RTÉ release statement regarding last night's Claire Byrne Live following multiple complaints
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RTÉ release statement regarding last night's Claire Byrne Live following multiple complaints

THE national State broadcaster has replied to those who have disagreed with the way the debate on the 8th Amendment was carried out last night.

The Referendum Special episode of Claire Byrne Live was intended to be a balanced, equal debate but left many viewers shocked and upset at the way discussion on the show was upheld.

Many took to social media to deem the show total chaos, with guests of each side trading personal insults and the audience clapping, whooping and hollering throughout the broadcast.

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The show drew a response from TFMR Ireland, a group set up to console and support women and couples following the diagnosis of severe and fatal foetal anomaly, to help destigmatise termination of pregnancy for women & campaign for legal change regarding the 8th amendment.

As part of their complaints regarding the show, the Chairperson of TFMR Ireland Dr. Siobhan Donohue had attended the show with her mother, a woman in her seventies, who found the experience incredibly distressing.

She said: "We attended in good faith to tell people about the reality of the living through a pregnancy with a dying baby under the 8th amendment. Not one woman affected by the 8th was given any time to speak, we waited respectfully for an opportunity, but the room became increasingly hostile, unpleasant and aggressive.

Dr Donohue said she was shocked she did not have a chance to speak: "No campaigners in the audience were offered speaking time repeatedly and Claire kept going back to them but never once came to us. I was really conscious of my mum listening to this, surrounded by a crowd that were booing and hissing at every mention of us in TFMR."

Jennifer O’Kelly, the Chairperson of Irish charity Leanmh Mo Chroi, who offer support for couples affected by fatal fetal abnormality during pregnancy and board member of TFMR said of the show: "When we realised we wouldn’t have a chance to contribute I was so aware of the women I’m currently supporting who might be watching the show. Some of them are preparing to travel, waiting for appointments or have decided to continue their pregnancies in Ireland and they are all incredibly distressed by the posters, the debates and the rhetoric surrounding the referendum.

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O'Kelly said that the women of Ireland pursuing abortion at the moment were not represented at all in the debate: "They weren’t represented last night. We were all ignored, dismissed, jeered at and humiliated by a crowd acting like football hooligans. This is not the atmosphere we should have when we’re talking about the unbelievable trauma and pain that the 8th Amendment has caused, and will continue to cause, until it is repealed."

According to Independent, RTÉ have taken on board multiple complaints regarding the broadcast but have stood by the episode aired last night.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster said in a statement: "Impartial analysis of Claire Byrne Live Referendum Special will show that when the number of speakers on each side of the referendum question and the airtime afforded to them are both taken into account, the programme gave an equitable and fair opportunity to both sides to express their views..."

The spokesperson for RTÉ added: "While the programme did its best to include as many voices as it could, it was not possible to speak to everyone and it was made clear to every audience member in advance that there was no guarantee they would get to speak on the programme."

It is not yet known how many complaints RTÉ have received following the broadcast.