Judging by the apparent “swarming” of public meetings and events around the country by groups of anti-choice activists along with a series of bizarre publicity stunts at key locations, it seems that the No campaign’s access to American and British “pro-life” muscle and know-how is going to be a major factor in the forthcoming referendum on repealing the Eight Amendment of Bunreacht na hÉireann. If the Yes side loses the vote on the 25th of May it will not be so much a victory for the No side in Ireland as a victory for a closely-knit web of anti-abortion organisations in the United States of America and the United Kingdom who have turned the affairs of this island nation into a test case for “kicking back” against “liberal permissiveness” in their own home territories. What succeeds in Dublin will be translated to Washington and London, or lower down the state and regional scale, and by confusing the debate with a deluge of knowingly false facts and claims the conservatives’ so-called “rebellion” may well have its own “Trump” or “Brexit” day at the polls.
All this planning was evident from Monday’s episode of Claire Byrne Live on RTÉ, where the “balanced” audience was clearly infiltrated with a crowd of baying, clapping and cheering anti-choice supporters, many on intimate terms with the three leading No campaigners sitting on the interview platform. Indeed, at times it seemed that the conservative representatives on the panel had more control over the programme than the presenter herself, pointing to their associates in the audience for a comment or access to airtime, while haranguing those from the No side.
The best that one can hope for in the wake of the disastrous TV referendum special is that the audience at home saw through the charade and were as repelled and gobsmacked by the “pro-life” antics as I was (my seventy-three year old mother was so infuriated by the member of the odious Iona Institute that my brother had to take the TV remote from her hand before she fired it at the screen. Quite literally!). All in all, a bad day for Irish democracy and a good day for American and British religious fundamentalists and their Irish allies.