The core issue facing the Irish people is the protection of human life. Are we, as a society, going to give life the respect and protection it deserves or will we allow shocking abuses of human embryos to become legal in Ireland.
In 2005 the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (CAHR) issued an astonishing report, calling on the Government to permit lethal research on embryos, cloning of human embryos, destruction of frozen embryos, and a host of other abuses of human life.
All the ultra-liberal proposals they made were based on denying the human embryo outside the womb any human rights at all. Most Irish people do not agree. Most of us do not want to see human life being treated like garbage. Babies cannot, and should not, be simply created and destoyed for profit.
Many of us feel that there is something wholly unhealthy about the desire of some scientists to play God. Nature, as we saw with BSE, doesn’t like to be messed with and has a nasty habit of biting back. Some people may feel they know very little about issues like stem-cells and cloning. The truth is that we really just need to be clear on one simple, unshakable fact; we are all human from the moment of fertilisation. For that reason, human life deserves our respect.
Youth Defence's Spare Parts Campaign was rolled out over the summer months (2006) and continued into the autumn. The campaign, which is both an information and awareness campaign as well as facilitating lobbying, has thus far, been extremely successful in gathering opposition to the destruction of human embryos. It is the only nationwide public campaign organised to protect human life from conception, and comes at a crucial time when threats to the lives of unborn children come from many unexpected quarters.
YD members and supporters were busy distributing information, erecting posters, organising meetings, carrying out demonstrations and taking part in media interviews. On top of this our nationwide bus shelter advertisements and enormous campaign posters caused a huge stir around the country as more and more people took notice of them as the days went by.
The abortion referendum of 2002 underlined the importance of protecting early human life from dreadful abuses but embryo research has emerged as a major issue for the pro-life movement in Ireland. The Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (CAHR) was established in 2000 by the then Minister for Health and Children, Michéal Martin. Ever since then the Government's performance in protecting human life from conception has been disastrous. To begin with, the CAHR membership was completely unbalanced and biased towards those who favour the destruction of the human embryo. This was evident when the commission recommended by 24 votes to 1 that embryo research should be legalised in Ireland.
In April 2005, the CAHR released their overdue report and made very clear recommendations that would allow for the deliberate experimentation and destruction of human life. In fact, their recommendations were so anti-life that even some of the most liberal journalists acknowledged how difficult it would be to get them adopted. These recommendations allowed for human embryos to be frozen and then killed, for them to be cloned and for them to be screened for genetic disorders so that they could then be destroyed. Despite this, the report was handed over to the current Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, who swiftly passed it on to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for review.
In July 2005, the commission chairman, Fianna Fáil's John Moloney, promised to hold public hearings on the report so that there would be “equal opportunity for all sides in the debate to take part”. To date we've had no public hearings. Instead of holding hearings, Moloney decided to form a subcommittee to evaluate the report and invited Fiona O’ Malley of the PDs and Senator Mary Henry to join him on this subcommittee.
Meanwhile on July 24th Ireland backed a deal to give the go-ahead for the EU to fund embryonic stem cell research in certain EU states. In true Fianna Fáil fashion, the funding was rejected by the Fianna Fáil MEPs at the European Parliament but was given the green light by Minister Michéal Martin at the Council of Ministers which had the final say on the matter. Thanks to this, EU finances, which includes Irish tax-payer’s monies will, for the first time, be used to fund this unethical, immoral and unnecessary practice.
Minister Martin consistently refused to join seven other EU countries who were opposed to the funding. In order to appease the consciences of those who were annoyed at his decision, the Minister kept reassuring us that his vote had nothing to do with allowing embryo research take place in Ireland but rather helping to fund it in those countries where it was permissible. He said that “Ireland should not start lecturing other countries in terms of what they should do.” However, he also admitted that he is “open” to the prospect of embryo research taking place in Ireland. If nothing else, this vote shows the complete hypocrisy of the Fianna Fáil party as they continue to play both cards on the issue of embryo research.
And so at the time of print we are still awaiting the outcome of John Moloney's subcommittee and the decisions they will reach regarding the report of the CAHR. We've had no public debate, we've had no hearings or submissions, we've had no honest media reports on this issue and once again, it was left up to YD supporters and volunteers to inform the public of what the government is planning to do.
YD's No Exceptions Campaign forced this issue into the public domain and encouraged people to look beyond the media hype and misinformation and read the facts about embryonic stem cell research. And the facts are clear:
As the campaign continues we hope and pray that as many people as possible will be made aware of the truth, and that sufficient pressure will be put on the government not to legislate in favour of embryo destruction in this country.
Information Leaflet : 170,000 + distributed
The amount of leaflets that were distributed in such a short space of time exceeded all our expectations. We had ordered 120,000 of them and within the space of three short weeks there was not a single one remaining in our office. It is a testimony to your commitment and hard-work that we found it difficult to keep up with the demand for leaflets. Another 50,000 were ordered and distributed, with more to come.
