It is not just Apple which is testing the loyalty and commitment of the Irish to the European project. Ireland is now, along with Apple, challenging the European Union’s demand that this Corporation pay a double-digit billion tax bill to Ireland. Strange as it may seem – although it is not at all strange – Ireland sees much more value in the employment Apple and multiple other giant investors bring to its economy than it does in a once-off windfall. Add to that the dilemma which Brexit has confronted Ireland with and the unthinkable is beginning to become more and more thinkable. Where ultimately does Ireland’s interest as a thriving economy and as an independent nation lie – inside or outside of the European Union?
Yesterday, in the Dublin paper, the Sunday Business Post (see here), an Irish diplomat and former Irish ambassador to Canada, Mr. Ray Basset, wrote of his worries about the path of least resistance which the Irish administration seems to be taking on the question of the terms of Britain’s exit from the Union.
Irish economist and journalist, David McWilliams, comments at length on the implications of what Basset is saying, implying as he does that the Irish government has decided that there is no special relationship with Britain, and that our attitude to Britain and Brexit will be subservient to the EU’s attitude.
“The idea that there is no special relationship”, McWilliams says, “is not only patently false (I’m writing this from Belfast, for God’s sake!), such a cavalier attitude to our nearest neighbour is extremely dangerous economically, verging on the financially treacherous.”
“Insane” is his description of the view that Ireland’s position with respect to Brexit is in any way similar to that of France or Germany or, worse still, to the likes of Hungary. Why? There are multiple reasons: “There are 500,000 Irish citizens living in England. We have a land border with Britain and a bilateral international treaty, the Good Friday Agreement, with London.
“We are umbilically attached to Britain in our two most labour-intensive industries, agriculture and tourism, where the British are by far our biggest clients. One-third of our imports come from Britain. The Dublin/London air corridor is the busiest route in Europe and one of the busiest in the world. In fact, the Irish airline Ryanair is the biggest airline in Britain, carrying far more British people every year than British Airways.”
McWilliams’ very perceptive comment lays out some of the details of the folly he perceives in what appears to be the Irish States’ status quo on negotiations. For him it is tantamount to a government acting against the interest of its own economy. Apart altogether from the social and economic rupture between Ireland and Britain which the hard line which European negotiators are currently taking on Brexit would cause, there is the risk of a potential trade war with Britain where Ireland can only be damaged immeasurably.
McWilliam’s analysis and fears make a great deal of sense – up to the point where he goes on to protest that he is not himself a eurosceptic – or anything like it. Admittedly he is worried about Europe’s federalist agenda and its implications. Michel Barnier, the EU’s negotiator on Brexit, is a committed federalist.
“Under his federalist vision, the Irish consulate in Spain would be scrapped – so that if an Irish lad got a battering from the Guardia Civil, for example, there would be no Irish consulate to listen to his case and help him out. He also advocated in this report to close down all (Irish and other) consulates in non-EU countries and replace these with one EU consulate.”
McWilliam’s argument, however, is that we should stay in the EU, but draw the line at the present EU. “We shouldn’t embrace any further integrationist stuff nor sign up to any further federalist projects. This means doing precisely the opposite of the Brits. Rather than following the British out of the EU, we should vow never to leave it. The EU can’t kick us out. There is no mechanism. We should simply opt out of Mr Barnier’s plans. This means we have full access to the EU, but we don’t need nor want to go any further – not because of some cultural aversion, but because it’s not in our interest.”
But surely there is a great weakness in that argument, a weakness which the history of Ireland’s relationship with the Union screams out to us. There is no stopping the European juggernaut. When Britain tried to modify it, to bring it to a more common sense position and one which would show more respect for the sovereignty of the nations which make it up, it was in effect sent packing.
Consider the negotiations of David Cameron when he tried to head off Brexit. Like a famous predecessor he proclaimed that he had plucked a flower from a bed of nettles – but what he got turned into the nightmare which destroyed his political career.
Ireland’s history of two referendums on European treaties where it said “no” to the path Europe was taking speaks for itself. It was soft-soaped, sent back to think again and came up with the “yes” which the juggernaut needed to go forward.
There are many who think that the juggernaut has already gone down the path of self-destruction. It may be so – and this may be the only way that a little country like Ireland will be able to find it own way and exercise the self-determination it needs to make its way in the wider world – which is where its future must surely lie.
Which is what Nigel Farage is essentially saying here.
The fact that Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s new minority Government is somewhat lame does not seem to be stopping him pushing ahead with what he thinks is a populist demand to further liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws. He has announced that he is going ahead with the Citizens’ Assembly promised by the last Government – which he also led – to prepare the ground for this change.
