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Iona to address Citizens’ Assembly

By Susan Gately - 18 February, 2017

Maria Steen from the Iona Institute

The Iona Institute has been invited to make a presentation to the Citizens’ Assembly on abortion at the weekend of its penultimate sitting, on Sunday 5 March.

David Quinn, Director of the Iona Institute, told CatholicIreland that he received the invitation on Monday of this week. The Iona presentation, which will be made by Maria Steen, is to last ten minutes with time for questions and answers at the end.

The think-tank for religion and society has already made a written submission to the Assembly which concentrated on the reasons why Ireland should not hold a referendum on this matter.

Iona’s oral submission will be based around its written submission, which asks questions such as: “Do we have a right to take the life of other human beings? Would we even consider holding a referendum to remove the right to life of any other category of human being? If we tried, we might first strive to convince ourselves that they are not human or that it is a matter of opinion whether they are human.“

Other groups representing both sides on the abortion issue have been invited to address the Assembly on 5 March, but a spokesperson for the Citizen’s Assembly told CatholicIreland they were not releasing the names of the groups they have approached as they are still waiting for responses to some of the invitations.

The Citizens’ Assembly invited the general public to submit written opinions and contribute to the discussion on the Eighth Amendment in October 2016. Thirteen thousand submissions were received. According to the PLC,  a majority expressing support for the retention of the Eighth Amendment.

Of the 13,000 submissions, over 10,000 are already available online. A Citizen’s Assembly spokesperson said that putting the submissions online was a slow process, as each submission had to be checked three times and some were redacted on request.

Because of the huge volume of submissions, the Assembly organisers have decided to focus the attention of Assembly members on a random sample of 300 submissions. However, there is nothing to stop a member, like other members of the public, from viewing the written submissions which are online at www.citizensassembly.ie.

At its last deliberation, the Assembly considered submissions from 118 advocacy groups, interest groups and political parties. A majority of these favour running a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

Meanwhile the Pro Life Campaign (PLC), which has been monitoring the working of the Assembly, has accused it of failing in its remit of presenting an “impartial review of the Eighth Amendment”, instead presenting “an almost completely one-sided and biased view of this life-saving provision.”

In its Vital Signs newsletter it says that “Disgracefully, it [the Assembly] has heard presentations from groups such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Britain’s largest abortion provider who opposed any restrictions on abortion in England, including even a ban on sex selection abortions which specifically target baby girls.”

It says that “The case for keeping the Amendment and the stories of the lives saved by it have been largely ignored.” The PLC is appealing to the public to contact their TDs to raise concerns over the Citizens’ Assembly’s “flawed process”.

Members of the public can make representations at: http://prolifecampaign.ie/main/citizensassembly/.

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