In early 1977 word circulated round West Belfast that abortion was a “British plot to decrease production of children in Ireland”. It came during the heights of Women’s Lib and period of intense efforts to roll back the 1967 Act in Britain.
The leaflet was allegedly produced by the Provisional movement and not to be outdone, censors in the Republic were busy combating the Saxon menace in banning Spare Rib Magazine. To this day posters on lamp post draw dubious comparison with England and say “don’t brings this to Ireland”.
There is certainly no doubting the extent of deviousness deployed by Britain on these shores. In what has turned out to be genuine state directed conspiracy at least 20 people had been murdered by the Glenanne Gang the previous year, however the abortion plot has scarcely been mentioned since. It is, after all, still a Westminster Act that prevails north and south. For now.
A more recent shade of this line was promoted by former PIRA Volunteer Gerry McGeough who published “The Hibernian” between 2006 and 2008. Under the tag line “Faith, Family and Country” the magazine contained a scorching mix of pseudo- Gaelic fascism, seeking a “return to Catholic Order” and featured regular contributions penned by members of Youth Defence. Alongside the machinations of British imperialism, abortion was also soon linked to a wider, often satanic, globalist conspiracy.
McGeough resigned from the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle in 2003 claiming the party “has been heavily infiltrated by homosexual activists and British double agents. A lot of republicans can’t fathom the liberal values of the leadership. They do not understand why they are pursuing a liberal British agenda. Immigration is a massive concern and there are a lot of people who are not happy with the level of immigration”.
McGeough was recently quoted by Reuters at last month’s Save The 8th rally having organised “several busloads” from Tyrone with the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Co-founder of The Hibernian was Charles Byrne who last popped up in 2013 when he and fellow Youth Defence activists had liberal priest Fr Iggy O’Donovan removed from his parish in Drogheda.
Sometimes dark forces really are out to get you.
A barely watered down version of this tradition continues with the Alive! newspaper available monthly in Catholic churches and through your letterbox since 1996. As a sort of ultramontane tabloid, Alive! is run by Fr. Brian McKevitt and comes with a disclaimer that the “content of this newspaper and the views expressed in it are those of the editor and contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Irish Dominican Province”.
McKevitt, who once compared masturbation to drink driving, set up ‘Women Hurt by Abortion’ following the original Eighth Amendment Campaign before it was reanimated recently by Catholic activists Bernadette Goulding and Lynn Coles. The lobby group left many bemused last year for sending not women, hurt or otherwise, but a US based male activist to speak at the Citizen’s Assembly.
There is no issue too big, small or indeed random for Alive! where singing nuns and the threat of nuclear submarines can sit along side the ethics of Christians practising yoga. The latest Hollywood blockbusters are dissected for anti-family propaganda and miraculous medal are flogged promising all sorts of cures.
The current issue claims no less than Karl Marx himself is behind the Repeal movement in Ireland. While many wish big daddy K’s influence was such in this country, his writing probably better explains vast changes in recent decades than causes it. Instead, the Catholic Right cling to various tales amounting to Walter Benjamin and Nell McCafferty hatching the sexual revolution from their hollowed out volcano lair.
Against this the Alive! editorial lambastes “indifference” claiming
“surrender before the first shot is fired: that has largely been the policy, or at least the practice, of the Catholic Church in Ireland over the past 60 years. Again and again she capitulated, barely showing a flicker of fighting spirit”.
It goes on to praise for Trump, fascist Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán and three less flattering articles on George Soros.
Farage, Le Pen, Ganley and other far-right figures are routinely lauded in between advocacy of corporal punishment, rampant Islamophobia, and War-on-Christians outrage. A regular feature is sensationalist articles regarding medicine – particularly anything to do with women’s health and contraception. A young girl in Ohio sprouted hooves after going on the pill, and what have you.
Bizarre adverts for even stranger organisations offer training for young men to Fight and Defeat! anti-Christian forces. MEN of IRELAND are called to climb Croagh Patrick to stop abortion.
The Media Watch section and indeed much of each issue has been given over to the notion that prochoice sentiment is entirely media driven. While I tend to agree that Irish journalists saunter hand in hand with Satan, in reality, you can count on one hand the number of repeal supporters impressed by coverage of the issue and most of those work in the media. The repeal newspaper conspiracy must be operating at such a high level given most editors and journalists know little about the campaign itself.
Those running Savethe8th have invited American film makers here to make propaganda videos about the death of Savita. In 2013 they appeared in an advert for US Catholic television. They spoke in grave terms about a “tsunami of the culture of death racing toward Ireland’s shore” and the donations required to stop it. When questioned during Oireachtas hearings, Caroline Simmons, legal advisor to the Prolife Campaign, pretended to know nothing about it despite appearing herself.
That same year Renua candidate and Vatican Embassy campaigner, Mary Fitzgibbon investigated whether Clare Daly and Ivana Bacik were involved in the occult. Accusation of witchcraft surfaced again this year centred on Katherine Zappone and child sacrafice. A firm favourite of mine was recent suggestion that Micheál Martin’s surprise support for Repeal is based on the presence in his constituency of Pfizer, who manufacture misoprostol.
Extremism is rife. Some anti-choice campaigners can be found wondering if material in circulation is a ‘false flag’ given the nature of content and claims made. Others see larger organisations as too compromising and there were those asking if Youth Defence were even prolife at all.
