A talk at Oxford University last week was disrupted by protesters who shouted slogans at pro-lifers for half an hour.
The event at St John’s College was organised by pro-life society, Oxford Students for Life, to discuss next year’s abortion referendum in Ireland. The speakers were Irish Times columnist Breda O’Brien and Lorcan Price of the Pro-Life Campaign.
When Mrs O’Brien began to speak, about 15 students stood up and began chanting “at top volume”, according to audience member Michael Wee. The chants included “Pro-life, that’s a lie, you don’t care if women die” and “They say no choice – we say pro-choice.”
The protest was organised by the Women’s Campaign (WomCam), a subsidiary group of Oxford University Students’ Union.
Mr Wee said: “Given it was a small room and there were about 40 inside including the protesters, it was difficult even to speak to one’s neighbour.
“Some of the pro-life women, including Breda O’Brien, ended up standing at the front with improvised signs saying ‘I’m a woman’, ‘Can we discuss?’, ‘I want the right to speak’.”
The college authorities tried to intervene to allow the event to resume. After an altercation between a security officer and a protester, the police were called. The event was able to continue after moving to another room.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Oxford Students for Life said it was “committed to dialogue with anyone willing to listen. We are here, we are not going anywhere, and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who came along.”
Georgia Clarke, the society’s secretary, said: “The irony was that the actions of Oxford SU’s WomCam, which ought to represent women of the university, resulted in the harassment of many women present for the event, some of whom were driven to tears … it was distressing not being able to provide the supportive and open environment we had promised.”
Backlash over parish artwork
A parish priest has been criticised over plans to buy a statue of Christ for £15,000.
Fr Neil Bayliss wants to install Sorrows of Steel, a statue made from nails, in his church in Sutton Coldfield. But parishioner Anita Deshmukh told the Telegraph she was “horrified” by the cost. Stephen Turner, who manages Shaun Gagg, the artist behind the work, suggested it could be an investment that earns a profit in the future.