The former Mayor of Drogheda and Aontú representative for the area, Michael O’Dowd, said on Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder on Wednesday that “as a society we need to decide whether we want to have children with Down Syndrome, and the richness and the beauty that they bring to all our lives, or whether we want to have a society without them.”
He was interviewed by Newstalk’s Kieran Cuddihy in response to an article by Sunday Independent columnist David Quinn who wrote in last week’s paper that “maybe modern Ireland isn’t half as compassionate and enlightened as it likes to pretend”, given the huge increase in the number of Irish babies who are now aborted once they’re diagnosed with having Down syndrome. It is an acknowledged fact that 95% of parents are opting for abortion when their baby is diagnosed with Down Syndrome at Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital.
Mr O’Dowd, whose son Conor has Down syndrome, told the programme it can be a devastating diagnosis to get, but he added: “What I would say, particularly to expectant parents that receive this diagnosis, is number one don’t do anything immediately – and number two don’t listen to the obstetricians.”
Mr O’Dowd said from his knowledge of how these cases are handled, obstetricians generally have “a very jaundiced view of people with disabilities”.
He said: “Research has shown – expectant parents – what influences them is talking to other parents that have gone through similar situations”.
The former mayor said “all the information” about the condition should be presented to parents and not withheld. This he said will include “some challenging information” but “there’ll also be some very positive information.”
The issue of unborn babies with Down syndrome being targeted for abortion attracted renewed media attention in recent days after the actor Tommy Jessop (who has Down syndrome and is best known for his role in the BBC detective series Line of Duty) went public about how upsetting he finds it that people like him are being systematically eliminated from society through abortion.