Disability cuts in Budget/ Media coverage on abortion
Seanad Order of Business, 6th December 2011
I support every word of what Senator O’Brien said in regard to the cuts to the disability allowance. We should ask ourselves why this type of thing happens. Every utterance, every move from the Government these days is crash tested through a process of leaks and soundings with a view to determining which elements of public opinion need to be placated and prioritised. It is at times like these that vulnerable constituencies lose out and that we have cuts to overseas development aid contributions, for example, and to provisions affecting young persons with disabilities. It is unacceptable for Government spokespersons to refer to how the budget has been shaped as a “significant achievement”. The least they could do is to apologise and say this is the best they could do. The changes to the disability allowance must be revisited.
We have had frequent calls in this House for a debate on media standards, but that debate has not yet taken place. Will the Leader schedule it for early in the new year? In recent days it has emerged that an Irish woman nearly lost her life in England due to a botched abortion carried out by a practitioner associated with Marie Stopes. It was not this individual’s first such botch-up. The woman almost died as a consequence of parts of the unborn child being left inside her body. If a woman in Ireland came close to losing her life because of mistakes made while in the care of the health service, The Irish Times would issue a supplement on the matter and there would be a documentary by “Prime Time Investigates”. In this case, hoverer, only the Irish Independent has so far reported what happened.
Why the silence? Is this another example of a bias in our media whereby certain issues are deemed to be worthy of coverage but the near death of an Irish woman as a consequence of an abortion in England is covered by only one broadsheet newspaper? Has there ever been coverage of the fact that in 2008 alone, 66 unborn children survived being aborted in England and were delivered alive, only to be left to die? That is going on in our nearest neighbouring country. Anybody with the most rudimentary sense of what human rights should encompass must ask questions about this. However, the Irish media apparently do not agree. I do not know whether we are getting close to the time when there will be a Leveson-style inquiry in this country about issues of privacy and how it is respected by media, but I certainly hope we have a debate in this House very soon. Such a debate will afford us an opportunity to raise these important questions in terms of how people are being treated by the media but also how the public is being treated when there is only scanty and selective reference to certain issues by the dominant media.