My speech in favour of allowing Conscientious Objection on Abortion (motion 95) at #SFAF18

Update: for clarity, this is the entire original text, with parts edited into 90 second speech in bold.

Speaking in favour of Motion 95, with reference to 93, but independent of it.

Motion 93 seems to effectively place the default value of the unborn – however we regard that – at zero.

It is not actually necessary to regard the unborn as fully human, or a full person, or fully sentient to find that problematic, it is only necessary to regard that value as greater than zero.

Motion 93 implies, that because it is frankly unlikely that we can legislate for certain circumstances, it is therefore impossible for the state – or the community it represents – to have any say in the process.

It reduces the entire question of when human rights begin, of when sentience and consciousness become worth protecting, to a medical issue; but one entirely absent from such concerns.

This is a deeply ideological decision, a value judgement, collectively made.

If by default it is to imply and assign a zero value, that value judgement will cascade through all the institutions of the state.

I appreciate that there is a valid concern too, that if we allow conscientious objection on this, where does it stop?

But this fear is misplaced.

The subject is one of relatively few, where we have a unique overlap of some of the great questions of humanity for the past millennia:

What is it to be human? A person? What are the limits of personal autonomy, or of state power? What is consciousness, or sentience, and how far are we obliged to respect or protect them?

History demonstrates: it is a duty of thinking people to question, and challenge, any consensus or majority view on these questions:

Who gets defined in, and more importantly, who or what gets defined out of the protective fold of humanity.

It is a contradiction to both advocate for cultural and intellectual diversity, and yet prevent functional dissent on such uniquely contested topics.

No matter what your sincerely held views on 93, I ask you to vote in favour of 95.

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Battle of Ross 1798 re-enactment: Sat 16/June 2pm

The Battle of Ross from the 1798 Rebellion will be re-enacted by a group of 1798 re-enactors on Mary St/Quay St in New Ross on Saturday 16th June at 1400hrs.

The Battle will take approx 45 minutes in the town centre.

Onlookers will be treated to a recital by the Carrigbyrne Pike Choir at the Tholsel at approx 1500hrs, immediately following the Battle.

The re-enactors will stay in New Ross until 1800hrs where they will mingle throughout the town and be available for photos before moving onto Vinegar Hill in Enniscorthy..

It promises to be an exciting day.

(From the office of the New Ross District manager)

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The Unborn Identity: why accepting limited choice is compatible with voting “No” in this referendum

A dear friend in a US college was raped. I believe I offered to drive her to an abortion clinic if needed. Privately, I was probably even ready to pay for it. And yet, I will be voting “no” in this referendum.

Perhaps more surprising: I have not had a radical change of heart, either.

A useful test for the moral legitimacy of a law is this: would you personally be willing to enforce a law you approve of?

I could not personally prevent a woman seeking an abortion in certain circumstances – such as that as rape. The reasons were most famously articulated by Judith Jarvis Thomson, in her thought experiment on “the famous violinist“: one ought to have the power to disconnect even a conscious adult of world renown, if someone had surreptitiously connected you, as their human life support machine. As goes for a fully formed adult, goes for a pre-mature human.

In this, Thomson’s argument is sound. One might make an ethical appeal to hang on until the patient has recovered in several months, but surely we could not use legal sanction to coerce it.

Thomson is on shakier ground extending the argument further into the field of personal autonomy. Were we to follow this argument through to its libertarian conclusion, it could seem to forbid even redistributive taxation.

There are a great number of areas where the state – as an imperfect avatar of community – interferes with our personal autonomy and limits our individual action, on a daily basis.

Of course there is much room for critique of what is necessary – or even that such critique should bear a “presumption of liberty” on behalf of the citizen and against the state. This is particularly acute in the case of pregnancy, which represents a unique re-ordering on personal autonomy for half the population.

However: if as part of a shared ethical framework, we as a community mandate state oversight and intervention to prevent cruelty and death to non-human creatures, it is not actually necessary to prove full humanity for the unborn entities – let alone personhood – to require their protection.

