TV & Radio

Obvious pattern on abortion in the media
Last weekend offered great debate on prominent moral issues, writes Brendan O'Regan

Roisin Ingle

It’s not often you get  interviews where the topic for discussion gets space to breathe, so it was good to hear Michael Comyn speaking with Dr Mark Dooley on last weekend’s Sunday Spirit (RTÉ Radio 1 Extra). 

The occasion was Dooley’s new book Moral Matters – A Philosophy of Homecoming. It wasn’t just an item that provoked deep thought – the issue of how we approach thinking was one of the topics discussed. 

Another concept prominent in his own thinking was rootedness – as one who had returned to his Catholic faith after detours, he found it in heritage and sacraments. He thought we needed to be conscious of our past, of the wisdom of our departed ones, a process he likened to ‘listening to ghosts’. 

He wasn’t happy with caricatures of conservatism and suggested we’d get a better sense of it if we regarded it instead as conservationism, a much more popular concept today. Yes, he had been disturbed by Church scandals, but in a way thought we shouldn’t be shocked by them as the Church was made up of flawed human beings. He believed in the reality of evil, especially when people did cruel things in a calculating way, even relishing the pain of others.

Other deep cultural issues surfaced last week. Those coming from a pro-life perspective got some good political news for a change when the British House of Commons defeated a bill on ‘assisted dying’ (aka killing?). 

Last Friday night’s Newsnight on BBC 2 covered the issue, but, after a few clips of contributions to the debate, had a studio discussion that featured only Lesley Close, a right-to-die campaigner who had helped her brother get to a group that practised ‘assisted dying’. So much for balance. 

Tellingly, the interviewer, James O’Brien, admitted being constrained in his questioning, saying that as he, unlike his guest, hadn’t a personal investment in the issue, he therefore hesitated to ‘pick an argument’. 

Covering the same issue, last weekend’s Sunday Sequence on BBC Radio Ulster featured two blatant media bias strategies… the personal story vs reason and the traditional two-to-one panel. Dr Roselle Ward of the Christian Medical Fellowship was under pressure from Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland and law lecturer Nick Cartright. Partly because of the setup, with Dr Ward on the defensive, it was a fractious debate.

On another right to life front the media gave lots of publicity last weekend to a new book from journalist Róisín Ingle. Interestingly, the most highlighted part of the book was her admission that she’d had an abortion, something she says she didn’t regret and felt was right for her. 

This issue was prominent when she was interviewed on Marian Finucane (RTÉ Radio 1) last Saturday morning. She accepted that some women regret their abortions but she didn’t. It struck me that from one point of view this doesn’t matter as lots of terrible things have been done by people who didn’t think or feel they were doing anything wrong. Emotion is powerful but not always a sound guide to morality. 

The interview was not that challenging and the humanity of the baby in question was ignored, but Marian Finucane did point out to Ingle that some regard abortion as murder and that for some women abortion means their lives “ruined by guilt and regret”. Will we hear some of their stories on a future show? 

Notably, it wasn’t just a personal story as Ingle was promoting a pro-choice ideology and advocating a change in the law.

The story was also flagged on that morning’s It Says in the Papers (also RTÉ Radio 1) along with a story about the seizure of illegal abortion pills, which in turn was linked to a call for a change in legislation. 

Then, that Saturday night on the RTÉ 1’s Nine News there was coverage of a meeting calling for the repeal of the 8th Amendment that gives equal rights to mother and unborn baby. The gloss has surely gone off the recent popularity of ‘equality’. Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign did get to make a contribution to that report. 

By last Monday morning It Says in the Papers was reporting comedian Tara Flynn, also admitting an abortion. 

Would it be paranoid to see a pattern here and a fresh media-supported campaign to undermine the 8th Amendment? Just asking.


Pick of the Week

EWTN, Saturday, September 19, 8.30pm and Sunday 10am

EWTN’s live coverage of Pope Francis’ papal visit to Cuba.


RTÉ Lyric FM, Sunday, September 20, 8am
Sacred music featuring harpist Andrew Lawrence-King, music by two members of the Bach family and recordings from the new choir of Merton College, Oxford.


EWTN, Thursday, September 24, 2pm (repeat Friday, 8am)

Pope Francis delivers his address to Congress.