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On this day 70 years ago The Irish Times published its most famous editorial

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Seventy years ago today, on April 12th, 1951, The Irish Times published what is probably its most famous editorial. It was a response to the resignation of the minister for health, Dr Noel Browne, who had given the newspaper correspondence between the cabinet and the Catholic Church about the Mother and Child scheme, which Browne had hoped would offer education and healthcare to mothers and children up to the age of 16.

As Mark O’Brien writes on irishtimes.com today, the Catholic hierarchy objected to the State becoming involved in sex education and to the possibility of non-Catholic doctors treating Catholic mothers-to-be. He also points out that, in one of the letters that Browne leaked, which was published on the front page of The Irish Times, the church told Taoiseach John A Costello that Browne’s scheme was “a ready-made instrument for future totalitarian aggression”, declared that the “right to provide for the health of children belongs to parents, not to the state” and noted that “education in regard to motherhood includes instruction in regard to sex relations, chastity and marriage. The State has no competence to give instruction in such matters.”

As a Scottish-born Protestant from a historically pro-union newspaper, The Irish Times’s editor, RM Smyllie, understood the Costello government’s folly

Costello’s interparty government dropped the scheme. Such obsequiousness to the hierarchy was at odds with its declaration, three years earlier, of a republic. As a Scottish-born Protestant from a historically pro-union newspaper, The Irish Times’s editor, RM Smyllie, understood the contradictory folly of the Costello government’s campaigning against partition while constructing a State that deferred to the Catholic Church.

The editorial mentions the Abolish the Border campaign and the Mansion House Committee. These refer to the All-Party Anti-Partition Conference, set up in January 1949 at the Mansion House in Dublin, to campaign internationally against partition. The initiative was supported by Fianna Fáil’s leader, Éamon de Valera, who had often maintained that his party was the only one that could end partition. It raised a lot of money, but lobbying in the United States and at the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, came to nothing.

THE EDITORIAL

The Irish Times
Thursday, April 12, 1951
CONTRA MUNDUM

A gallant fight has ended in defeat. Yesterday, after several days of tense struggle behind the scenes, Dr Noel Browne handed his resignation from the post of Minister for Health to the Taoiseach. Although he has been defeated, the honours of the conflict fall to him. We cannot but believe that his stature has been increased even in the eyes of his professional and ecclesiastical opponents. It is certain that the goodwill of the people at large follows him in his fall, and that tens of thousands of families will be sadder for it. His tragedy is that he failed to perceive the extent and power of the forces that were both openly and covertly arrayed against him. It was dangerous enough that his “Mother and Child” scheme aroused the fierce hostility of a considerable part of the medical profession; it was fatal when his views came into collision with the Roman Catholic hierarchy. With a united Cabinet on his side, he might have prevailed against the doctors, as his counterpart in Great Britain prevailed against them; but, as the correspondence which we print to-day too clearly indicates, he was left to fight a single-handed battle when once the Church entered the arena. Thus – not for the first or second time in Irish history – progress is thwarted.

Mother and Child scheme: Noel Browne in 1954. Photograph: Fox/Hulton/Getty
Mother and Child scheme: Noel Browne in 1954. Photograph: Fox/Hulton/Getty

A Mother and Child scheme, embodying a means test, is in accordance with Christian social principles; a Mother and Child scheme without a means test is opposed to them! So much, if we read them correctly, emerges from the documents which the Hierarchy contributes to the discussion. For ourselves, we cannot pretend to follow the reasoning, and we doubt if it will be followed by the puzzled and disappointed people of this country. Dr Browne proposed to abolish a means test because he is well aware of the humiliations that attend the existence of a means test in too many hospitals – the probings about income which cause annoyance even to the comparatively well-to-do, and acute distress to the poor. There are obvious reasons why the doctors – though certainly not all of them – should object to the absence of a means test, but the plain man, unversed in subtleties, will be at a loss to determine why the Church should take sides in the matter at all. This newspaper has not been uncritical of the ex-Minister’s proposals, and hold no brief for his particular scheme. Our sorrow is that he has not been permitted to fight it out on its own merits.

