It has been a shameful week for abortion campaigners, whose reprehensible actions have made it crystal clear to the public just how extreme, nasty, and intimidating many of them are. The thuggish behaviour of People Before Profit activists, and reports that staff at a hotel received threats - and even death threats - because they provided a venue for an event addressed by pro-life rape survivors, has been met with a storm of criticism online.
From the Independent, through the Journal and even the University Times, there was widespread condemnation in the comments sections of the papers regarding attempts to silence rape survivors and shut down free speech.
The Irish Independent
The University Times
Serious concern was expressed by TDs in the Dáil and in Seanad Éireann, with Peadar Toibín TD telling the Dáil that “these are rape survivors and they have been silenced, censored and shouted down. If it were any other group of people, there would be outrage in this chamber and in the media, yet we are dealing only with silence.” Later, TDs and Senators co-signed a statement condemning the forced cancellations of the pro-life event.
Against this mounting criticism, The Irish Times scrambled to provide some cover to abortion campaigners, suggesting that both sides were being censored.
Not so. Apparently pro-abortion meetings which were booked in community centres and GAA clubs were cancelled – but community centres and GAA clubs have always steered clear of political meetings, and there is no evidence that these cancellations were caused by pro-life campaigners. Hotels are different: they provide conferencing and event services for people of all persuasions and none.
They were forced to cancel meetings because of the aggression of abortion supporters.
The ugly truth is that abortion campaigners ran orchestrated campaigns to shut down meetings being addressed by rape survivors – trying to silence and censor women who had been assaulted, brutalised, and traumatised. When these women who had, despite all they had endured, found the tremendous, awe-inspiring, courage to speak publicly, those campaigning to repeal the 8th decided they must be silenced.
Workers’ Party Councillor Éilis Ryan described the rape survivors’ talk as ‘anti-woman’, and urged her followers to ensure the Spencer Hotel cancelled the meeting, just as she said Gibson Hotel had done.
Abortion activist Rebek’ah McKinney Perry described the rape survivors as “f***ers” and urged the Oh My God What a Complete Aisling Facebook page to target the Spencer Hotel.
McKinney Perry also helped to orchestrate calls to target the venue in Cork – the Silver Springs Hotel.
The Spencer Hotel cancelled the Unbroken Ireland meeting because, it told the Life Institute, it had received threats and a “line had been crossed” when staff from the hotel were tracked down on social media and targeted personally. The Journal reported that staff had received “death threats” online. People Before Profit’s activists in Trinity – Séan Egan and Conchuir O'Radaigh - tore down posters advertising the Unbroken Ireland event, because they found the images and words of these brave and inspiring women ‘vile’ and ‘offensive’. “F**k the anti-choice brigade,” was the message of these men, proud that they were silencing rape victims in the name of ‘choice’.
Laura Ní Chonghaile of Unbroken Ireland told the Independent that "There is no place in a democratic debate for this extremism, and for shouting down women who have been raped.”
"Is this the 19th century where aggressive men feel they can tear down our message and abuse us for sharing our experiences and having a point of view?" she asked.
In Cork, the Connolly Youth Movement removed up to 50 posters illegally, gloating about it on Facebook. The theft of posters and the evidence as to who took them has been reported to the Gardai.
There are many more examples of this ugliness online, not least a ‘hope’ that Rebecca Kiessling and Jennifer Christie would have their faces smacked with steel, but the good news is that, in this case, great courage was not beaten down.
Instead of being silenced, these women refused to be intimidated. The Unbroken Ireland meeting was held in a public square next to the Spencer Hotel at 8pm on Thursday evening, and the courage and dignity of the speakers moved many of the hundreds who came to stand witness with them to tears.
As candles lit the darkness, the words of Louise Sheridan, Shauna Prewitt, Laura Ní Chonghaile, Jennifer Christie and Rebecca Kiessling filled the public square and illuminated our understanding of what it means to give life to a child conceived in rape, but innocent of any crime.
Jennifer Christie had a message for her little boy - conceived in rape, and raised in love - and also for all those who are blinded by rage and intolerance and aggression.
“Love them louder,” she said. “Love them louder. Because only love can defeat hate.”
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