A Machiavellian “product of political expediency”

Professor Binchy addressing the parliamentary committee on the subject of the Bill which has now been partially drafted.

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew

That one… pig-headed Government, apparently deaf and blind to all reasonable argument – but unfortunately not dumb – could carry on with this treacherous and lethal folly. William Binchy, one of the finest legal minds in Ireland and former Regius Professor of Laws at Trinity College Dublin, in an op-ed in this morning’s edition of the Irish Times lays bare the folly of the Irish Government’s drive for abortion legislation.

He calls for “plain speaking”, something that is in very short supply in the Irish media generally and from the mouths of most of Ireland’s public representatives in particular where forked tongues are heavily oversupplied.

As Professor Binchy outlines it for us, the Government is proposing, for the first time since Ireland became independent from Britain nearly 100 years ago, that a law be passed prescribing the death of innocent human beings.

The forked tongues insist on calling these human being foetuses, an “it” rather than a “thou” or “I”. When “your” and “I”, dear reader, were conceived we were not an “it”. We were “I” and “”thou”, the same as today and forever. Our levels of consciousness did not make us an “it”. Making us an “it”, then or now would, not have made our destruction – had we been treated in the way the Irish Government is now proposing to treat thousands of our fellow human beings – any less heinous.

In what it is proposing, Professor Binchy points out, the Irish Government is flying in the face of the evidence of psychiatrists presented to it last January, as well as the overwhelming evidence of international research. He continues:

It falsely claims that it is bound to take this step by the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, whereas in fact the judgment merely requires clarity in our law. The Bill provides no extra clarity as to medical treatment. Instead, it sets up a procedure for decision-making and decision-makers, with no guidance beyond current medical practice as to the content of any decision to be made.

 The Taoiseach claims that the Bill doesn’t change the position but he is here engaging in a tricky use of language. The Bill changes the position in practice in a profound way. It requires hospitals that respect the equality and dignity of everyone to introduce facilities for the termination by obstetricians of the lives of babies of physically healthy mothers where suicidal ideation is established in accordance with the criteria for abortion set out in the Supreme Court decision of over 20 years ago.

The Bill defines “unborn as it relates to human life” as meaning “following implantation until such time as it has completely proceeded in a living state from the body of the woman”.

He concludes with his call for plain speaking and gives us some of his own.

Everybody knows that the Bill is the product of political expediency (and, for the Labour Party, an important and necessary step on a sure road to wide-ranging abortion).

Those who are lawyers know that it is not legally required. Those who are doctors know that it is not medically necessary. And those who are psychiatrists know that it is actually damaging to the welfare of some of their patients.

Let us strive over the coming weeks to encourage our legislators to step back from the brink and instead ensure that there is clear legal support and extra clarity for current medical practice that recognises the humanity of mothers and their unborn children.

 This proposed legislation is threatening to divide Ireland into two opposing camps harbouring animosity and bitterness towards each other on a scale not seen since the bitter civil war which divided the country after independence and persisted through many decades. No Irish Taoiseach has been regarded with the animosity and loathing with which Taoiseach Enda Kenny is now regarded by a very sizable percentage of the Irish electorate since the two decades following that civil war. His party came to power after the last general election on the basis of support from Ireland’s pro-life majority and on the understanding that he would protect the life of the unborn. He is now reviled for breaking that promise and that revulsion will be the dominant taste of his legacy in Irish history – regardless of all the commendable work the public servants of his government are now doing to pull Ireland out of the economic mess for which all its politicians of the last decade bear responsibility.

Options now for Ireland’s defenders of human life?

Senator Ronan Mullen

The defenders of children in the womb are still reeling in Ireland today after the majority of their political representatives have clearly abandoned them and are proceeding with legislation which will legalise the killing of the unborn in Ireland for the first time.

They are now looking at what options remain to them to defend those whom they see as the most defenceless, children awaiting birth – those whom the pro-abortion camp refuses to call human at all and insistently and disparagingly refer to as simply “ fetuses”.

The first option is the intensification of lobbying of the members of the Oireachtas (the two houses of the Irish parliament). But other options are also on the agenda. Earlier this year between 25 and 30 thousand pro-life people from all over the island gathered at the parliament building to demand that the majority party in the Coalition Government keep its election promise not to legislate for abortion. That party is now seen as having blatantly has broken that promise. No one doubts that it did so in order stay in power by keeping faith on the deal it made with its socialist partners in Government.

There will be more street demonstrations between now and the time this legislation comes before the two houses for debate. Unless there is a major shift in the balance of support for it within the parties the bill will become law in the summer.

What options exist after that? Well they can launch a major campaign for the repeal of the legislation leading up to the next general election. “Repeal” is a word with enormous historic significance in Irish history. For the decades stretching from the 1830s up to the final violent struggle for Irish independence from the United Kingdom beginning in 1916, repeal of the Act which held that union together was the centrepiece of all Irish politics. No Irish politician would want to be seen facing down a new Repeal Movement of the scale and with the emotional potential which this one would have.

For those for whom this is a matter of faith as well as a matter of moral social policy in purely human terms, people from all over Ireland are gathering for a Vigil for Life in Knock, Co Mayo tomorrow (Saturday, 4th May). It will be the first major demonstration on the issue since the Government’s approval on Tuesday. Knock is the Irish national shrine of the Blessed Virgin and ironically is situated on the home turf of the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. Not many expect to see him there tomorrow, however.