Furthermore, whereas for some creatures we argue protection on the basis of perceived sentience (most basically: the capacity to suffer); for many others lacking even this quality, we argue on the basis of an inherent value – such as biodiversity. This extends even to the categories of non-living entities – in matters of heritage, for example.

Many sincere campaigners for Repeal state that they wish to respect the feelings of those on the other side. Thank you, but my feelings are irrelevant. What is relevant, are the following questions – which remain unanswered by Repealers:

  • Do the unborn qualify as sentient – in at least as verifiable manner as other creatures whose welfare is safeguarded by law?
  • As organisms rapidly evolving to a recognisably fully-human state, don’t these entities have any inherent value worthy of protection, even absent full sentience or personhood?

In other words: ought the unborn really be of less matter to the state, than the humane disposal of grey squirrels; penalty-point sanctions on commercial fishermen; and the preservation of sash-windows on old houses?

This vote is unavoidably and equally about what replaces the 8th. That means that it is possible to want to some latitude for exceptional circumstances, and still vote “no”.

The Dáil – who will legislate in the absence of the amendment’s power – has not collectively demonstrated that they take protection of the unborn seriously: as a guiding legal and ethical concept in itself, not simply as a political genuflection to get around a temporary obstacle.

I’m voting “No” because the unborn – whatever they are, ultimately – will have no voice or power over laws that determine their very existence otherwise. A legal and ethical framework that places a default value of zero on them, is not something one should be required to support – morally, intellectually, or politically – even in the face of an imperfect alternative.

Oisín O’Connell is an MA student in philosophy, and a county councillor. He writes this in a personal capacity.

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The Unborn Identity by Oisín Ó Conail is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Beware phone and “phishing” scams

New Ross County Councillor Oisín O’Connell is calling on all County Wexford residents to be wary of phone calls from scammers pretending to be from their bank or financial institution.

“‘Phishing’ is a type of scam – sometimes by phone – whereby someone will contact you, and fish for information by pretending to be from a bank, telecom or other institution. They will try to fake you out, and use your sense of trust to give them valuable information they wouldn’t otherwise have. This is then used by them to make purchases or money transfers online or electronically in your name – to steal from you.”

“In a particularly insidious twist they may even pretend they are from something like the fraud detection department of an institution – and threaten to cancel your cards if you don’t comply. That recently happened to one of my own parents, who ended the call and contacted the local bank.”

“It’s important to know, that while financial institutions and such, may ask you for information to confirm your identity when you call them; they will not call you up to ask you for your name, phone, address, and card numbers and so on.”

“The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) have a website where people can learn more at:

They have the following helplines:

Helpline Lo-call: 1890 432 432

Helpline National: 01 402 5555

“The CCPC specifically advise that If you receive a call from anyone requesting any personal or financial information, you should end the call and report to a Garda station or call the confidential line on 1800-666-111

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Final #TerraNostra (“our Earth”) exhibition talk @wexfordcoco 6pm 26/April – Prof Declan Long

The final of our series of talks in conjunction with the Terra Nostra Exhibition takes place as follows:

Date: Thursday, 26th April

Time: 6.00pm

Venue: Wexford County Council Offices, Carricklawn, Wexford

Guest Speaker: Professor Declan Long

You are Neither Here Nor There: Art and Twenty-first Century Irish Landscapes.

In this talk Declan Long will discuss a range of ways in which contemporary Irish artists are exploring transformations in the Irish landscape. Over the last two decades artists from the North of Ireland have often responded to the shifting experience and appearance of physical landscapes in the aftermath of the Troubles; in the Republic, artists have diversely addressed how Irish landscapes, of various kinds, have altered during dramatic periods of boom and bust. In the background to these developments, North and South, are the effects of wider global changes in how we experience space and time — and this talk will attempt to consider some ways that Irish artists’ relationship with location has been subject to such influences.

