In the weeks leading up to the budget, as the IMF were descending upon us to ‘talk’ and the plans were being laid out to widen the gap between rich and poor, a billboard campaign ran across the country which fitted perfectly into the government rhetoric of the moment. They read ‘Me. You. Everybody. We’re all just grown up embryos.’
The campaign was run by the anti-abortion group Youth Defence whose ‘private donations’ enable them to run some of the most expensive political poster and on-line campaigns in the country. While they refused to give a figure, one of their recent poster campaigns, which ran only in Cork against stem cell research in UCC, came to €60,000. This ‘Me You Everybody’ campaign involving 120 billboards, 100,000 postcards and a web campaign, is estimated to have cost around €200,000.
It is worth remembering that when the IRFU successfully stopped a Hunky Dory billboard campaign earlier this year because it appeared to falsely claim to sponsor Irish rugby, the media lit up with commentators falsely attributing the billboard campaign’s demise to the all-powerful feminist media machine because feminists had also expressed concern that the ads were degrading to women.
At such moments some of the most well paid and ill-informed columnists in the country can always be relied upon to trot out this idea of an oppressive feminist political correctness constraining and censoring the media and yet the details of this budget would seem to suggest the government had a great deal of confidence they would be able to get away with attacking women and in particular young working mothers.
Meanwhile, in the voluntary sector, many groups who care for children like the Jack and Jill Foundation, whose services are going to be more desperately needed now, are unable to secure HSE funding and are running SOS appeals to stay afloat. A recent survey by The Wheel showed that a devastating one in five Irish charities face possible bankruptcy over the next year. The number of children living in consistent poverty increased by 26,684 between 2008 and 2009. It is not hyperbole but raw statistical inevitability that this number will continue to rise directly as a result of this budget. More children will be born into poverty and with education cuts and increased long term unemployment, they are less and less likely to have any way out of that poverty.
With a busy and apparently well staffed PR machine, Youth Defence have made no condemnation of the government’s attacks on women and children and have never engaged in helpful actions to improve the lives of women and children. For a group whose only moral weapon used to beat would-be mothers is their rapturous love of babies, their lack of concern about the lived material reality for babies in Ireland has been so consistent one might suspect that their campaigns are not motivated by love but by something else.
The future of the born and the unborn may be crumbling before us but at least we won’t start letting sexually active women away with it, right? And as our lived inequality deepens, the callous and stupid words ‘Me You Everybody’ come as little comfort.
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