The language of opposition to this proposed legislation is already gathering momentum and strength. Senator Ronan Mullen, independent of parties, said yesterday that It is clear already that the Taoiseach and his Government are proposing a dangerous and destructive thing – the legalization of abortion on the ground of threatened suicide. There is no credible evidence that abortion is any kind of treatment for suicidal ideation in women. We know the consequences for the unborn child. And we know what this kind of legislation has started elsewhere.

Legislating for abortion on the suicide ground, he explained, is not required by the European Court judgment. This was a Court ruling in 2010 which many see as fig-leaf being disingenuously used by the government to justify the pursuit of this legislation forced by the socialists on the major party as a condition for entering government with them. The European Court simply required that the Irish government would “clarify” the legal situation for women with regard to its abortion laws. We could, Senator Mullen said, provide the necessary clarity by introducing guidelines which would protect women in pregnancy by re-affirming that they receive all necessary life saving treatments in pregnancy and requiring that we also exercise a duty of care towards the unborn.

Ireland has one of the best records in the world when it comes to a question of maternal health.

He also clarified that legislation for abortion on the suicide ground is not required by the X-case. When he was Taoiseach, John Bruton said he would not introduce legislation in line with the X-case because that would have the effect of bringing abortion into Ireland. The Oireachtas has the prerogative of not legislating for a Supreme Court decision if it believes it would be harmful to do so. Mr. Bruton, who was leader of the same party as the current Taoiseach, spoke out last weekend in opposition to this proposed legislation.

Mullen went on to say that this legislation will not be about ‘life-saving’ treatment but, in fact, the opposite. The Government has produced no evidence to show that abortion is ever beneficial in the treatment of the mental health of women. We know from the latest review of the evidence (Fergusson et al.) that abortion is not associated with any mental health benefit for women. In fact, it is associated with a low to moderate increased risk for women’s mental health. And, of course, we know a child always dies. So it is dishonest to pretend that this proposal is about saving life.

That is why over 100 psychiatrists last week signaled their opposition to being involved in certifying women as needing abortion to save their lives because this is not evidence-based medicine. International experience shows that provision for abortion on the mental health ground will be abused. It is hard to see how things could be different in Ireland, given the nature of what is proposed today.

The big question for many is of course who will choose the medical team to assess whether or not an abortion is “warranted”. Everyone in Ireland knows that in Britain two doctors are needed to sign off for abortions and that in many cases this is done without any scrutiny. Last year the Daily Telegraph uncovered widespread and totally unscrupulous ethical behaviour by doctors.

The third path being mulled over by activists defending life is the constitutional one. Ironically just this week a judgement was handed down by the Irish Supreme Court which some think has a bearing on the proposed legislation.

In a case where a woman was seeking confirmation of constitutional right to commit suicide – and be assisted in doing that by her husband – the Supreme Court held that there is no constitutional right to commit suicide or to arrange for the determination of one’s life at a time of one’s choosing. This decision follows from the constitutional obligation to respect life and to refrain from taking away the life of another.

The Court rejected the ‘autonomy’ argument to the contrary, ruling that  “It is also possible to construct a libertarian argument that the State is not entitled to interfere with the decisions made by a person in respect of his or her own life up to and including a decision to terminate it. However, it is not possible to discern support for such a theory in the provisions of the Constitution, without imposing upon it a philosophy and values not detectable from it.”

Pro life legal experts are now suggesting that if the mother of an unborn child does not have a constitutional right to willfully end her own life, a fortiori she can have no constitutional right to take away the life of her unborn child, or to obtain assistance in that regard.

There are some who think that contradictions are inherent here between two Supreme Court rulings and that in this they may find an Achilles’ heel in the proposed legislation to render it null and void should it get into the statute books.

One way or another Ireland is heading into protracted political and constitutional warfare which may wreak havoc on more than a few political careers and reputations. This has even the potential to radically shake up the tired old political landscape, possibly leaving Ireland with a party structure reflecting the real divisions of opinion in the country. “They are all the same” is the helpless cry of many Irish electors going to the polls in recent years – followed by “one is worse than the other but I can’t trust any of them”. Apart from the tragedy of the unborn which this current debacle represents, there is for many the further erosion of all trust in the political class.

On the personal level Enda Kenny is already smarting under his newly earned title as “the abortion Taoiseach”. The long culture war ahead for the life of the unborn in Ireland will only serve to harden it for posterity. For a large segment of Irish people Kenny is now joining Quisling, Petain and some others in history’s Hall of Infamy.

An immodest, “dangerous” and deeply “dishonest” proposal

Ireland’s Pro Life civil rights politics back on the streets?

Following the Irish Government’s publication last night of the Heads of the Bill – preliminary draft for legislation – on abortion, the country’s Pro Life Campaign has dismissed the Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s reassurances that the law will be restrictive.

The Bill provides for abortion on the ground of threatened suicide with three doctors certifying the abortion.

Cora Sherlock, Deputy Chairperson of the Ireland’s Pro Life Campaign reminded the Campaign’s followers this morning that it was a very sad day  for her country. “For the first time an Irish Government has launched a proposal to introduce abortion.”