For those who recognise the humanity of the child in the womb, awaiting birth, this is just another piece of window-dressing of shameless political manipulation. It is an attempt to sell to the Irish people something which in their hearts they abhor. A similar strategy was used three years ago with a hand-picked “expert group” was setup by health minister, James Reilly to give pre-ordained advice to him which resulted in an earlier liberalisation of the law.
The Irish Pro Life Campaign describes this decision to bring forward the setting up of the Assembly on abortion is “a knee-jerk reaction to the disgracefully one-sided report last week from the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) which set the rights of the unborn child at zero and ignored the devastating after-effects of abortion for many women.”
Last week, the UN Human Rights Committee commented on a complaint brought by an Irish woman who was unable to have an abortion in Ireland when she was told that her baby would not survive to birth, or very long afterwards. In those comments, the UNHRC said that the Irish State had subjected her to “intense physical and mental suffering”.
Commenting on yesterday’s announcement from the Government, Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said:
“This Assembly is being set up with one purpose only and that is to pave the way for a referendum to strip the unborn child of its last remaining Constitutional protection. Every member of Cabinet knows that the UN Committee that commented on Ireland’s abortion laws last week has a track record in only pushing abortion and has never once taken a stand against the appalling abuses internationally in the abortion industry. For example, the UN Committee in question has never brought countries like England and Canada to task over the barbaric practice of refusing to give medical assistance to babies born alive after botched abortions.”
The public campaigning for this change in the Republic has been relentless since ‘liberal’ Ireland’s gay marriage victory last year. The pro-abortion pressure groups have the media in their pockets for this one as well. The ratio of pro-abortion stories being run on radio and in print is still in the region of the 30:1 bias exposed last year. It bears no relation to the actual balance of public opinion on the matter. The figure for that which is now routinely trotted out is a pro-abortion one from a poll run for Amnesty International. That organisation’s Irish arm is now the country’s highest profile campaigner for abortion. For some reason its fundraisers on the streets do not seem to as ubiquitous as they were heretofore. One wonders why? Could it be that too many shoppers are seeing them as collectors for Abortion International?
Colum Kenny, an Irish Times columnist, in an balanced article in that paper earlier this month – a welcome but rare enough event for that paper – suggested that the “entry of Amnesty International into this domestic debate is problematic. Its rationale for sidelining the rights of the unborn, on the basis that human rights only begin after birth, is unconvincing.
Even permissive abortion regimes recognise it is not appropriate to terminate a foetus after a certain point sometime before birth. Parents are well aware a moving child in the womb is a human being. Has Amnesty no policy on the healthy but defenceless foetus that might be aborted only for personal or state convenience?”
The Irish Government will be called on this evening to formally recognise as genocide the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities at the hands of ISIS. John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information at Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) UK, a leading campaigner on behalf of the rights of persecuted Christians, will make the call at a talk he is giving on the topic tonight in Dublin.
He has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Syria, visiting Christians and others in Homs, Damascus and rural districts plagued by violence, persecution and extreme poverty. In his work with ACN, he has visited Iraq as well as other parts of the Middle East, Pakistan, China, Sudan, Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.
“On trips to Syria and Iraq” he said today, “I have seen with my own eyes the churches that have been repeatedly desecrated by Islamic State, I have met the people driven from their homes and I have also spoken to those who have been kidnapped, their lives threatened. The evidence makes plain the intent of the persecutors to flush out individual sections of society; that is why the Irish government should join with others in recognising the actions in question as genocide according to the definition given under the UN Convention on Genocide. Nor is this genocide only against Christians; it recognises Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as victims too.”
The US House of Representatives recently voted by 373 votes to nil to recognise as genocide what is happening to religious minorities at the hands of ISIS. The European Parliament voted in favour of a similar resolution late last year.
The talk in Dublin takes place tonight at 8pm and is entitled ‘Genocide: how Christians are being killed and driven out of the Middle East for their faith’. It is being jointly hosted by Aid to the Church in Need Ireland and The Iona Institute. It is will chaired by historian and political activist, Dr Martin Mansergh. It takes places in the Alexander hotel, Dublin 2. Admission is free.
For most of the time ordinary people don’t want power. They just want to get on with their lives. Democracy relieved them of dictatorial, aristocratic and oligarchic abuses of power. In our democratic age we expect that all we have to do is choose, every few years, reasonable, just and capable people to look after our public affairs for us – and all will be well. That seems to be enough power to keep us going. But something radical has now happened. We do not seem to be in this comfortable place anymore.
