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‘Public Order Act’ Chills Pro-life Protests

BY Jim Cosgrove

July 7, 1996 Issue | Posted 7/7/96 at 1:00 AM

 

DICK SPRING, the Irish Foreign Minister (and deputy prime minister or Tanaiste) appeared at the June 14 Washington, D.C. press conference of Irish President Mary Robinson. While she declined to comment on Ireland's Public Order Act, Spring did so after the press conference. He said the act was “a response to rising crime levels” and “late-night hooliganism.”

Members of Youth Defence, an activist pro-life group in Ireland, charge that police have also used the act to prevent them from displaying pictures of aborted children in public. Spring remarked that “I would certainly support” police in that. “There is a right to protest in Ireland,” he said, adding that “the test is reasonableness.” He said Youth Defence members “have gone way over the top” and have violated politicians’ “rights of privacy.” Spring said that he wasn't aware of a 1984 incident in Wexford, where Youth Defence demonstrators said that police linked arms and charged them, injuring one young woman so that she had to be hospitalized.

In an interview last year, Youth Defence chairwoman Niamh Nic Mhathuna called the Public Order Act a “draconian” law that “takes away all our constitutional rights.” She also criticized as hypocritical Spring's professed wish to be “cherishing the children” when, she said, “this is the man who wants to introduce abortion” to Ireland.

Last year the Irish Parliament authorized the circulation of information that shows where women can get abortions outside Ireland. In a June 13 telephone interview, Richard Greene, of the People of Ireland political party, said there has been “a significant percentage increase” in the number of Irish women going to England for abortions. He also declared that there is a drive to “make euthanasia acceptable to the Irish people.”

Green hopes his pro-life party can run “four or five good campaigns” and elect at least two people to the Lower House of the Irish Parliament. That will enable the party to “influence the agenda” there, he said, because it will make other politicians “afraid that they may lose their seats.”

—Mary Meehan