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rights, freedoms and repression |
Friday February 18, 2011 12:44 by Social Gaff - Seomra Spraoi
Pro-life campaigners had called on Gardai to shut down event
Seomra Spraoi, Dublin’s autonomous social centre, yesterday provided the venue for an assisted suicide/voluntary euthanasia talk and workshop given by Australian doctor and author, Philip Nitschke. At least two other workshops on his tour – in Belfast and in Sussex – have been cancelled due to pressure put on the venues.
'Pro-life' protesters outside Seomra Spraoi yesterday during the assisted suicide workshop. Pic: William Hederman
When Dr Nitschke last visited Dublin in March 2010, his controversial workshop was rescheduled four times for different venues as “pro-life” groups intimidated each venue into cancelling. Finally, Seomra Spraoi hosted the event.
Nitschke’s organisation, Exit International, provides information on assisted suicide and campaigns for the right of people to make informed decisions about when and how they will die.
Up to 40 campaigners, including from the Christian Solidarity Party and the Life Institute, protested outside yesterday’s event. They held placards saying, “Lock up your grannies - Dr Death is here.”
Today’s event was attended by about 35 people, plus more than 15 journalists and photographers. Following the public talk, there was a closed workshop for Exit International members and terminally ill people or those over 55. Many of those who attended expressed gratitude to the Seomra Spraoi collective for facilitating the event. One couple had travelled from the Isle of Mann for the event.
Dr Nitschke’s visit to Ireland was heralded by sensational coverage in several newspapers. The front-page headline of last Monday’s Metro Herald (14 February) warned: “Laptop of death lands in Ireland”, while Wednesday’s Irish Daily Mail (16 February) front page screamed: “Dr Death must be thrown out.” The Mail sought to link the event with the issue of suicide among young people in Ireland.
It had been reported that Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute had contacted the Garda Commissioner, asking that the event be shut down.
The event included a demonstration of Dr Nitschke’s device that allows a person to administer themselves with a lethal injection. Nitschke used the laptop-operated device when assisting several terminally ill patients to end their lives in 1996 in Australia. Voluntary euthanasia was legal for a brief period in the Northern Territory during that year.
The 63-year old called for a change in the law in Ireland that makes it illegal to assist terminally ill people in ending their own lives. “There needs to be changes to legislation so that in certain circumstances helping someone to die is not a crime," he said. He pointed out that suicide or attempted suicide is not a crime in Ireland.
At the start of the public talk, one of the Seomra Spraoi collective explained that the collective did “not take a position on euthanasia, but supports the freedom to meet and speak without fear of intimidation.” He said the collective did not receive or seek funding from any local or government authority or the EU. This autonomy meant it was less likely to be subject to pressure from authorities, lobby groups or the mainstream media.
Details of the cancellations in Belfast and Eastbourne can be seen on Exit International’s home page:
Dr Nitschke demonstrates the assisted suicide device. Pic: William Hederman
The view from inside. Pic: William Hederman
Christian Solidarity Party. Pic: William Hederman
Rosette. Pic: William Hederman