As Ireland moves towards a plebiscite on revoking the restrictive 8th Amendment of Bunreacht na hÉireann, some observers have noted the increased presence of anti-abortion campaigners in Dublin city, and quite possibly in other places around the country, with very obvious non-Irish accents. Indeed, I’m aware myself of a local B&B on the north side of the capital where a number of “mature students” from the United States with suspected ties to a pro-life grouping in Chicago are being accommodated. Not for the first time, this faith-based foreign intervention into our constitutional affairs has come to the attention of the domestic press in the US, as can be seen in this piece from the New York Times:
Of the eight members of the anti-abortion Irish Center for Bio-Ethical Reform who protested outside the offices of The Irish Times on a recent weekday, only three — including the group’s leader, Jean Engela — are Irish. The others include Americans and a Hungarian.
The protests — relatively small but highly visible here in the Irish capital — are an emblem of the strong emotions as the country prepares to vote in late May…
After recent revelations about the misuse of Facebook data to sway Britain’s referendum on European Union membership in 2016, and the United States presidential election later that year, fears are growing similar tactics might be used in the referendum campaign.
The Save the 8th Campaign, an anti-abortion group, has hired Kanto Systems, a London-based political consultancy, to help run its campaign.
Kanto Systems’s founder, Thomas Borwick, was chief technology officer for the Vote Leave campaign in Britain, and developed a canvassing app for Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining organization that exploited Facebook data on behalf of the 2016 Trump campaign.
The Times of London reported that the Pro Life Campaign, Ireland’s largest umbrella anti-abortion group, has retained uCampaign, a Washington firm that has developed apps for the Trump campaign, the National Rifle Association, the Republican National Committee and Vote Leave.
The NYT notes that the Pro Life Campaign failed to respond to requests for a comment. Mashable reported on uComment in late 2016:
The Trump campaign, the Brexit “Leave” campaign, the National Rifle Association and pro-life Catholics all have at least one thing in common: Their apps.
Behind many of the apps of the conservative movement is one company, uCampaign.
uCampaign burst onto the Republican tech scene when it developed an app for Ted Cruz during the early days of the Republican presidential primary race last year. Cruz gained some buzz for using technology to fundraise and send voting reminders amid a not-so-digitally inclined GOP field.
Since then, the company has pitched itself to conservative candidates and interest groups as a developer that understands their values — unlike those other left-leaning tech companies.
It’s a reality that Thomas Peters, founder of uCampaign, doesn’t try to hide.
“We’re a center-right company,” Peters told Mashable. “It’s easier to do things like work with the Republican nominee.”
Of course, the data-exploiting activities of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump in the United States and the isolationist Vote Leave campaign in the United Kingdom are rather better known through the recent exposes of the UK firm Cambridge Analytica and its unacknowledged Canadian associate AggregateIQ.