But, rallying the Campaign’s troops, she reminded them that the law had not yet been passed. “They haven’t succeeded yet. And so our job remains the same. Together we must redouble our efforts, never lose heart and continue our engagement with politicians, the media and the wider public. We will be dignified, respectful but insistent at all times.

“On days like this, we remember the nobility of the pro-life cause. There will be irritants, provocations and frustrations. But the more dignified and persistent we are in these days, the more our cause will benefit into the future.

“Don’t be disheartened. Each of us has a part to play. Today is the first day of a new and sustained fight on behalf of the unborn and their mothers.”

Commenting on the release of the Heads of the Bill, Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign said:

“The Taoiseach and Minister Reilly have been talking up the proposal as very restrictive. But, in reality, these reassuring noises are empty and misleading. What matters is what’s contained in the Bill and what’s in the Bill is dangerous. For the first time an Irish government is proposing to introduce a law that provides for the direct intentional targeting of the life of the unborn child.

“Talk of the legislation being ‘life-saving’ is simply dishonest. There is no evidence that abortion ever helps women’s mental health and in fact it may damage women. It’s astounding that the Fine Gael leadership has caved in to Labour, allowing ideology to win out over evidence.

“The two-panel six-doctor proposal for signing off on abortions is utter nonsense. All it takes is three pro-choice doctors to sign off on every request and all restrictiveness is gone. It is an insult to women and their unborn babies to pretend that it could operate in an evidence-based manner.

“The Government has claimed all along that there is no option but to legislate. This is untrue. If the Government were really concerned about protecting women’s lives and respecting the unborn, we would have appropriate guidelines drawn up to assist doctors in various cases. The law already protects good medicine and life-saving treatments.

“If the Government continues to press ahead with the proposed legislation, we cannot continue to airbrush the reality of what abortion entails in countries where it is legal. There has been a huge spotlight on Ireland’s abortion laws but the public deserves to know what’s going on in other countries before any final decision is taken on the matter.”

It is “a debate about the humanity of the unborn child”

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If only Eamon Gilmore, Enda Kenny and company would acknowledge some of these facts and their relevance to the treachrous path they are trying to lead Ireland along.

The New York Times reports on the Gosnell trial summing up:

PHILADELPHIA — They are known as Baby Boy A, Baby C, Baby D and Baby E, all of whom prosecutors call murdered children and the defense calls aborted fetuses — the very difference in language encapsulating why anti-abortion advocates are so passionate about drawing attention to the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, which wrapped up here on Monday with summations by both sides.
To anti-abortion leaders, the accounts have the power to break through decades of hardened positions in the abortion wars, not just because of the graphic details but because they raise the philosophical issue of why an abortion procedure performed in utero is legal, but a similar act a few minutes later, outside the womb, is considered homicide.
The distinction “is maybe a 15-minute or half-hour time frame and 10 inches of physical space,” said Michael Geer, the president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, an anti-abortion group. “I think it’s going to resurrect a debate about the humanity of the unborn child.”

Is this how Kenny’s reinvention of himself came about?

Lest Enda Kenny get carried away by the shameless self-promotion and the consequent adulation he received on his recent bout of surfing the St.Patrick’s Day waves of Irish American euphoria, one of that country’s conservative magazines, the Weekly Standard, has given us something of a counter balance.

Author and senior editor of the Standard, Christopher Caldwell, in an in-depth and long article entitled “Irish Stew”, examines – among other strange metamorphoses in modern Ireland – the transformation of Kenny. He explores and suggests why the Irish Taoiseach moved in a matter of weeks from being a conservative rural Catholic into “an outright anticlerical politician”  and a comfortable fellow-traveller with the ultra-liberal socialist party to which he has hitched his own mildly right of centre Fine Gael party.

Of Kenny’s now notorious and still, for many, baffling attack on the Holy See and the petulant penny-pinching rupture of the historic diplomatic links between the Irish State and the Papacy, he says it was much more suggestive of Cromwellian England than of twentieth-century Ireland.

The main substance of Caldwell’s article is concerned with the impending debate on abortion legislation in Ireland. That issue, however, he sees as intrinsically linked with the political ramifications of post-boom Ireland.

 The present Irish government, he says, shares a peculiarity with many Western governments (including the American one): Like them, it came to power primarily because it was not in power when the bottom fell out of the world economy in 2008. All these governments claimed a mandate to act with unprecedented force to set their countries’ finances to rights. But the complexity of the crisis stymied them, and they failed to come up with anything in the way of economic innovation. They did notice, though, that the Bubble Era ruling parties had been reduced to a smoldering political wreck, wholly unable to act as an effective opposition. So with a combination of zeal and self-delusion, these new governments clung to their mandate to act forcefully, diverting it from the purpose for which it had been granted—the economy—and towards a variety of long-cherished partisan (or interest-group) projects. Barack Obama passed health reform in the United States.

He sees David Cameron’s  gay marriage manoeuvres in England fitting into the same pattern.

 This, he thinks, is how Kenny’s reinvention of himself came about and led to Kenny tacking in line with his Labour coalition partners on the abortion issue rather than with his own mildly anti-abortion party. The European Court of Human Rights offered him a way to do this with the decision it issued in December 2010 asking Ireland to “clarify” the circumstances in which women could have an abortion under the X case.

