access to abortion services is a step towards disabled autonomy. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The front page of the New Scientist (May 5th) carries a photograph of a burger with the caption that “no animals were harmed in the making of this meat.” The photograph and the article inside the magazine calls attention to the fact that many people are beginning to have ethical problems about killing animals to supply human with meat.

In the campaign on the referendum on the Eighth Amendment, I have noticed that many posters focus on individual rights even when that means terminating the life of the embryo. Pope Francis in his thoughtful encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home broadens the discussion and writes that “since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient that may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of that new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”. – Yours, etc,


St Columban’s,

Dalgan, Co Meath.

Sir, – In the run-up to the Lisbon referendum the Catholic bishops called a press conference encouraging us to vote Yes to the proposition.

Just before the rerun of the referendum a senior archbishop appeared before a Dáil committee to reiterate their support for a Yes vote. (I voted No, by the way).

With the forthcoming referendum but a short time away, I see no such urgency from the same archbishops to declare their position on the right to life.

I’m not referring to pastoral letters which most people ignore anyway. I am referring to our bishops’ apparent refusal to state unequivocally the church’s actual stand on the act of abortion and its attitude to those Catholics who actively push the abortion agenda.

As I see it, there is no leadership in our church.

This year has been designated the Year of the Family within the church and yet apart from a letter our bishops are silent.

This referendum has serious moral consequences for now and the future and real leadership is not there. If the politicians can come out for a Yes vote what’s holding our senior bishops back?

Or, has the church now become too PC to give necessary vocal support for the unborn? – Yours, etc,


Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

Sir, – In the event that the amendment is passed, some questions arise.

1. Will abortions be available in all our public hospitals and will they be free to anyone who wants one within the 12 weeks?

2. If not, what will they cost?

3. Will the abortion pills be free?

4. If not, what will they cost?

5. Will staff be able to refuse to assist in the ending of life?

6. Will Marie Stokes abortion clinics open here? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Prof Noel Mulcahy defines a “full persona” as the linking up of a “body and soul” and imagines “millions of souls floating around spiritual space” (May 11th).

No human has residing in them some spark or “pilot light” that can survive death. Neither is there a shred of scientific evidence for any kind of conscious awareness in the grave. So an atheist has no basis for believing in an afterlife.

As for Christians, studying Scripture in its original languages removes all the confusion. A physical form animated by breath results in a “nephesh”. That Hebrew word means “a breathing creature” and is used of humans and other animals. The Greek word for breath – “pneuma” – also means “air”. Death occurs when this air vacates the lungs (Jas 2:26), after which the person “knows nothing” (Ecc 9:5). That’s why our deceased loved-ones are not in heaven (John 3:13, Acts 2:34), but asleep (Dan 12:2, John 11:11, 1 Thes 4:13).

The Greek word usually translated “soul” is “psuché”, which literally means “a physical being with consciousness” or just “a living being”. The “psuché” is not immortal and can be destroyed (Matt 10:28). It’s clear to me that a human being – what Prof Mulcahy calls a “full persona” – is a physical being animated by breath (Job 27:3).

A corpse cannot be a soul because it doesn’t breathe, while the “pneuma” reverts to God at death (Ecc 12:7). So neither can have any meaningful, separate existence (Job 14:12, Psalm 115:17).

I enjoy reading Scripture in its original languages. How this informs the current debate about abortion, I’m not qualified to say. – Yours, etc,


Leopardstown, Dublin 18.