Min­is­ter’s open­ing ad­dress en­sures sum­mer school started with a bang

New Ross Standard - - NEWS -

CHIL­DREN’S MIN­IS­TER Katherine Zappone launched an im­pas­sioned plea for the Gov­ern­ment to move on the ref­er­en­dum for re­peal­ing the 8th amend­ment at the Kennedy Sum­mer School on Thurs­day night.

Ms Zappone was greeted at St Michael’s The­atre by a silent protest of al­most 30 Pro Life cam­paign­ers who trav­elled some dis­tances to at­tend, a few of whom were car­ry­ing young chil­dren.

She warned that Ire­land can only be­come a true ‘Re­pub­lic of Equals’ when the Eighth Con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment is re­pealed and the State stops treat­ing an un­born foe­tus as equal to a woman.

The Dublin TD warned that Ir­ish politi­cians can no longer hide be­hind the avail­abil­ity of abor­tion in the UK to avoid deal­ing with one of the most dif­fi­cult and di­vi­sive is­sues to have faced Ire­land.

The in­de­pen­dent TD said it was an hon­our for her to open the sum­mer school. She said it is easy to imag­ine the late pres­i­dent hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on to­day’s world, adding that he could have been a ‘guid­ing hand’ to guide the world through these tur­bu­lent times.

‘We can take great en­cour­age­ment that the Kennedy legacy and vi­sion lives on. It is needed in these un­cer­tain times.’

Kennedy Sum­mer School Co-di­rec­tor Larry Don­nelly, who is a pro­fes­sor at NUI Gal­way, said it waas fit­ting that on the cen­te­nary of Pres­i­dent John F Kennedy’s birth, that the pro­gramme would be the big­gest and best yet.

He thanked chargé d’af­faires of the US Em­bas­say Reece Smyth and em­bassy po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor Faith Colvin for at­tend­ing, along with the speak­ers who trav­elled from Amer­ica to at­tend the three day sum­mer school.

Af­ter­wards, in a key­note speech Ms Zappone staunchly backed the cam­paign for the amend­ment to be re­pealed, warn­ing that women must be given full rights over their own bod­ies. She ac­knowl­edged that the loom­ing de­bate over abor­tion “will trou­ble many.”

‘As long as the Con­sti­tu­tion treats a foe­tus as equal to a woman, her au­ton­omy can be noth­ing more than a myth,’ she warned.

The re­marks sparked a storm of crit­i­cism on so­cial me­dia from Pro Life cam­paign­ers.

Ms Zappone warned that Ire­land needed to tackle the is­sue.

‘As a woman, a pro­gres­sive, a cam­paigner and a Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter I firmly be­lieve we need a sys­tem of re­pro­duc­tive jus­tice – which must in­clude a ref­er­en­dum on re­pro­duc­tive rights. That is why re­peal­ing the Eighth amend­ment is about re­pro­duc­tive rights for all women, in­clud­ing those who want to con­tinue with their preg­nan­cies. Of course, for those who don’t the amend­ment means they can­not ac­cess abor­tion in Ire­land.’

She said tens of thou­sands of women have al­ready paid the price for Ire­land’s stance on equal rights

‘As we know ev­ery year thou­sands travel, un­known num­bers im­port and take the abor­tion pill, and more still self-harm to end their preg­nan­cies,” she said. We do not know how many thou­sands of women have con­tin­ued with preg­nan­cies against their will since 1983.

‘We do know that women with­out means, with­out visas, with­out free­dom from abu­sive and op­pres­sive part­ners are de­nied their rights. The avail­abil­ity of abor­tion in Eng­land has al­lowed gen­er­a­tions of politi­cians to avoid this hard con­ver­sa­tion.’

That time, she ar­gued, has now come to an end.

She said: ‘I know this raises com­plex ques­tions that trou­ble many, and I ac­knowl­edge and re­spect that,’ while warn­ing that Ir­ish women must ad­dress the long-over­due is­sue of proper equal­ity.

‘It (the Eighth amend­ment) op­presses us with the bur­den of choice­less­ness.’

Ms Zappone chose the open­ing of the Kennedy Sum­mer School in New Ross, Co Wex­ford to de­liver her key­note ad­dress on the re­peal of the Eighth amend­ment and her pol­icy pri­or­i­ties over the re­main­ing term of the Fine Gael-led Gov­ern­ment.

The Dublin TD said she was in­spired through­out her po­lit­i­cal life by the legacy of Pres­i­dent Kennedy.

She spoke of how her late wife Dr Ann Louise Gil­li­gan - who died in 2015 - worked at the Mercy Sec­ondary School in New Ross, break­ing down with emo­tion at one point.

Ms Zappone was cheered as she left the stage.

Min­is­ter Katherine Zappone and Charge d’Af­fairs Reece Smyth.

Pro­test­ers out­side St Michael’s The­atre last Thurs­day.

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