Dr Declan Long is Programme Director of the MA Art in the Contemporary World at the National College of Art & Design, Dublin. He is a regular contributor to Frieze magazine, Artforum International and RTE’s Arena programme. He has recently published the book Ghost-Haunted Land: Contemporary Art & Post-Troubles Northern Ireland (Manchester University Press, 2017) and in 2013 was a member of the judging panel for the Turner Prize.

There will also be a tour of the exhibition at 4.00pm on Thursday 26th April. To book a place on this tour, facilitated by David Begley, please let me know by email.

Kind Regards,

Lisa Fortune,

Assistant Staff Officer,

Arts Department,

Wexford County Council,



053 9196369

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#TerraNostra Exhibition talk 3 @WexLibraries Wexford Town today 7pm – Tom Mooney, poets & landscape

Date: Thursday April 5th, 2018.

Time: 19:00

Venue: Wexford Town Library

Guest Speaker: Tom Mooney

The relationship between Irish writers, specifically poets, and the landscape, has been the source of a pervasive tradition, where mystery, belonging and alienation are omnipresent. As part of the ongoing Terra Nostra exhibition and series of lectures, writer and book reviewer for The Sunday Times, Tom Mooney, will examine the work of contemporary Irish poets to explore the layers of story and meaning, and show how the landscape is freshly minted by their verse.

Advance booking not necessary. All are welcome to attend.

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Winter is coming… plan for a harsh one in 2018/19

So. That was something. Don’t remember two big snows in succession like that before – in Ireland anyway. Nor snow at St. Patrick’s Day parade – outside of New York.

Did notice (since I am an Astronomy geek – not a meteorological expert, note) that those two Artic Winters we had in 2010 and 2011, closely followed a sunspot minimum.

And that after a period of several years with no sunspot-free days, last year it was 28% with 104 days sunspot free. And we are batting for 54% free days (42) in 2018 so far:

[Sun-]Spotless Days

2018 total: 42 days (54%)
2017 total: 104 days (28%)
2016 total: 32 days (9%)
2015 total: 0 days (0%)
2014 total: 1 day (<1%)
2013 total: 0 days (0%)
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)

Sunspots are like a sign of agitation in the sun. Roughly speaking: the more agitation (the more sunspots and less sunspot-free days), on the sun, the greater radiance of energy. Usually small percentages – but perhaps enough to affect some of Earth’s climate or weather systems – in ocean and atmosphere mechanisms. There are several theories as to how this might happen, and certainly none are

conclusive yet.

However: below are some science extracts, that may indicate we are headed for another – perhaps harsher – winter at the end of this year or beginning of 2019. Perhaps increasingly so, over the next couple of decades.

Are you ?

Clear link between solar activity and winter weather revealed

October 10, 2011
by Tamera Jones, PlanetEarth Online

Scientists have demonstrated a clear link between the 11-year sun cycle and winter weather over the northern hemisphere for the first time.

They found that low solar activity can contribute to cold winters in the UK, northern Europe and parts of America. But high activity from the sun has the opposite effect.

The study helps explain why the UK has been gripped by such cold winters over the last few years: the sun is just emerging from a so-called solar minimum, when solar activity is at its lowest.

The long sunspot cycle 23 predicts a significant temperature decrease in cycle 24

Jan-Erik Solheim a,n, Kjell Stordahl b, Ole Humlum c,d

Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics

This analysis shows significant dependency between the pre- vious sunspot cycle length and the temperature…

 short cycles like the one that ended in 1996, have only been observed three times in 300 years. After the shortest cycles, sudden changes too much longer cycles have always taken place, and thereafter there is a slow shortening of the next cycles, which take many cycles to reach a new minimum. This recurrent pattern tells us that we can expect several long cycles in the next decades…

 de Jager and Duhau (2011) concludes that the solar activity is presently going through a brief transition period (2000–2014), which will be followed by a Grand Minimum of the Maunder type, most probably starting in the twenties of the present century. Another prediction, based on reduced solar irradiance due to reduced solar radius, is a series of lower solar activity cycles leading to a Maunder like minimum starting around 2040 (Abdussamatov, 2007)…L

Our forecast indicates an annual average temperature drop of 0.9 1C in the Northern Hemisphere during solar cycle 24. For the measuring stations south of 75N, the temperature decline is of the order 1.0–1.81C and may already have already started. For Svalbard a temperature decline of 3.5 1C is forecasted in solar cycle 24 for the yearly average temperature. An even higher temperature drop is forecasted in the winter months (Solheim et al., 2011).

