Mind, Reviews

Still Feeling Physically Ill after Claire Byrne’s Referendum “Debate”? Some Practical Things You Can Do…

You’d be forgiven for thinking “Ah, there’s Claire now, tentatively bidding adieu to anything resembling order and dignity”. In fact, she was probably telling Dr. Peter Boylan that she’d be back to him in a minute, you know, once the horse had stopped bolting…

Before we get to the practicalities in the aftermath of the shit show, a few things need addressing. Personally, I’ve been feeling physically sick since watching the RTE’s shambolic show, which only served to make the rationally minded feel even more alienated in our homeland. Too sick to even consider opening a laptop yesterday, hence why I’m only getting around to posting about Claire Byrne Live today. On the upside, it means I can furnish you with a roundup of the fallout since the broadcast.

Firstly, RTE is defending Byrne’s handling of the “debate”, despite it being an absolute clusterfuck. In a statement released yesterday, our national broadcaster said:

“Last night’s Claire Byrne Live Referendum Special gave both the Yes and No campaigns an equal opportunity to air their arguments, which both sides did passionately and trenchantly. The panel was composed of three speakers on each side of the argument and the audience was evenly divided between Yes and No. Impartial analysis of Claire Byrne Live Referendum Special will show that when the number of speakers on each side of the referendum question and the airtime afforded to them are both taken into account, the programme gave an equitable and fair opportunity to both sides to express their views. While the programme did its best to include as many voices as it could, it was not possible to speak to everyone and it was made clear to every audience member in advance that there was no guarantee they would get to speak on the programme.”

To put this into context for those who didn’t witness the debacle, while Claire Byrne managed to grant airtime to five Anti-Choice GPs in a row, she failed to even acknowledge the four members of TMFR who were in the audience. The “hard cases” that were repeatedly being referred to and ignored.

It’s hard to even contemplate what it was like for the four members of TFMR who were in that baying audience who seemed to have 70% of the mic. NONE of them were given the chance to speak? People with actual stories. Had they been spoken to they probably would’ve have been booed, just like the No side booed at the mere mention of Savita – a woman who died because of this country.

This country is letting every person with a story down. Telling us to put up and shut up, while still forcing us to tell our stories, then demeaning those harrowing experiences, therefore demeaning us more.

A spokeswoman for TFMR Ireland, Claire Cullen Delsol, told TheJournal.ie that members of the Termination For Medical Reasons advocacy group “felt ‘dehumanised’ after the show and were distraught they were not able to take part in the debate.

Claire said: ‘They sat all through it and while they waited with their hands up, there were people discussing them. They never got a chance to respond to what people in the audience were saying about them… We were told to bring our IDs and to let them know the questions and comments you are going to make. But when it started the production team didn’t seem to know who was who. There was Yes and No campaigners mixed in together shouting each other down. It was very intimidating. The way people were picked seemed to be completely random’.”

Additionally, TFMR released the following statement regarding being forced to sit “beside and behind vehement, vocal 8th Amendment supporters, forced to listen to unmoderated whooping, cheering and clapping while the pain and trauma of the reality of fatal fetal anomalies, travelling for termination and loss was discussed… Not one woman affected by the 8th was given any time to speak, we waited respectfully for an opportunity, but the room became increasingly hostile, unpleasant and aggressive. ‘No’ campaigners in the audience were offered speaking time repeatedly and Claire kept going back to them but never once came to us.”

While a total of five GPS were randomly entertained from the No side, the Yes side were represented by Dr Mark Murphy, who – in the wake of the “debate” had these reassuring words which many are still clinging to…

The women of Ireland are not incubators. We are mothers to others, we’re often economically challenged thanks to this country, and swaddled in a system that doesn’t protect the most vulnerable. We have jobs to go back to and shouldn’t have to take over two weeks off to complete a miscarriage that didn’t have to happen in the first place. This patriarchal hangover needs to fuck off already because this country is no longer under the thumb of the Catholic Church, and they only have themselves to blame.

So, to the practicalities.

1. Send a complaint about RTE’s disgustingly overt bid for ratings to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. If you’ve not seen it as yet, considering watching it on RTE Player . Or don’t, because I wouldn’t wish this constant nausea on anyone. For a taster of what you’d be letting yourself in for, here’s a succinct summary via Joe.ie.

2. Go Canvassing. I know, it’s a big ask, but if you don’t have the energy levels to canvass, wear a badge or just talk to loved ones. Or, more importantly, listen to those who need to talk.

3. Give support who are fighting the good fight. Wearing a badge or a t-shirt, it’s hard work. You’re really putting yourself out there. So if you see someone wearing the heart literally on their lapel, give them a smile, a thumbs up, or holler your head off as appropriate.

4. Mind Yourself. Turn off your phone. Turn off the radio. Turn off the telly. Sit outside and listen to the birds tweeting instead.

We’ve got this.

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