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Amnesty accused of censoring criticism to Liam Neeson's pro-choice YouTube video

By Claire McNeilly

Published 02/12/2015

Liam Neeson voiced the Amnesty pro-choice video
Liam Neeson voiced the Amnesty pro-choice video

Amnesty International Ireland has been accused of covering up negative reactions to a Liam Neeson-narrated video campaign that calls for abortion to be legalised across the country.

Ballymena-born Hollywood star Neeson recorded the voice-over for the clip, entitled Chains, in October and immediately faced accusations of being "anti-Catholic" by supporting the human rights group's push to repeal the Republic's eighth amendment, which outlaws abortion.

And now an Irish pro-life group claims Irish people hated the video so much that Amnesty was forced to hide the ratings for it on YouTube after it received four times as many thumbs-down as thumbs-up.

Life Institute also noted that the human rights organisation stopped allowing comments on the video shortly after it was launched.

But Amnesty Ireland hit back robustly, saying it acted to remove offensive comments and images which could be accessed by children.

Niamh Ui Bhriain of Life Institute said the response to the video revealed that Amnesty had produced a "crude propaganda piece" that was actively disliked because it was an "obvious and overblown attempt to misrepresent Ireland and the eighth amendment".

"Amnesty must have thought they were onto a sure-fire winner with Liam Neeson narrating the piece and widespread coverage and support in the media," said Ms Ui Bhriain.

"They clearly misjudged the Irish public, however, who gave the video a massive thumbs-down, with 825 dislikes to just 177 likes.

"That is a big no vote from the very demographic that Amnesty claims to represent - internet-savvy, human rights advocates who they obviously felt would love this celebrity-endorsed propaganda piece and go on to share the heck out of it."

In the video Neeson (63) - who was raised as a Catholic - says: "A ghost haunts Ireland, a cruel ghost of the last century. It blindly brings suffering, even death, to the women whose lives it touches. Feared by politicians, this is a ghost of paper and ink… a constitution written for a different time.

"It is the shadow of the country we'd left behind… Ireland doesn't have to be chained to its past. It's time to lay this ghost to rest."

Matthew Archbold, of the influential US-based National Catholic Register, described the video as "blatantly anti-Catholic", adding: "To be fair, it was a lot more watchable than Neeson's Taken 3. I hope this effort bombs as badly as that movie did."

A screengrab taken before the ratings were removed verified the Life Institute's claims about the negative response to Chains, which has been watched slightly more than 73,400 times.

And a note below the video confirmed that comments had been disabled.

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty Ireland, said the organisation had no other option but to act as it did.

"We generally strive to accommodate debate and sharing of opinions on all our social media channels, but within the bounds of our moderation guidelines," he added.

"Unfortunately, a large volume of inappropriate and offensive comments and imagery was posted under this video which was especially unsuitable for young people or children who view our content and to whom we have a particular responsibility.

"We were unable to delete offensive comments or material on YouTube, so regrettably had to disable comments on the video.

"This is unfortunate, because it closes down legitimate and helpful discussion of this important video, but we felt we had no other option."

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