The leaflet clearly explained why destroying human embryos is always wrong and how this barbaric practise is of no benefit to mankind. It also informed people of the benefits of using adult stem cells and how these ethically legitimate and scientifically non-problematic cells are providing cures and successful treatments for patients. Finally the leaflet encouraged people to be vocal in their opposition to embryonic stem cell research and to contact the offices of Bertie Ahern and Mary Harney to object to the legalisation of these experiments in Ireland.
These leaflets were distributed nationwide at churches, shopping centres, major public events, Knock shrine and, thanks to the enormous efforts of volunteers, door to door. Many people are now realising the myths and lies that the media promote about embryo research as well as the therapeutic benefits of adult stem cells. They were shocked to learn that the government are making plans to have embryo research legalised here in Ireland. The information leaflets were crucial to the campaign and we were delighted when people told us that they had seen our posters once they saw the front of the leaflet.
Our No Exceptions website (www.embryoresearch.org) was promoted on all the campaign literature and highlighted in media interviews. It is an excellent source of information for people and allows users to contact TD's easily through email. The website is updated regularly with news pieces and also with comments from various scientists, doctors and other experts who give testimony as to the rights of the human embryo. Our leaflets and posters, and the comprehensive No Exceptions report, are available to download from the website. It also includes a video of the excellent speech given by Dr David Prentice at the 4th International Pro-Life and Family Conference hosted by YD and the Mother & Child Campaign in March.
Media Interviews : 35
Both local and national media were extremely interested in our campaign and most of the media coverage worked to the advantage of the campaign. In particular, radio interviews - 35 of them and counting - gave us ample opportunity to explain the issues involved in embryo research and allowed us to promote the website we had developed for the campaign so that people could get more information. Several radio presenters remarked on the professionalism of the campaign and the wealth of information made available in the No Exceptions report and website.
Although the print media generally have a pro-embryo research editorial policy, YD's campaign forced them to at least acknowledge the ethical problems and the lack of success that is associated with this research. Sinead Ryan of the Evening Herald, in an article that was bizarrely critical of our posters, wrote that “Scientists - like the rest of us - are divided about the benefits and ethics of stem cell research”. Patsy McGarry of The Irish Times resorted to quoting ancient beliefs instead of modern day science to back up his point of view and Ian O’Doherty in the Indo was simply furious. The Irish Times did print our poster in full colour; a great advert for the campaign.
Bus Shelter Advertisements
The advertising component of our No Exceptions Campaign was officially launched at a press conference in Dublin on the 14th of August. These large, striking and hard-hitting bus shelter advertisements were displayed nationwide and caused a huge stir across the country. The caption on the advert - “Don’t use me for spare parts” - summed up the real nature of embryo research and got people thinking seriously about the issue. We received many calls to our office and visits to our No Exceptions website as a result of these posters. They directly led to many of the media interviews that we conducted as part of the campaign.
Campaign Posters : 2000
Due to soaring cost of advertising we decided to invest in 2,000 campaign style posters as an effective way of spreading the message as cost-effectively as possible. These posters carried the same message as the bus shelter advertisements and were erected on lamp poles the length and breadth of the country by our marvellous volunteers. God Bless their dedication.
The posters caused much interest in the campaign because,unlike at times of elections and referenda, there were no other posters on the poles. They grabbed the attention of people in towns all over the country from Donegal to Cork, who then contacted our office for more information. The posters were an excellent way of increasing awareness of the campaign.
Inphotos - the photo and print website said:
"In one fell swoop they reduced a very complex issue to the simple image of a smiling baby. The poster itself does have impact however."
And a blogger on the site agreed:
" Very political. I'm not sure where I stand in this matter, but it's a good punchline nonetheless."
As part of the No Exceptions Campaign, advertisements were placed in the Alive! newspaper and the Irish Family, with others to come. The advertisement explained to people the current threat to unborn human life and encouraged people to call the office of the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach to object to any legislation that would allow for embryo destruction in Ireland. Between these adverts, and the leaflets being distributed, many hundreds of phone calls have been made to both offices and they are still incoming.
Mary Harney's office was receiving so many calls that they tried to deflect callers to Michéal Martin’s office and eventually resorted to taking the phone off the hook completely. We are building a register of all the complaints so that the level of opposition to destructive embryo research cannot be denied.
On 30th September and 2nd October Youth Defence will hold two information meetings in Dublin and Cork. These meetings will feature Jacki Rabon from the US. She suffered a spinal cord injury as the result of an accident and consequently became paralysed. After being treated with adult stem cells in Portugal, Jacki can now walk with the assistance of leg braces. She is a promoter of ethical adult stem cell therapy and vigorously opposes using and destroying human embryos for any reason. Jacki is a living witness to the amazing ability of adult stem cells to help treat people and is also a strong defender of human life.