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Letters – November 2014

On Irish Water

Dear Editor:
I wonder if anyone is considering the implications for this proposed referendum that is being sought to protect us from the privatisation of Irish Water. Consider the following if you will:
Insidious, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnerships (TTIPs) have been under secret negotiation since summer 2013. The biggest bilateral trade deal in history between the EU and the US.
The primary focus of these negotiations, which are on-going, is on curbing regulation, including through further expanding the role of extrajudicial tribunals which are being designed to allow corporations and potential investors bypass national courts and to challenge governments who pass regulations that harm their corporate interests. Such tribunals have already been set up under the Canada/US NAFTA agreements, and could be set up here – these tribunals are causing problems in areas like the protection of water quality which is being threatened by fracking.
The questions I pose are these: What if these secret TTIP negotiations are concluded in Europe, unelected officials will decide and there is no democratic vote taken over finalisation of these proposals. What then if the protections that have been taken to keep Irish Water a public utility company are challenged by some corporation that feels it is being disadvantaged? What if the existing EU competition authority laws (Directives) conclude that Ireland cannot/ should not prevent Corporatisation of our water utility? What then will we do?
No Irish politician, government or opposition, is monitoring this as far as I am aware. However, the new EU Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, was so concerned about the lack of information coming into the public arena – that she commenced a public consultation on this matter.

Derrick Hambleton
Kingston, Galway

On the Irish Times and Abortion

Dear Editor:

How charming of a spokesperson for the Pro Life Campaign, the very moniker of which is a masterstroke of question-begging sophistry, to begin an article by quoting CP Scott on the sacredness of facts (Village, October 2014)!
The ostensible (hypo)thesis of Dr Ruth Cullen’s piece centres on a tired fundamentalist shibboleth: the media’s (the Irish Times’ in this case) pushing of the Liberal Agenda. However, this contention merely serves as the vehicle for a fairly predictable whistle-stop tour of all the stock PLC myth-mongering Newspeak catchphrases, each one debunked so many times as not to warrant the oxygen of further critical engagement. (It’s laughable, for instance, that the best-little-country-in-the-world-without-abortion-to-be-a-mammy fib is still getting an outing.)
Indeed there are too many red herrings to gut here, so I’d like to volunteer just three unsolicited answers to three of Dr Cullen’s gratingly chin-strokey rhetorical questions, not to defend the increasingly rubbish IT, but merely to illustrate the PLC’s wilful disregard for the facts they always claim to cherish.
Dr Cullen ponders why the IT did not report on the progress of the newborn in the Ms Y case. It did. Repeatedly. The IT duly reported in pretty much every article about the case that the infant was in care and progressing quite well. Save attempting to interview a 26-week-old newborn, what else was it to do?
“Why did [the case of the woman from Ireland who died in a London taxi after an abortion] merit only a fleeting mention in the Irish Times”? It didn’t. It merited front-page headlines (plural) over the days it broke (22 and 23 July 2013), then further prominent coverage in subsequent days. I’m not sure from what distorted vantage this constitutes “a fleeting mention”, unless Dr Cullen starts her morning read of the paper at the obituaries and works her way backwards. The case made (international) headlines precisely because legal abortion in appropriate medical environments has an enviable safety record.
Claiming or implying that a medical procedure that is 14 times safer than childbirth (Raymond and Grimes (2012)) is a danger to women’s lives by appealing to one tragic anomaly is anecdotal cherry-picking at its most transparently disingenuous.
Furthermore, Dr Cullen naturally neglects to mention that the woman in question had a medical condition that predisposed her to a high risk of miscarriage, and she had the abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation because, according to her partner, Ireland’s NIMBY abortion laws, which the PLC obviously supports, forced the couple to scrimp and save for the costs of abortion tourism. Perhaps, had she received an earlier-term abortion and the unbroken continuum of care she desired and deserved in her own country, well… The case is, if it’s to be used as an argument at all, more an argument against the dangerous hypocrisy of Ireland’s unceremoniously dumping its abortion-seekers on Blighty’s shores, as well as the false dichotomy between risk to health and risk to life in Irish abortion law.
“The onesidedness must leave the neutral observer wondering is the Irish Times so patronising as to think the public cannot be trusted to hear both sides of the story and make up their own minds”. Answer: Breda O’Brien, John Waters (until his petulant defection), numerous anti-choice op-eds, many from spokespersons from the PLC, countless Letters to the Editor from Catholic priests and bishops and other extreme natalists, etc. It could be argued that this in fact constitutes a disproportionately thorough airing of anti-choice sentiment, given its ever-dwindling currency among the population of 21st-century Ireland.
Perhaps, given all the above, a more apt and august opening gambit to the good doctor’s piece might have been found in the wisdom of Homer J Simpson: “You can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true. Facts schmacts”.

E Bates
Oxford, UK