 Kenny, he thinks, may have calculated that those he describes as the “scoundrels of Fianna Fáil” were now so discredited by their “wallet-stuffing greed” and their financial incompetence that he would face no viable opposition anytime soon. If so, Caldwell says, he was mistaken. In the months since Kenny embarked on the path for abortion legislation, he notes, Fine Gael’s support in the general public dropped like a rock, from 34 percent to about 25. Left for dead as recently as last fall, Fianna Fáil found itself restored this spring to its position as the country’s most popular party. Twenty-five thousand people demonstrated against Fine Gael in front of the legislature—not as impressive as the crowds that came to protest the Iraq war in 2003 or austerity in 2009, but far more impressive than anything the opposing side could muster.

Caldwell now thinks the expectation that Ireland, after a brief political to-do, will settle into a European-style consensus about abortion is probably wrong. Ireland, he suggests, is more likely to resemble the United States where the abortion issue, recklessly addressed at the outset, has done decades’ worth of damage to the political system.

He interviewed Clare Daly for his article, describing her as “an ebullient, forthright, charismatic North Dublin radical who advanced a groundbreaking abortion bill last year. A veteran of Labour and the country’s small Socialist faction, she has yet to find a party she cannot get herself kicked out of for being too left-wing.”

Daly was very honest with him, in a way that suggests that those introducing the crucial abortion legislation are less than honest. She accepts, recognises, that the change that Fine Gael is trying to pass off as a mere tweak is nothing of the sort. “Symbolically it changes everything,” she told him. “And once you’ve legislated one circumstance, well, then, you’re immediately dealing with fatal fetal abnormalities, rape, incest, blah-blah. That’s why they’re all kicking so much. That’s why they’re going mad. That’s why they have the campaign that they have.”

She means the pro-lifers. I say, rather hesitantly, “So the Rónán Mullens of the world—”

“They know!” Daly interrupts. “They’re right!”

Blind and shameless collusion in abortion news coverage

We are of course rejoicing at the success of the phenomenal pro-life demonstration in Dublin on Saturday. It was achieved in the face of what one could only describe as a media blackout of the event in the weeks leading up to it. It must surely have given both the conscientious and the crowd-following public representatives something to think about. The conscientious will have had their convictions reinforced by the platform speakers who sent out loud and clear statements and illustrations of the crime that the killing of the unborn is. For the populist crowd-followers it gave evidence that pro-life people power is on the move and for them this is a chilling signal that their cosy parliamentary seats might also be on the move.

More than 25,000 people from all over the country gathered in Merrion Square to protest at the coalition government’s proposal to legislate for abortion within the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic. Abortion is currently prohibited under the terms of a constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly by the people 30 years ago. An estimated 150 pro-abortion demonstrators presented themselves at the venue as well.

But we are also once again confronted with the story-within-a-story. The story of the shameless bias of the media which spells out one fact over all others: the majority of those in the positions of influence in the media in this country are openly and unapologetically campaigning for the pro-abortion cause.

If anyone needed confirmation that there is collusion between the Irish media – orchestrated, one suspects, from behind the closed doors of sub-editing rooms – and the international press one has only to scan the reports of the Vigil in the newspapers over the following days. It did not make the front page of a single broadsheet on Monday. The Irish Times reported on it without the slightest allusion to its significance. Even RTE managed to rise to using the term “game-changer” in its Saturday evening report. That this surprised us speaks for itself. Can you imagine what we would have been reading and listening to had such numbers turned out for a pro-abortion rally? Try. You won’t find it very taxing.

How did Independent Newspapers report this the following day? The opening paragraph of a report attributed to Sarah Stack and the Press Association was this:

PROTESTERS for and against abortion have staged separate rallies in Dublin as each side step up their campaigning. The Pro-Life Campaign urged people to stand up for “the right of the unborn child” at its Unite for Life Vigil but were (sic) accused of going against legislation that would save the lives of women. Note that “right of the unborn child” in inverted commas.

The Government, we were reminded, has committed to legislate and introduce regulations to allow abortion if there is a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life, including the threat of suicide.

The report then entered even-handed mode when Pro-life spokeswoman Caroline Simons’ words were reported. She told the crowd, the biggest Dublin has seen for a decade or more, that the Government’s argument that abortion is needed to treat threatened suicide in pregnancy was demolished at the hearings on abortion held in the parliament over a week ago.

“The psychiatrists who addressed the hearings were unanimous that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal ideation”, Simons said. “But there is evidence that abortion increases the risk of future mental health problems for a significant number of women.

“The facts are simple. Where a pregnant woman’s life is at risk, Irish law and current Irish medical practice allows doctors to intervene to ensure women receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, even where this unavoidably results in the death of the baby.”

But that was as even-handed as it was going to get. Separately, Stack then told us, – without mentioning the number protesting – that pro-choice campaigners staged a counter-demonstration nearby and said pro-life groups are protesting against the introduction of legislation that would save the lives of women living in Ireland.

“They’re protesting against legislation that the majority have voted for in a referendum. They’re protesting against a supreme court decision. They’re protesting directly against what the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) says Ireland needs to do to protect the human rights of pregnant women,” a spokesperson for this group complained about the 25, 000.

Then came the red-herring inbthevform of a report of a two-day-old story about the opening of an inquest into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar on October 28 after she suffered a miscarriage. The international media has – with the help of its Irish fellow-travellers – sat in judgement on this and has decreed that Savita died because she was refused an abortion. On the information currently available there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for that conclusion.

