The Minister for Health Simon Harris is a man on a mission. With the health service crumbling on his watch, he needs to divert the public’s attention away from his record, and so he’s focusing all his energies on the campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment.

Harris has repeatedly called for a respectful debate, but he has not been shy about attacking the alleged ill conduct of the pro-life side, while applauding his pro-choice comrades for how they are going about their business.

“When they go low, we go high,” Harris likes to say.

Does the track record of the repeal campaign, the Fine Gael members advocating abortion and Together for Yes live up to this billing?

Irish electoral law prohibits foreign funding of political campaigns here. But in August 2016, it was revealed that the American billionaire George Soros had funnelled over $300,000 to three groups seeking to legalise abortion in Ireland: the Abortion Rights Campaign, Amnesty International and the Irish Family Planning Association.

In April 2017, the Abortion Rights Campaign finally returned its €23,000 donation, after threatened with being reported to the Gardaí by the ethics watchdog.

When they go low, we go high.

In September 2017, Unbroken, a group which supports those who were conceived in rape or who had babies after having been raped, held an event in Dublin where some female speakers spoke about their experiences.

The event was originally scheduled to take place in the Spencer hotel, but the hotel informed Unbroken that they decided to cancel the event after threats of violence were made to its staff.

In spite of the wilful use of intimidation, the government did not speak out to demand that the constitutional rights of these women to free speech were upheld.

When they go low, we go high.

Around the same time, two members of Trinity College’s People Before Profit group posted a picture on their Facebook page showing two of their members cutting down a poster advertising the Unbroken event.

“2 comrades, 1 pair of scissors, 32 vile anti-choice posters surrounding the campus. A successful evening indeed,” the post read.

After being informed by Trinity’s Central Societies Committee that sharing the pictures breached university rules for clubs and societies, the post was deleted, but a statement from Trinity PBP defended their actions.

When they go low, we go high.

In December 2017, Amnesty International was also ordered to return its €137,000 donation from Soros.

Instead of complying with the instruction from SIPO – the independent body which exists to ensure  that our political system isn’t corrupted by moneyed interests as others have been – Amnesty refused to give back the money, and launched a legal action against SIPO.

When they go low, we go high.

After the referendum was announced, and the Taoiseach and most of his ministers came out in support of unrestricted abortion up until 12 weeks, both sides in the referendum began to campaign in earnest.

However, in March the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty raised the prospect that a second referendum could soon be called should the Irish people vote to retain the 8th.

“The people who have brought us, and who have been very vocal on this issue for a number of years, they are certainly not going to accept a No,” Doherty declared.

In days past, it was usually the case that when the government decided to give the people their say, they committed to listening to the answer which they might give. That day is done.

When they go low, we go high.

On March 15th, RTE’s Prime Time examined the funding of all sides in this abortion referendum.

Prime Time sent organisations on both sides a survey to find out how much money they had raised, where they had obtained it from, and how they intended to spend it.

On the pro-life side, all the biggest groups (the Pro Life Campaign, Save the 8th, the Life Institute, etc) completed the survey, with Save the 8th Communications Director John McGuirk happily agreeing to be interviewed on the show.

On the pro-choice side, a number of prominent groups failed to co-operate with Prime Time or to complete their survey.

The Abortion Rights Campaign – already sullied by its earlier acceptance of foreign funding – issued statements to the programme which supplied none of the information which Prime Time had requested.

The Coalition to Repeal the 8th also failed to fill in the survey in spite of repeated requests, and  repeatedly refused requests for interview.

When they go low, we go high.

The Coalition to Repeal the 8th has since joined with the Abortion Rights Campaign and the taxpayer-funded National Women’s Council of Ireland to form Together for Yes, which has recently begun to raise enormous sums within a curiously short timeframe.

Together for Yes aren’t just raising funds. They are also organising events around the country, including a launch event in Roscommon at which the Minister for Culture and leader of Fine Gael’s repeal campaign Josepha Madigan is due to speak, along with the former Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson Janet Ní Shúilleabháin.

In 2017, Ní Shúilleabháin tweeted that she was glad that Peter Matthews – formerly a pro-life Fine Gael TD, and a politician held in high esteem for his gentlemanly conduct  – had died.

“[F]rankly I am glad he is dead, same as I was glad he wasn’t re-elected,” she wrote, a day after the father-of-four passed away following his battle with cancer.

In spite of having been a party and constituency colleague of Matthews, Josepha Madigan has still agreed to share a platform with Ní Shúilleabháin as she worked to push the Government’s plan for unlimited abortion. It took sustained criticism from Save the 8th and others to finally get Ní Shúilleabháin to decide not to share the podium with Madigan, so as not to “distract” from the Fine Gael minister’s message.

When they go low, we go high.

In the last week, Minister Simon Harris campaigned alongside Amnesty International’s Executive Director Colm O’Gorman, in spite of how Amnesty is refusing to comply with the state’s ethics watchdog’s order to return its illegal funding.

In the same week, with suspiciously large amounts of money flooding into Together for Yes only a month after two of its main components refused to co-operate with a Prime Time investigation into their funding sources, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted his support for the fundraising efforts of Together for Yes, and encouraged others to donate.

All the while, across the country, thousands of pro-life billboards have been removed or defaced by supporters of abortion, some of whom have even boasted of their exploits online.

As criminal damage and theft takes place on a grand scale, Varadkar and his government remain silent, except to say…

When they go low, we go high.

The consequences of the repeal of the 8th Amendment are easy to predict.

Abortion will become a much more common choice in crisis pregnancies, resulting in the ending of thousands more lives annually. In Britain, one in five pregnancies ends in abortion; a similar situation will exist here soon too. Unborns with disabilities will also be increasingly targeted, especially as screening technologies improve and conditions are diagnosed with greater accuracy, and earlier in pregnancy too.

But there are other costs too, the foremost being the old-fashioned view that certain rules and standards should apply in Irish politics.   

Not anymore. One thing which we have all learned from the campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment is this.

There is no rule which the Irish establishment will not bend, no law which they will comply with, no ally which they will not court and no price which they will not pay to get what they want.

If we give them this, what will they want next?

On May 25th, vote No.