For some balance, this study finds a weaker correlation – as I understand it, between Solar Cycle and weather system direction, rather than temperature as such:!po=61.3208

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Dare to be Wild @WexfordCoCo #TerraNostra talk w/Mary Reynolds, Jim Hurley 5:30pm today

Date: Thursday, March 15th

Time: 5:30pm

Speakers:  Nature Expert Jim Hurley & Reformed Gardener and Nature Activist Mary Reynolds

Venue: Wexford County Council Offices, Carricklawn, Wexford

Booking not necessary, all are welcome to attend.

For more information on the exhibition & other talks please see:

•  “Stepping back into our roles as guardians of the earth‘. Mary Reynolds will explore the  deep connection we have broken with the earth which has left  us lost, spaced out and aimless. She explains easy ways to restore the connection and heal the hole in our hearts that  we tore when we forgot who we are in the circle of life on  the earth.”

Mary grew up on a small mixed farm in Wexford, in the south of  Ireland. 20 years ago she set up her own company designing  gardens in Dublin. A few years later, having lost the will  to live from constantly creating modern gardens, she  realised that she could no longer continue shaping land in  the same way and re-imagined her work to become nature  rather than human centred.

Mary brought her new, still relatively unformed ideas to be showcased at the  Chelsea flower show in London where she achieved a gold  medal, unusual at the time for a first-time effort. Since  that time, she has built up quite a cult following in the  world of garden design and is considered unique in her  field.

Another U-turn came a few years ago when Mary realised we had to rethink the whole  relationship we had with the land and re-examine what it  means to truly design in harmony with nature. Those latest revelations lead to ‘The Garden Awakening – Designs to  Nurture Our Land and Ourselves’ being born.

This book was written at night, over four  years, when her two young kids were asleep… and Mary was  almost awake. It was published in 2016.

Mary has been known to present telly programmes about garden  design and do the odd garden makeover on the box. She also  gives talks and workshops about her work and beliefs. The  Irish writer and director Vivienne De Courcy made a movie  about a journey in Mary’s life when she made a wild garden  at England’s R.H.S Chelsea flower show while  simultaneously chasing a very handsome man to Ethiopia and  back. She’s trained as a Reiki master, is not a bad cook  (to her mother’s eternal surprise) and she likes to  campaign against evil multinational efforts to cull us all  off with pesticides, herbicides and GMO’s. She spends a  lot of time growing and guiding her own land into a place  where people can come and stay and learn, but most of her  time is spent being a harassed single mum, trying to grow  two cheeky but wonderful boy and girl monsters and a crazy  golden-doodle with as much grace and love as  possible.

• Jim Hurley will be talking us on a virtual  walk of one of the most interesting areas of South East  Wexford, departing from Kilmore Quay.

Jim Hurley is south Wexford’s keenest promoter of its wonderful natural heritage. The retired  Biology teacher has lived here for more than 50 years. He  has come to appreciate the flora and fauna of a region which  boasts no less than 14 officially designated sites of  significant scientific importance.

There is scarcely a bird or a flower to be found between Rosslare and  Templetown that he has not rejoiced in and written about.

His love affair with Kilmore began by chance  back in 1965, when as a recent graduate in science from UCD,  he was recruited by County Wexford VEC to set up the  laboratory in the new Bridgetown School.

His knowledge of the sea breezy environment has been shared with  readers of this newspaper since 1981. His column run without  break for over 33 years. His success is also attributed to  the excellence of his own teaching at Bridgetown, his  involvement with the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, work on the  preparation of Ferrycarrig Heritage Park, and his  willingness at all times to give talks or lectures on any  matter connected with nature.