Stack’s report then goes over the background to that case – all in the context of the demonstration in Dublin. No mention is made of the multiple statements made by gynaecologists, and by speakers at yesterday’s demonstration, that there is no evidence that an abortion need ever be resorted to as a solution to a complication which might arise in pregnancy.

Stack then proceeded to report on the formation of a new pro-choice group, Abortion Rights Campaign, being established in the country.

She reported that Clare Daly TD said the campaign is not a sprint but a marathon. “We’re here for the long haul,” she said. “In the meantime, we want the immediate introduction of legislation for the right to safe, legal abortion when a woman’s life is at risk, including from suicide.

“We also want the simplest, broadest legislation that includes the right to abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality. We will keep the pressure on until we get this.”

She did not say what everyone knows, that the pro-abortion campaign wants abortion on demand, and knows that prime minister Enda Kenny’s “restrictive” legislative proposal is the best way to get it.

The entire report devoted about 150 words to the demonstration by 25,000 people while the cause being promoted by the pro-choice group got the lion’s share of attention with over twice that. Shameless. Admittedly another report, seen online, by two reporters from the group’s newsroom did carry more of the content of what was said at the demonstration. But it was not much more and it also laboured the Halappanavar case which in the end of the day may have nothing at all to do with abortion and be revealed as a sad case of a woman dying from the effects of an infection.

For some serious coverage of the demonstration a more balanced report can be read here. See this short YouTube video for an atmospheric snapshot of the event.

All this is happening in Ireland while conscientious Americans are mourning the more than 55 milion lives sacrificed on the twin altars of, on the one hand, false compassion, and on the other of selfishness and self-indulgence. This is the toll of lives taken over the 40 years since the US Supreme Court conceded the right to life of the unborn in Roe V Wade.

Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, keeps telling his people that he is not entering the same road as this. He offers no plausible reasons for this assertion, no reasons at all in fact, but instead moans about receiving abusive letters among which are some which suggest that he is “worse than Herod” who slaughtered the Holy Innocents. Well, he may not be worse than Herod. But if he presides over the passing of legislation which will lead to the intentional killing of babies in the womb, even one baby in the womb, then he will bear responsibility for that act and will join a significant number of public representatives who are running Herod a close scond. Is there any other moral reasoning which will deny that? These babies are the new Holy Innocents.

The US picture is truly horrendous. Since that fateful decision by nine men on the Supreme Court in 1973, there have been approximately 55,772,015 abortions that have destroyed the lives of unborn children. Looked at another way, that is 1,392,500 abortions each and every year, 116,191 abortions each and every month in all 50 states. The math breaks down to 26,813 abortions each and every week nationwide. And every day, that’s 3,820 abortions.

Almost 4,000 children have died in America from abortions each and every day since.

Irish proposal for abortion law riddled with wishful thinking

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny

What looks like the beginning of open warfare ensued in the Republic of Ireland yesterday with the announcement by the Coalition government there that it is going to prepare legislation for “limited” abortion in the State.  In the aftermath of the announcement, the four Catholic Archbishops have issued their strongest ever condemnation of abortion as a moral evil. Meanwhile another bishop describes the proposal as the “first step on the road to a culture of death”. The main government party in the Coalition is also divided on the proposal.

The legislation is seen by all pro-life groups in the country as the first step towards abortion on demand in that the threat of suicide is being accepted as a ground for granting an abortion. The pro-abortion activists and those who support the proposed legislation – even though they say they are not pro-abortion – are failing to answer the question why these grounds for abortion will not lead to abortion on demand as it has done so in all other jurisdictions where it has been introduced.

Currently abortion in any form is prohibited by an act of parliament. This ban was confirmed as the will of the people in a constitutional referendum in 1983 which prohibits legislation to introduce abortion. This provision, however, was compromised by a judgement of the Supreme Court in the 1990s when it ruled that a woman threatening to commit suicide had a right to have an abortion since this was taken to be a threat to her life.

That judgement has been heavily criticised by psychiatrists who consider that threats of suicide are far too complex to be made the basis for a decision to end the life of an unborn child – even if that were ever to be considered a morally defensible act.

The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny and his senior Ministers are planning to reassure members of his party that allowing the threat of suicide as a ground for termination will not lead to abortion on demand. He has not, however, offered any kind of coherent reasoning to back up this assertion.

Minister for Health James Reilly last night said that “legislation supported by regulations will inform us to ensure that suicide will not be abused as it is perceived to be in other jurisdictions”. He has  given no clues as to why pro-life campaigners should not consider this as any more than wishful thinking.

Irish radio reported him as saying that the legislation would have to cover suicide as the Supreme Court had been very clear in its judgment on the issue. He would try to create as much consensus as possible on the issue and hoped the legislation would be passed before next summer if not sooner.

Dr Berry Kiely of Ireland’s Pro Life Campaign said if the threat of suicide is included in any legislation to give legal clarity on abortion it will radically change medical practice in Ireland and the Irish legal system. Speaking on Irish radio Dr Kiely said it would introduce, for the first time, the direct and intentional killing of the unborn into Irish law.

