Down Syndrome Ireland has issued a statement hitting out a pro-life group as they have been using an image of a child with Down syndrome on their pamphlets.

The charity says that to use images of people with Down syndrome in this debate is “disrespectful” and “is causing a lot of stress to parents”.

A column written by Fintan O’Toole for the Irish Times highlighted the fact that Love Both used the image of a little girl with Down syndrome on their front of a pamphlet.  O’Toole says that pro-choice groups must now prove why repealing the Eighth Amendment will not lead to the ‘screening out’ of people with disabilities.

In the column, O’Toole says: “The face of the campaign against repealing the Eighth Amendment will not be a Catholic bishop. It will be a delightful smiling kid with Down syndrome.”

Down Syndrome Ireland has asked both sides of the debate to stop politicising Down syndrome, and to refrain from using images of people with the condition to serve their own agenda.

“This is very disrespectful to both children and adults with Down syndrome and their families. It is also causing a lot of stress to parents,” a spokesperson says.

“People with Down syndrome should not be used as an argument for either side of this debate.”

The spokesperson continues by saying that each person’s opinion on the Eighth Amendment is up to themselves; however, the “exploitation” of those with Down syndrome must stop.

“Down Syndrome Ireland believes that it is up to each individual to make their own decision about which way to vote in the upcoming referendum.

“We are respectfully asking both sides of the campaign debate, all political parties and any other interested groups to stop exploiting children and adults with Down syndrome to promote their campaign views.

“We would also like to remind campaigners on both sides of the debate that people with Down syndrome listen to the news and read media articles, including social media content. We ask that the tone of the debate is respectful towards all people with disabilities.”

The statement concluded: “As always, Down Syndrome Ireland will continue to support people with Down syndrome and their families throughout Ireland. If you require any support, please contact us on 01-4266500.”

A special Cabinet meeting will be held on Monday to discuss the upcoming referendum.

It has previously been promised by the Taoiseach that a referendum on the Eighth Amendment will take place in May or June.