For Jim Hurley, nature is for everyone and should be celebrated by as many as possible.

‘There is room for more people to enjoy the  south Wexford coast,’ he says simply. ‘Some have a  technical or scientific interest but for ordinary people too  it is a wonderful amenity. People should be encouraged to  enjoy it.’

See also:

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Excited about @thelodgersmovie in @StMichaelsTheat – thanks! Big win for & @wexfordcoco too

Home is where the ghosts are in the moldy Gothic horror of The Lodgers

If you’ve got at your disposal a location as perfect as Loftus Hall—the 14th century manor home and self-proclaimed “most haunted house in Ireland”—it’d be a sin not to make a horror movie there. The ready availability of weathered old buildings and misty forests in rural Ireland is certainly an asset for The Lodgers, the second feature from Brian O’Malley (Let Us Prey).

The Lodgers’ Eugene Simon believes in psychic phenomena, but draws the line at ghosts

Game Of Thrones star Eugene Simon’s new project, The Lodgers, has the characteristics of an old-fashioned, supernatural horror film: a period setting, a crumbling family estate, a set of mysterious twins, and, of course, ghosts.

Irish gothic chiller “The Lodgers” made me wish we lived in a world where this type of film wasn’t so rare that its very existence wasn’t a source of novelty… one thing that the makers of “The Lodgers” do deliver is a unique setting.

An oppressively heavy gothic atmosphere squeezes most of the shocks out of the Irish ghost story “The Lodgers.”

… for viewers who take it more as a moody, metaphorical historical drama than as an out-and-out horror film, there’s a lot in this lush-looking, sensitively acted picture to recommend.

…”The Lodgers” is set on an imposing estate, “played” on film by a 700-year-old mansion.

If you, like me, are a sucker for a) crumbling Gothic mansions where things go bump in the night, b) period costumes involving “French Lieutenant’s Woman”-esque hooded cloaks, out of which one may gaze pensively sideways, c) mysterious secrets concealed in attractive lockets, d) excellent linen bedding and lace curtains, and e) dramatic things happening on and around grand staircases, allow me to recommend the Irish thriller “The Lodgers…”

… because it offers the beautifully-shot pleasures of a) through e)… Filmed at the breathtaking Loftus Hall, a real-life haunted mansion in County Wexford, Ireland

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#TerraNostra – 1st in Series of talks – this evening at 5.30pm, Carricklawn HQ Block A

The first of a series of talks to be held in conjunction with the Terra Nostra Exhibition takes place this evening at 5.30pm in the downstairs meeting room of Block A.

Our guest speakers this evening are Pádraic Fogarty, Ecologist & Campaign Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust & Brendan McGrath, Landscape Architect & Author

All are welcome to attend.

Pádraic Fogarty, Ecologist & Campaign Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust

Pádraic Fogarty is an ecologist and environmental scientist. He has served as chairman of the Irish Wildlife Trust, an environmental charity, and is currently their campaign officer and (until recently) editor of ‘Irish Wildlife’ magazine. He is author of ‘Whittled Away – Ireland’s Vanishing Nature’, which was published in 2017 by Collins Press.

Presentation:  ‘What you see is not what you get ‘Ecological collapse in a beautiful country’ – how our perceptions do not reflect reality

Brendan McGrath, Landscape Architect & Author

Brendan lives in the Burren, County Clare and is a town planner by profession. He has spent most of his professional life in Ireland but has also worked in Papua New Guinea and in a number of African countries. Over the past year he has been preparing a management plan for the Burren National Park. Brendan is very interested in landscape; how we affect it and it affects us. He is the author of Landscape and Society in Contemporary Ireland, published by Cork University Press in 2013.

Presentation: Our affinity with landscape: an evolutionary perspective

Until fairly recently our affinity with landscape was understood in aesthetic, spiritual and philosophical terms. However, in recent decades there is increasing recognition of how important landscape is for our wellbeing and the extent to which we have an innate affinity for certain types of landscape.

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