She said there was a difference between medical treatment, which may result in the death of a foetus, and abortion, which is intended to end the life of the unborn. “This is where the whole issue of suicide comes into it, because a woman who says she’s suicidal because of being pregnant with this baby, what she’s saying is she doesn’t want a living baby at the end of this procedure,” Dr Kiely said. “You’re actually, in that situation, proposing to directly and intentionally ensure the death of her baby. That’s a very radical change for medical practice in Ireland, for our legal system, for whatever.”

The Government statement yesterday did not mention the matter but it is accepted that the grounds for a legal termination will include the risk of suicide or self-destruction. The legislative scheme will not, however, incorporate, or make legal, abortion in other in extremis situations, such as rape, sexual abuse, or rare fatal foetal abnormalities. However, the admission of legitimacy on any grounds – and particularly on grounds as open to manipulation as a threat of suicide – is seen as the thin end of the wedge to bring abortion on demand to Ireland.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has said he is surprised by the vigour of the language used by the Archbishops statement. However, he has not on this occasion suggested that the representatives of the Catholic Church had no right to speak on a matter like this. The Bishop of Kilmore, Leo O’Reilly, said that the Government’s decision to introduce legislation and regulations on the abortion issue is the “first step on the road to a culture of death”.

The four Archbishops in their statement encouraged “all to pray that our public representatives will be given the wisdom and courage to do what is right”.

They state categorically that “If what is being proposed were to become law, the careful balance between the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child in current law and medical practice in Ireland would be fundamentally changed. It would pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children. This can never be morally justified in any circumstances.

“The decision of the Supreme Court in the ‘X’ case unilaterally overturned the clear pro-life intention of the people of Ireland as expressed in Article 40.3.3 of our Constitution. To legislate on the basis of such a flawed judgement would be both tragic and unnecessary.

“The dignity of the human person and the common good of humanity depend on our respect for the right to life of every person from the moment of conception to natural death. The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights. It is the very basis for every other right we enjoy as persons.

“The lives of untold numbers of unborn children in this State now depend on the choices that will be made by our public representatives. The unavoidable choice that now faces all our public representatives is: will I choose to defend and vindicate the equal right to life of a mother and the child in her womb in all circumstances, or will I choose to licence the direct and intentional killing of the innocent baby in the womb?”

The government parties have declared that in the vote on this issue – when it comes to a decision on legislation – will not be a free vote. On this also the Archbishops had strong words on the moral implication of such a ruling. “Moreover,” they said, “in a decision of such fundamental moral importance every public representative is entitled to complete respect for the freedom of conscience. No one has the right to force or coerce someone to act against their conscience. Respect for this right is the very foundation of a free, civilised and democratic society.”

The husband of the late Savita Halappanavar says he would welcome any legislation that would prevent another death in the circumstances in which his wife died. Mrs Halappanavar (31) died in Galway University Hospital in October. She was found to be miscarrying her 17-week pregnancy. This sad case has provided a very emotional context to the legislation issue although this proposal to legislate has been on the agenda of the Government since a negative European Court ruling in 2010. However, there is no confirmation that Mrs. Halappanavar’s death would have been prevented had he baby been deliberately killed by the medical team dealing with her miscarriage. Praveen Halappanavar has said she was repeatedly refused a termination.  No corroborating evidence of this has come to light as yet. The report of two investigations on what actually happened in the days leading to her death are currently awaited.

Playboy at large…

Reading Charles Spencer’s recent Daily Telegraph review of “The Playboy of the Western World” – now running at the Old Vic in London – it is hard not to think of the Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and his gormless blustering. Spencer tells us that the action of the play turns on the character of Christy Mahon, who turns up at a rural pub in the wilds of Co. Mayo and announces that he is on the run after murdering his bullying father. Instead of condemning his action the locals fete him as a hero. Is this an image of Kenny laying into the Catholic Church and the Vatican, as the cheerleaders around him – and his left-liberal coalition partners in Government – coax him on.

“Christy is a most unlikely murderer,” Spencer continues, “a point marvellously made in Robert Sheehan’s gormless, gangling performance, but the acclaim of his new companions puts an unfamiliar swagger in his stride, especially when the spirited daughter of the house, Pegeen Mike, takes a shine to him.” For many Enda was a kind of hero when he blusteringly, and with gross exaggeration of his case, set about putting the Vatican in its place on behalf of the Irish people last July.

But the shine on Mr. Kenny’s performances may be beginning to become a bit scuffed as the reaction to his most recent hostile action against the Vatican – the barely concealed insult of closing the Irish Embassy to the Holy See – begins to generate a growing resentment. Even his own back-benchers are now questioning his judgement. One wonders if the dramatic denouement of the Playboy might not also be in store for Mr. Kenny. As Spencer notes of the fate in store for Christy Mahon: “Suddenly this perennial loser in life’s lottery discovers hope and confidence for the first time. Then, in one of the great comic coups of modern theatre, his father turns up with a bloody bandage round his head, and the play heads off in a startling new direction.” Mr. Kenny’s hopes and unwarranted popularity of recent months may meet a similar humiliating fate.

Talibanesque act of wanton destruction?

The Irish government’s decision to close its embassy to the Vatican has dismayed the few million Catholics in Ireland and many more around the world. Letters to the Irish print media in the past few days – from Ireland and further afield –  have expressed a mixture of anger and resentment at what many see as a small-minded attempt to further justify the petulant and intemperate attack made by the Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny on the Holy See last July. Others see it as a more sinister volley in an ongoing campaign by the left-liberal wing of the Irish coalition government to further undermine adherence of Irish people to the Catholic faith.

