Letters to the Editor

Credit to Irish government in addressing legislation for AHR

The new Assisted Human Reproduction Bill (AHR) is generating much public interest with the myriad of issues it raises where religion, science and ethics collide. One use of AHR is to assist a person or couple in becoming pregnant. An egg is fertilised and the resulting embryo is grown for five days outside the body (in vivo) and then implanted into the womb. But what happens to the surplus of embryos used in all AHR procedures? There are four choices: freeze the embryos for later use, dispose of the embryos, donate them for research or allow them to be adopted by another person or couple. It is often the case in AHR procedures that either one or both of the gametes have been donated. Has the donor been made aware of or consented to the use of his or her genetic material to create a limited life for the purposes of research? Disposing of or donating embryos for research gives one pause for thought in light of the Eighth Amendment which protects the right to life of the unborn child. An embryo is an unborn child. This issue came before the Supreme Court of Ireland in 2009 where it was held that embryos living ‘in vivio’ ie outside the mother are not accorded the protections of Article 40.3.3 of the constitution. Can that ruling still be valid today, eight years on, in light of the fact that embryos can survive in vivo for 13 days and only last month a baby was born from an embryo that had been frozen for 24 years? AHR is also used to reduce a baby’s risk of being born with a genetic defect. In September 2016 the world’s first three parent baby was born. The mother’s egg contained healthy nuclear DNA but her mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) carried a mutation. That was removed and replaced with donor mtDNA after which the egg was fertilised and a healthy baby was born with three genetic parents. However, the arrival of the new, simple, CRISPR-Cas9 technique catapults editing the human genome into what can only be described as futuristic eugenics. Creating children or enhancing ourselves with traits like greater intelligence, musical ability or athleticism is here. By editing the human genome we consciously create someone different and those changes are passed onto future generations who are unable to consent to the manipulation of their genetics. The government must ensure that appropriate bioethical regulations are implemented and enforced. This legal gap allows a plethora of abuse including the dangerous trend of biohackers selling genetic modification kits to the public. The government must be applauded for stepping up to its responsibilities to address the legislation of AHR which many countries have circumvented by simply declaring a blanket ban on all AHR procedures and surrogacy. Reducing the risk of a baby being born with an inherited genetic condition is commendable; but, the uncontrolled use of human genetic engineering can lead to unforeseeable and damaging consequences for civil society.

Law Library, Dublin


No-one needs to hide their grief or remembrance in the shadows

We can use a lot of adjectives to describe the politics of the six counties in recent weeks – unbelievable, shocking, sad, frustrating etc etc. The one statement which sticks with me and that I feel is the crux of the problem was when I listened to a radio interview describing the commemorating of the dead.
The person said he didn’t mind republicans commemorating their dead “so long as they did it behind closed doors, away from the public view”. I feel this statement is indicative of the very fundamental problem in our society – there is only room for one tradition and the other is OK so long as it is not seen or recognised or given any credence... a touch of the back of the bus syndrome.

I don’t class myself in any way a victim, although being a republican from west Belfast like many others my childhood ended at 10 years old with British soldiers raiding and ransacking my home. My father-in-law was shot dead by the IRA, my brother shot by British soldiers, several cousins shot by loyalists, a friend’s 13-year-old sister murdered by a plastic bullet. So I think it is fair to say I have some understanding of loss and fear and anger.

No one death is more important than another. Just as we as republicans have the right to commemorate our dead in anyway we see fit, so too do others whether they are British or loyalist. We might not like to see British soldiers commemorated at our city hall but we must respect the right others have who wish to do these public displays.
There are many sides in every conflict and in building peace all sides must have due consideration.

So, if we can reach agreement that no-one needs to hide their grief or remembrance in the shadows; if we can agree to compassion and respect instead of hate and condemnation then there is hope. However, if we continue to declare superiority and dictatorship of one over the other we will be stuck in the quagmire of despair.
The interview statement struck me so sharply because we have come so far but it shows we still have a distance to go. We have to accept centotaph events as a right and so too are commemorative events for republicans.

Belfast BT12


Veganism is not a diet it’s a way of living

It occurs to me that the once treasured aspirations of peace and non-violence  are now regarded as something to be condemned and opposed.

The values promoted by Veganism are these very ideals once upheld by Ghandi or Martin Luther King and many good people fighting oppression.

How can wanting a non-violent world with less suffering be considered wrong? Of course if you are profiting financially from exploitation and use of others as in animal farming this colours your opinion and priorities. Veganism is not a diet, it is a way of living.

Ethical or ‘real’ vegans strongly believe that all creatures have the right to life and freedom. They therefore oppose ending a conscious being’s life simply to consume their flesh, drink their milk or wear their skin. This is totally unnecessary as is flesh as food as a variety of very healthy alternatives are available that cause no suffering to any being. Moral vegans are strictly opposed to the untold pain that animals endure as a result of modern farming practices or other uses like blood sports or entertainment.

People should not be vilified for wanting a kinder world. The shift in thinking away from the use of sentient beings who a right to live free of exploitation should be welcomed. Clearly a different stance is needed now to stop humans from their destruction of our world, Violence  and indifference is not the way.

Alliance for Animal Rights, Dublin


An taoiseach is not the nut case in this story

On Wednesday (January 17) the taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressed the European Parliament.
About Brexit he said:  “...we have insisted that there can be no return to a hard border on our island, no new barriers to the movement of people or to trade and it is why we are so deeply grateful for the remarkable solidarity and support we have received from member states.”

He spoke at length about Brexit in four languages, French, German, English and Irish. At the end of his speech he was given a standing ovation.

Then up pops Mr Sammy Wilson a DUP MP who stated: “It was always our view at the very start of this process that the biggest ally we would have when it came to negotiating with the European Union was Dublin…but since this nut case Varadkar has taken over  things have changed.”

This from a man whose only language is Ulster Scots ie English spoken with a Ballymena accent. There may be a nut case in this story and it is most definitely not Mr Leo Varadkar.

Newry, Co Down

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