Backlash as anti-abortion group could win 'best campaign' award
Both Lives Matter is expected to triumph in the Public Affairs Awards on 14 December.
Organisers of the 2017 Public Affairs Awards are refusing to bow to demands for a controversial anti-abortion campaign group to be removed from the shortlists.
The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign has expressed frustration that a group called Both Lives Matter is up for the 'Best Campaign in Northern Ireland' award. As the only organisation in the running for the gong, it is expected to win by default.
In a letter sent to the awards organisers, the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign states: "As pro-choice advocates we are surprised and disappointed to see a campaign of this nature being given such a significant platform. Both Lives Matter is a group which supports Northern Ireland’s draconian abortion laws, disseminates misleading information and rejects evidence-based research on reproductive health. Its very title is a cynical twist on Black Lives Matter, a campaign aimed at highlighting gross injustice and inequality…
"If you and your organisation are serious about promoting the power of diverse, progressive lobbying, then it is utterly misleading to showcase a deeply-flawed campaign, which actively contributes to the oppression of, discrimination against and harm to, women and girls."
The letter also notes that the anti-abortion group recently refused to engage with a committee that has been tasked with examining Ireland’s ban on abortion, which also prohibits the procedure in almost all circumstances.
“Despite being heralded for its lobbying credentials, Both Lives Matter recently declined an invitation to give evidence at the Republic of Ireland’s Joint Oireachtas Committee on Abortion,” states the letter.
“Rather than engage with this political process, Both Lives Matter choose to sit on the sidelines.”
The letter concludes by urging organisers to withdraw Both Lives Matter from the shortlist immediately. But PRCA director general Francis Ingham said there were no plans to take such action.
"Judges in the Public Affairs Awards evaluate entries based on the quality of the work delivered, and on nothing else. Public affairs campaigns often address controversial topics, and most people would view this one as such," he said.
"But controversial campaigns have the right to be judged on the same impartial basis as any others, and this was the case when judges considered entries into the Best Campaign in Northern Ireland category of the Public Affairs Awards 2017."