John P McCarthy, Professor Emeritus of History, Fordham University, New York, (Irish Times, 5/11/11) puts his finger on what some see as the kernel of the issue when he suggests what he thinks is the real source of the Irish coalition government’s hostility to the Vatican:  “Might the Taoiseach’s rhetoric of last summer have emboldened the secular fundamentalism of some of his coalition partners?”

For another correspondent to the paper the decision smacks of a secularist  talibanesque act of wanton destruction of something of deep historic significance in the landscape of Ireland’s international relations. “The closing of the Irish Embassy to the Vatican… is, I suggest, a sad reflection on this Government’s sense of historical, cultural and religious values”, wrote Dr. John Cooney of Monaghan.

“It is one of our oldest embassies, having been established in 1929 on the creation of the Vatican State as a result of the Lateran Treaty with Italy and in the early days of our own Irish government. The Vatican had been one of the first entities to recognise the Irish State.” He continued: “At a time when countries such as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan are opening embassies to the Vatican, we, still a Christian country with a majority Roman Catholic population, welcoming also those of other faiths and none, chose to close ours. The fact that we are closing it now, after our Taoiseach’s unprecedented verbal attack on the Vatican, delivered in the Dáil, will be interpreted by most intelligent people both here and abroad as a further demonstration of our official contempt for the Vatican and indeed for the Roman Catholic Church of which it is the symbol and centre of the magisterium or official teachings of the church.”

Donal Deasy, writing from  Richmond in British Columbia, Canada, contrasts this decision with the Vatican’s decision to continue placing its nunciature to China and Taiwan in Taipei, Taiwan. “Taiwan is democratic. China is communist. While the vast majority of countries including Ireland have followed the dollar to Beijing, overlooking a few intangible human rights issues, the Vatican maintains a lonely but noble stand in defence of what some of us still consider to be priceless values.”

Ireland’s “paper of record”, The Irish Times, seeks to assure its readers that the Irish government’s decision is not an ideologically driven move. Not everyone is convinced.

People, it said, who seek to link the closure with an assault by the Labour Party on the Catholic Church and its control of national schools, have got it wrong. “Such ‘reds-under-the-bed’ language has little relevance.”

The Irish Times may be a paper of record but records cut a number of ways and the “B” side – or is it the “A” side – of this particular record shows clearly that The Irish Times is often little more than an apologist for the liberal secularist ascendancy which dominates Irish political life. People trust its judgement on many things, but this is one area where it consistently proves itself to be very suspect.

The paper admits that there is “little doubt the Cloyne report on clerical child sex abuse, highly charged exchanges between the Taoiseach and the Vatican concerning unwarranted interference in this State and the recall of the papal nuncio have all contributed to the closure of Ireland’s embassy to the Holy See. Difficult fiscal circumstances may have provided official justification for the decision but it overlaid a deep chill in relations between the Catholic Church and the Government.”

So far so good. But the paper’s religious affairs correspondent, Mr. Patsy McGarry, in his opinion piece the day after the announcement, provided its readers with a very tendentious account of events leading to this decision.

In his analysis he was  rather selective in his presentation of the facts of the case. For example, he stated (correctly) that the Murphy Commission, when investigating child abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin, wrote to the Vatican seeking relevant information. But he leads his readers to believe that the Vatican ignored this request. It didn’t.

The Vatican contacted the Irish Government upon receiving the request and asked the Government to ask the Murphy Commission to put its request through the normal diplomatic channels. When an Irish court writes for information to a foreign court, this is what happens.

Further on in his piece, Mr McGarry tells us, again correctly, that the Vatican described the Irish Church’s 1996 child protection guidelines as a “study document”. But he doesn’t tell us that this is how the Irish bishops themselves described it to the Vatican.

He also tells us of the Vatican’s “opposition” to the guidelines. This is an exaggeration.  The Congregation for Clergy, from which the Vatican response originated, had a reservation about mandatory reporting, just as the then Irish Government had.

Towards the end of his article Mr McGarry simply repeats the most lurid lines from the Taoiseach’s attack on the Vatican without substantiating the Taoiseach’s accusations and without giving any details of the Vatican’s measured and detailed rebuttal.

There are Irish people muttering now that they detect a concerted campaign in Irish political circles to de-couple Irish society from its allegiance to anything “Catholic” in its culture – , laws governing education, marriage, procreation, health, etc. For some, up until now, this has smacked of scare-mongering, a “reds-under-the-bed” mentality as the Irish times would have it. For many it is no longer so. Mr. Kenny’s July speech may have been a watershed moment in more ways than one. In it he proclaimed himself a “practising Catholic”. Some recall that King Henry VIII saw himself living and dying as a “practising Catholic”. Despite that he succeeded in tearing the Catholic heart out of England. He failed to do so in Ireland, and Ireland resisted his successors’ efforts to do so for 500 years. Will Enda Kenny – unwittingly, perhaps – succeed in doing what Henry VIII failed to do?

The Elephant At the Polling Station

There’s no question about it. There’s an elephant in the room and there is a massive conspiracy of silence to say nothing about it among in the mainstream Irish media covering the general election set to take place there on February 25. But hell hath no fury like an animal such as this when roused to anger by being ignored. Some are just now beginning to prod this one into action.