The history of the Mother and Child scheme reflects no credit on Mr Costello and his Cabinet. Until six months ago there was not a shred of evidence to suggest that the rest of the Ministers were not foursquare behind Dr Browne. Trouble only started, apparently, when the Hierarchy, having met at Maynooth in October, formulated its objections and communicated them to the Taoiseach. We hope that Mr Costello can deny the flat statement, included in the correspondence, that he first retained the Bishops’ letter for a month before showing it to Dr Browne, and then forbore to transmit Dr Browne’s reply. In the lack of such a denial, he will be hard put to maintain his political reputation. All the evidence implies that, from the time when the Church made its first tentative pronouncements – which were crystallised into a formal statement of policy only this month – the Government has been in a state of trepidation about the scheme, but has lacked courage to say so frankly. It has permitted the people to expect a Mother and Child service that would meet all their wishes, and only the resignation of Dr Browne has brought the true and sorry state of affairs into that light.

This is a sad day for Ireland. It is not so important that the Mother and Child scheme has been withdrawn, to be replaced by an alternative project embodying a means test. What matters more is that an honest, far-sighted and energetic man has been driven out of active politics. The most serious revelation, however, is that the Roman Catholic Church would seem to be the effective Government of this country. In the circumstances, may we appeal to Mr Costello and his colleagues to admit the futility of their pitiful efforts to “abolish the border” – their Mansion House Committees, their anti-partition speeches at international assemblies, their pathetic appeals to the majority in the Six Counties to recognise that its advantage lies in a united Ireland? To that majority, the domination of the State by the Church – any Church – is anathema, and from now onwards it can plead some justification for all its fears. It seems that the merits of a theocratic Twenty-six Counties outweigh those of a normally democratic Thirty-two. Has the Government made its choice?

You can read this editorial in its original form here

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HSE working to amend booster system as people receive multiple appointments

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The Health Service Executive (HSE) is working to amend the coronavirus vaccine system, as multiple channels offering third jabs has caused challenges for the booster campaign, HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor has said.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms O’Connor explained that the booster vaccine was available through vaccination centres, general practitioners and pharmacies.

Some people had gone to their local pharmacy to get their booster vaccine and then had received an appointment at a vaccination centre, she said. She called on people to cancel their vaccination centre appointment if they had received their booster through their GP or pharmacy.

Ms O’Connor’s comments come after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Tuesday that there were 87,000 no-shows for boosters last week, and the chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, Dr Denis McCauley, described the non-attendances as “very disrespectful”.

Ms O’Connor said the priority for the HSE was to get as many people fully vaccinated as possible.

When asked about the lower levels of people in the 60-69 age cohort who have received their booster vaccine, Ms O’Connor said that not everyone in that age group would have had their second vaccine more than five months ago. That was “a natural limiter”.

Ms O’Connor said people possibly were apprehensive or busier, now that many were back at work or were preparing for Christmas, but the vaccine was important as was the booster.

To date more than a million people have received their booster vaccine, she added, and appointments will be offered to people aged between 50 and 59 from Thursday.

“We will also have walk-in centres open to people to get their vaccine and as ever we encourage everybody to avail of the vaccine. It’s really important, especially with a new variant, that we try to protect as many people as possible,” Ms O’Connor said.

‘Be respectful’

Meanwhile, Dr McAuley told Newstalk Breakfast that there were very few no-shows to booster appointments at GP surgeries, because people know their GP personally.

Now was not the time for “messing”, he said in relation to people failing to attend their appointments at vaccine centres.

“If you get a vaccine appointment, make sure that you go there rather than getting your hair done or going shopping – or if it is a work thing, stay on the helpline to get a new appointment.

“Be respectful of the mass vaccination centres. These are people who are working very hard and it is very disrespectful to have over 80,000 people not turn up in one week. It is not appropriate. You wouldn’t do it to your GP so why are you doing it to these healthcare workers.”

