“Vote No” Photo Catalyses Debate

Eoghan Dalton Reports

A Waterford City Councillor says Councillors who posed for a photo last week outside City Hall bearing ‘Vote No’ posters have questions to answer if they campaign for 24/7 cardiac care as well. Cllr Mary Roche (Ind) is voting Yes to repeal the Eighth Amendment on May 25 and has strongly criticised the 14 Councillors who demonstrated before a sitting of Waterford City and County Council on Thursday last. As the photo was being taken, Cllr Roche said her colleagues’ action were disgraceful and they were “holding up those posters that are continuing a situation where they are putting those women’s lives at risk”.

The photo taken at City Hall on Thursday last (by reporter Eoghan Dalton) which catalysed a major reaction on social media that evening

The photo taken at City Hall on Thursday last (by reporter Eoghan Dalton) which catalysed a major reaction on social media that evening

Continuing, she said: “I don’t see the difference, for example, in why is it acceptable to put women’s lives at risks as a result of the Eighth Amendment but it’s not acceptable to put people’s lives at risk as a result of 24/7 [cardiac care]. Is there some hierarchy of lives? Does it matter if your life is put at risk just because you’re a woman? Or because your predicament arose because of what some perceive as a sin?”
The photo was organised by Cllrs Jason Murphy (FF) and Joe Kelly (Ind). Cllr Kelly said many people from all sides of the debate had disagreed with Cllr Roche’s comments and he felt no need to comment further. Cllr Murphy spoke to media after the photo was taken and said the cross-party nature of the group showed the diverse range of opinions on the debate.

He disagreed with gender based criticism of the photo, explaining that he believes abortion is a human rights issue. He added: “Fathers and mothers often take decisions together and I think fathers have to be included, and I don’t think anyone should be excluded from the debate. People have a right to their opinion whether they’re voting No or voting Yes.” He was not aware of the voting intentions of the three female Councillors aside from Cllr Roche but pointed to former Councillor and current TD Mary Butler, who is strongly vocal for a No vote. The spokesperson for the Health Equality for the South East campaign declined to comment on the matter.
Una Dunphy combines campaigning with both the Still Waiting Health Campaign and pro-choice Waterford Together for Yes group, and she wholeheartedly backs Cllr Roche’s comments. She said:

“I absolutely agree that standing for No in the referendum denies female bodily autonomy and queries the stance of those regarding medical care for all under the 24/7 cardiac care campaign. It could be argued that they care for issues that directly affect them but not so on issues of women’s health.”
She further pointed to how the photo has a majority of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Councillors in it, the parties she said are responsible for the “mishandling of our health service”. She added:
“I do question all who jump onto campaigns but deliver little and have no clear strategy beyond meeting ministers. It comes down to a question of ideology, which few politicians of the establishment come clean on. The 14 in the picture have expressed their opinion. I am of a different view that requests a Yes vote in the referendum, but I am also on a different page regarding 24/7 cardiac care. This pushes a National Health Service, for all, includes cardiac care services for the South East and the North West, but breaks with parish pump politics, which always delivers for some while taking from others.”

The other Councillors in the photo are Eamon Quinlan, John O’Leary, Ray Murphy, Michael J. O’Ryan, Tom Cronin, James Tobin (all FF), Liam Brazil, Seanie Power (both FG), Cha O’Neill, Seán Reinhardt, Séamus O’Donnell (all Ind) and Pat Fitzgerald (SF).
Aside from Cllr Roche, those voting Yes include John Hearne, Jim Griffin, Breda Brennan, Declan Clune, Siobhán Whelan (SF), Eddie Mulligan, Adam Wyse (both FF), John Carey, Damien Geoghegan (both FG). Cllr Pat Nugent (FG) will not be commenting publicly, citing his role as Mayor of Waterford City and County while attempts to contact Cllr Davy Daniels (Ind) have not been successful. Undecided to date are Declan Doocey (FG) and Blaise Hannigan (Ind). Fine Gael’s Lola O’Sullivan and John Cummins as well as independent Joe Conway are all refusing to comment on the issue. Cllrs Cummins and Conway have both said it is a matter for members of the Dáil and the Seanad. When asked if he would stand for either in future, Cllr Conway did not respond. However Cllr Cummins said he would reveal his thinking on the issue if elected to either house of the Oireachtas.

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