Admittedly Ireland’s continuing struggles to escape the clutches of the biggest recession, probably in its history, preoccupies both the electorate and the politicians in this campaign. But other issues are also at stake and these are the one the politicians are furtively seeking to avoid. Proposals to legislate for abortion, for gay marriage and limiting choice of schools to parents are all there in the small print. Like small print everywhere the hope of the printer is that it might not be read. On these issues it is Ireland’s own version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The first mainstream flagging of the abortion issue came last week in David Quinn’s weekly column in Ireland’s biggest broadsheet, the Irish Independent.  www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/david-quinn-any-vote-for-the-labour-party-is-a-vote-for-abortion-2535719.html . He spelt out the reality confronting the Irish electorate on these issues and effectively asked them to wake up to it.

These questions have become important because the final composition of the Irish parliament will most likely leave the two centre right parties (Fianna Fail and Fine Gael) without overall majorities. They will then have to look for government partners among the left-liberal groupings, Labour and the Greens. The polls currently suggest that the new Irish government will be formed from a coalition of Fine Gael and Labour. It is the familiar story of the tail getting to the position where it can wag the dog on social policy while the centre right gets on with the economic business. That is what happened in the outgoing parliament where the liberal Greens got their pound of flesh in the form of civil partnership legislation for homosexuals. For all those who campaigned on this issue, this was only a half-way house. The same groupings are now going all out for full gay-marriage legislation. That is no surprise, nor would it be seen as much of a threat by those opposed to these changes if these groupings were not in danger of getting an influence in the new parliament far beyond what their actual electoral support would warrant.

Quinn put his finger on the heart of the problem in his column when he pointed to the failure of the electorate to waken up to this danger. As he sees it – from his reading of the traditional sector of the electorate “a lot of them haven’t the first clue about Labour’s position on abortion. Amazing, but true. They don’t know, for example, that Labour wants to legislate for (a court) ruling of 1992. That ruling allows for abortion, and furthermore, it permits abortion simply on the say-so of a medical practitioner – it doesn’t have to be a doctor or psychiatrist – who is willing to say that his or her patient is suicidal.

In addition, Eamon Gilmore (Labour Party leader) favours abortion where the ‘health’ of the mother is in danger. In practice, this would replicate in Ireland the British abortion law. In Britain, abortion is permitted where a woman’s life or health is at risk. Health includes mental health. In practice, this translates into abortion-on-demand.

Gilmore favours this policy despite the fact that Ireland is the safest place in the world for a woman to have a baby, according to World Health Organisation figures.

And from a Catholic and Christian point of view, it is not only Labour’s stance on abortion that is problematic. It favours same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. Its attitude towards denominational schools is also a problem.”

Quinn then deals with what he sees as the failure of the sector of the electorate for which traditional values on these issues are important.  He sees two categories of error being made by some of those who might be thinking of voting for Labour. The first category of are those who just don’t know the party’s position on abortion; the second category  somehow manages to rationalise away the Labour position, to say that it doesn’t matter, or that there are more important issues to be considered. Some, he finds, seem to think Labour doesn’t really mean it. “Sorry, it does. If it gets a chance – and that will be up to Fine Gael – we will have abortion in this country.”

 

The response to Quinn’s column seemed to bear out his point – so far. There were just three letters in the paper the following day and the politicians in the two main parties themselves studiously avoided the issue. I say “so far” because there are some signs that the Labour Party is now coming out more clearly on these issues. If it does so it may force the electorate – or the sizeable sector of it which, if awake, would be concerned about these matters to ask the main parties’ prospective members of parliament where they stand. They might then ask them fair and square whether, if in power with Labour, will they give their backing to health social legislation which denies the unborn their rights, denies society the marriages it needs to maintain the family as a meaningful institution, and denies parents the right to a choice of school without penalizing them financially.

The day after Quinn’s column appeared the paper’s deputy political editor, Michael Brennan, reported that the “Labour Party is making a pitch for the ‘gay vote’ by calling for a same-sex marriage referendum – but it risks alienating more conservative voters. Leader Eamon Gilmore yesterday said the party wanted to push ahead with a referendum to allow gay people the same right to marry as straight people.”  And on abortion he said “Labour is still maintaining its policy on another divisive social issue – it wants to introduce legislation which would copper-fasten the right of women to access life-saving abortions.”

However, Brennan warned, Labour’s social policies could cause divisions with its likely coalition partner Fine Gael, which is opposed to holding an abortion referendum and has not publicly backed same-sex marriages.

Fine Gael’s leader, and the man most likely to be Ireland’s next prime minister, is still less than forthright on exactly what terms he will enter coalition with Labour if he fails to gain an overall majority for this own party. Campaigning in Galway last week one journalist observed him as follows: “Enda has a word for everyone and looks like he’ll stand talking to anyone for as long as his aides will tolerate it. He engages in extended impromptu discussions about abortion, Shell to Sea (a local controversy in the West), the pubic service, and each time sets out his position in full.” Really?

The electorate knows he is “personally” opposed to abortion and considers marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. But but they have also heard him acknowledge that “there are other points of view”. What those seemingly tolerant words will mean if and when he come to form a government with those of that other point of view is what the traditional electors of Ireland do not yet know. The elephant is still in the room.