There was also a concern that some people were waiting to see what happens with the Omicron variant before getting their booster. Dr McCauley said that the booster would greatly reduce the chances of picking up the virus or having to go into hospital

Dr McCauley said there needed to be “a call to arms” for people to get vaccinated and he warned that when more information about Omicron emerged, booster appointments could be harder to come by.

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All you need to know on getting the Moderna vaccine as a booster

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People due to receive their Covid-19 booster vaccine in coming weeks will primarily be offered the Moderna dose at HSE vaccination centres.

The HSE is reported to have large supplies of Moderna due to expire next month, so that will be the main vaccine administered over coming weeks to the over-60s, over-50s, healthcare workers, and younger people in vulnerable groups – though it will be restricted to people over 30.

Anecdotally there are indications some people may be reluctant to take the Moderna vaccine. This may be due to Irish stocks about to expire shortly and/or confusion about its efficacy. This follows the company’s chief executive Stéphane Bancel warning last week the Moderna jab may not be as effective against Omicron as it had been with the Delta variant.

The HSE has confirmed recipients will have no choice on what vaccine they are given.

What type of coronavirus vaccine is the Moderna jab?

It is a new kind of synthetic “mRNA vaccine” – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is from the same stable. They provide excellent protection against severe illness and hospitalisation – and have played a critical role in reducing Covid-19 deaths since being approved. A downside, however, is that the Moderna version must be kept at -20 degrees.

Should people be worried about receiving a soon to be out-of-date vaccine?





Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland


10,093,390


8,193,802

In short no, as they retain the ability to boost antibody production within currently approved time spans – though inevitably potency wanes over time. The Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson&Johnson) vaccines were put on the market with emergency use authorisation of up to six months.

This compares with a shelf life of two to three years for most vaccines and other medicines. This is an “inevitable consequence of getting the vaccines out of the door as quickly as possible”, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Gino Martini told the journal BMJ.

Months later, these “emergency” expiry dates remain in force for these vaccines. For approved Covid-19 vaccines, the initial shelf lives were based on data available at the time of submission for regulatory approval.

The long-term shelf life has not been extended for any of the vaccines. A shelf life extension would require supporting evidence from relevant stability studies. Vaccine manufacturers are monitoring batches of vaccines with the aim of providing a longer shelf life; probably the usual two years.

What about the Omicron threat?

While Moderna said existing vaccines including its mRNA version will probably be less effective against the Omicron variant, most experts believe they will continue to provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalisation. It should be stressed, however, definitive indication has yet to emerge. That will be a matter of weeks, if not days.

Moderna has confirmed it is developing an Omicron-specific booster though manufacturing the new vaccine would take time. Tens of millions of doses could be available in the first quarter of 2022, but scale-up would not happen until the second quarter – provided it is shown such boosters are required.

What is the latest indication on the benefits of mixing vaccines?

Evidence supporting a mixing of vaccine doses has hardened over recent months. A study this week shows combining a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with a second dose of either the Moderna or the Novavax jabs results in far higher levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells compared with two doses of the AstraZeneca jab.

This finding also has important implications for lower-income countries that have not yet completed their primary vaccination campaigns as it suggests you do not need access to mRNA vaccines – and therefore ultra-cold storage facilities – to trigger an extremely potent Covid-19 vaccine response.

The study also bolsters confidence that using the Moderna vaccine as a booster dose in people who have previously received the AstraZeneca jab should result in high levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells.

It follows separate data published last week suggesting the Pfizer and Moderna booster jabs can dramatically strengthen the body’s immune defences.

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Woman (90s) dies following single-vehicle crash in Co Clare

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A woman in her 90s has died following a single-vehicle crash in Co Clare in the early hours of Tuesday.

The incident occurred at about 12.30am at Annagh, Miltown Malbay. The woman, who was the driver and sole occupant of the car involved in the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her body was removed to Limerick University Hospital, where gardaí say a postmortem will take place at a later date.

The road has been closed to facilitate an exam by Garda forensic collision investigators, and local diversions are in place.

Gardaí have appealed for witnesses – particularly road users who may have camera footage – to come forward. Anyone with information can contact Kilrush Garda station (065 908 0550), the confidential line (1800 666 111), or any Garda station.

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