A campaign drive by the Donegal Pro-Life group aimed at Donegal secondary schools has been criticised as inappropriate by the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union and Save the 8th.
Members of the Donegal Pro-Life group sent emails to school principals in the county this week asking them to show an anti-abortion video to their students. The email and graphic video sought to influence students over 16 and voters over 18 ahead of the May 25th referendum ‘in the interest of a balanced debate’.
The national ‘Save the 8th’ group distanced itself from the campaign move, with spokesperson John McGuirk telling The Irish Times the group did not seek to campaign in schools. “Nor do we think it is appropriate for teachers, or any other authority figures with power over young people, to be seeking to influence their students’ votes,” Mr McGuirk said.
Speaking on behalf of young people in education, the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union has asked all campaign groups to respect boundaries and stay away from schools.
President of ISSU Leon Egan said ‘I think it’s completely inappropriate for an outside organisation to send a letter to schools asking principals to play a campaign video to students. The sanctuary of school is something that is fundamentally important to us and it’s clear a line has been seriously crossed’.
‘I want to make it clear that ISSU decided to take a neutral stance on the referendum as we represent the views of all of our members. But we believe that neither side should be approaching schools or trying to influence students’ decisions. They are attempting to directly promote their own agenda through the school management’, continued Mr Egan.
‘I think it’s disrespectful to suggest that students need to see this video to educate themselves. Many students on both sides of the argument have been actively engaged in the process and have formulated their own opinions. To think that a short dvd played by your religion teacher would drastically change a students’ position is insulting’, insisted Mr Egan.
He continued ‘We think that students will play a huge role in the outcome of this referendum and absolutely believe that students who can vote should vote. We sent voter registration forms to every secondary school in the country but the difference is we did not try to influence students’ opinions’.