In 2011, satirical site The Onion published news of an “$8 billion Planned Parenthood Abortionplex” complete with “amenities such as coffee shops, bars, dozens of restaurants and retail outlets, a three-story nightclub, and a 10-screen multiplex theater”. This spread with dismay through anti-choice corners online and was raised by two US Congressmen. Such is how these people have been conditioned to believe anything.
While some may genuinely believe George Soros eats infants and others get very Old Testament altogether – sincerely linking natural disasters and recent extreme weather to a decision to hold the referendum in May, the month of of Our Lady.
Others are simply opportunistic in how they sow disinformation but there an important distinction to make here. Many of the prominent, most committed voices are trained liars with absolutely no regard for fact or truth. Some are hardened, seasoned brawlers, others are cutting their teeth but all share the will to use dirty tricks if it will push the the right buttons. So much of their propaganda can be written off as crude but there is also a sophisticated, workmanlike element in how they use emotional triggers.
While billboards ventriloquising babies urging us to stand up and fight are straight from first world war propaganda, long before the internet, anti-choice campaigns have been an epicentre of fake news. They have for decades exploited a lack of information around sex, reproduction and women’s health to spread fear and disinformation.
The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommends
….a thorough review of sexual health and relationship education, including the areas of contraception and consent, in primary and post-primary schools, colleges, youth clubs and other organisations involved in education and interactions with young people. Sufficient time must be provided in the school’s curriculum for such education and it should be taught by suitably qualified personnel. The information should be provided in an impartial and factual manner that is independent of school ethos.
During the 2012 Republican primaries, Senator Todd Akin hit headlines with his thoughts on “legitimate rape” and claims that the “female body has ways to shut that whole thing down”. The fallout eventually hit our shores when focus came on the information and groups spreading it in Irish schools. A trail led back to Savethe8th founders at the Life Institute who were forced to hastily remove an identical claim from their own website.
Iona Institute affiliated Pure In Heart also deleted their website following media scrutiny and similarly dubious information has been shared in schools by ‘The Precious Life Guide to Sex. A ‘Secondary Education’ company called Lifeworks lists Cora Sherlock, Ruth Cullen and other Prolife Campaign affiliates as directors.
Recent accounts show an impressive turnover of €64,700. This figure is important to remember because there is a lot more than ‘ethos’ at stake as the RSE in schools debate intensifies.
Perhaps one of the more impactful trends is how a global network of anti-choice websites have incubated and laundered far-right causes and talking points into the broader Conservative media before they eventually reach mainstream. In recent years you can draw an easy line of stories surfacing on fundamentalist US media before appearing in places like The Spectator or British Telegraph just as occurs with Fox News in the states. Given how easily this stuff reaches the US president, what effect here in Ireland?
Take for instance a persistent meme of recent years – the question of “why is no one reporting the Christian genocide in the middle east?”. A media industry arose around 2013 onward to ask this question over and over. People were far more invested in the notion of media black-out than concern for the crime itself..
Underlying this is a hierarchy of victims with Christians deserving greater sympathy and against this background, Iona Institute director David Quinn queried why LGBT persecution in Russia received significant coverage “instead” and there was suggestion that Christian refugees should be prioritised.
Racism and Xenophobia in various forms have certainly been recurring among many prominent though not all committed Irish activists. Anti-abortion is part of a broader political project for some but for many this is not the case and in today’s climate we must ask what is the effect of being plugged into networks where anti-choice content is produced?
In an age where single articles are shared on social media, a link to one everyday anti-abortion story will often lead to a menu replete with anti-Semitism, white supremacy and end of civilisation sensation. Supporters of the Eighth Amendment are very often only one click away from darker corners of the internet and this will surely have other consequences.
Like most Irish industries, the Soros conspiracy is an American import. The massive LIFENEWS have articles on the subject as early as 2003. White Supremacist Breitbart News have published nearly 25,000 articles tagged: abortion and over 2000 on Ireland. I need not explain the extent of dubious ideas currently being smuggled under the cloak of protecting ‘Christian values’, ‘religious freedom’ and so on. American and other involvement in Irish anti-choice activity is nothing new but it takes on a fresh dimension when common cause is found with frog waving online misogynists. Such alliances are already underway Stateside
The very first act of president George W Bush was signing an Executive Order limiting funds to prochoice NGOs and he left office lauded as “the prolife movement’s best friend”. His war received massive support from the God-fearing media. They have played a central role in fostering the post-911 racism and climate of white society under siege.
Irish anti-choice campaigns regularly write for these sites and disseminate content on social media. They have long been part of these networks and share common anxiety of about a way of life under attack.
Today’s columnists under the impression they are being clever ‘asking questions’ about Islam or political correctness must be aware that long before even the Daily Mail there are massive American outlets who wrote the rule book.
It is sort of quaint that the tedious Irish opinion page contrarian believes they are writing something original when following a template set down over a decade ago by news organisations quite literally built on a foundation of anti-feminism.
And this is what it all comes back to in the end.
Whether people believe the stings are pulled by RTÉ, billionaire investors or Satan himself, anti-choice conspiracies should be seen for exactly what they are.
Another form of sexism that seeks to erase the enormous amount of work women are doing.
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