“In his essay”, Brooks tells us, “nobody feels like they have any power. The locals, the imperial victims, sure didn’t. Orwell, the guy with the gun, didn’t feel like he had any. The imperialists back in London were too far away.” He thinks this is the way much of the world is today, with everyone afflicted with a widespread sentiment that power is somewhere other than where you are.
Suddenly, we are not so sure that anything we think, say or do matters anymore. If it did why do I have to suppress this sense of fear and loathing every morning as I make my way to work past the Irish parliament and the offices of the prime minister of my country?
Brooks, writing in the American context, speaks of the confusion he sees right across the social and political spectrum where every group feels it is being hard done by in the system. A Pew Research Center poll asked Americans, ‘Would you say your side has been winning or losing more?’ Sixty-four percent of Americans, with majorities of both parties, believe their side has been losing more.
“Sometimes”, Brooks says, “when groups feel oppressed, they organize by coming up with concrete reform proposals to empower themselves.” He cites the Black Lives Matter movement as an example of this kind of response.
Here in Ireland some people afflicted by this “powerlessness” syndrome hope that new political parties might give some respite. Others despair even of that when they look at the options that new fledgling parties provide. They hope that the wave of independent non-party representatives expected in the next Irish parliament – the general election for a new Dáil will take place in about five weeks from now – will at least throw up something to relieve their pain and their anxiety. Others just look on this as a vain hope, convinced that what they see as a mildly to severely corrupt political and media establishment will manipulate the system to keep themselves in power.
Brooks thinks that “the feeling of absolute powerlessness can corrupt absolutely. As psychological research has shown, many people who feel powerless come to feel unworthy, and become complicit in their own oppression. Some exaggerate the weight and size of the obstacles in front of them. Some feel dehumanized, forsaken, doomed and guilty.”
The ultimate stand of the hopeless is a defiant but pointless one and is made when they feel overwhelmed by isolation and atomization. Having lost all trust in their own institutions, they respond to powerlessness with pointless acts of self-destruction. Brooks cites what is happening in the Palestinian territories as a classic example. “Young people don’t organize or work with their government to improve their prospects. They wander into Israel, try to stab a soldier or a pregnant woman and get shot or arrested — every single time. They throw away their lives for a pointless and usually botched moment of terrorism.”
In the United States today, on a macro level, everyone seems to be scratching their heads and asking themselves how this particular electoral cycle leading to the election of their 45th President got so crazy. On a micro level they are agonizing over the strange dysfunction of their legal and law enforcement system which two Columbia University journalism graduates have exposed in their riveting documentary series on Netflix, Making a Murderer.
For Brooks the first is a perversion brought about by feelings of powerlessness. As regards the second, no one seems to have any answers. It all ends up compounding the despair.
Brooks sums up the American dilemma: “Americans are beset by complex, intractable problems that don’t have a clear villain: technological change displaces workers; globalization and the rapid movement of people destabilize communities; family structure dissolves; the political order in the Middle East teeters, the Chinese economy craters, inequality rises, the global order frays, etc.”
Irish citizens seldom agonize over all of these issues – because they don’t expect their chosen representatives to have to deal with them. Our hapless and helpless representatives had to rely of an international troika of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank to dig it out of the mess they let the country fall into in the mid 2000s. The smug way in which the current political establishment now claims credit for the troika’s vigilance in having guided us to a reasonably safe haven fools some but angers others.
Is Ireland safe from the horrors of the unsafe verdicts and law enforcement shenanigans portrayed in Making a Murder? Irish radio last week was debating whether the dreadful scenario presented in the series could happen in their blessed land. Indeed it could – and from time to time there have been suspicious signs that something like it has.
On the political front, thirty-eight percent of the Irish electorate looked on in dismay last year as a united phalanx of political and media forces effectively consigned the already badly wounded natural institution of marriage to the rubbish heap of history by effectively redefining it out of existence. In the previous year the same coordinated forces took the first step in removing from Ireland’s laws and constitution the right to life of unborn children. It is now building up forces again to complete this work and get Ireland to join the world club of states which judicially take the lives of millions of innocent human beings every year. Ireland legislators will do this again with the help of hand-picked lackeys to form “expert groups” and “citizen forums”, the modern equivalent of the packed juries of former times which put the veneer of justice on the killing willed their masters.
The citizens who see these developments as catastrophes feel as powerless as victims confronted by an alien force from they know not where. Their fear is compounded by the fact that this force comes in the form of a human agency whose framework of values is totally out of sync with everything they know about human nature, human dignity and natural justice.
The consequences of the exercise of power by this agency – or agencies either under their control or influence – are the cause of the loathing that they feel. Among these consequences are the slaughter of the unborn, the termination of lives considered “limited”, whether youthful or aged, the destruction of family and the redefinition of human nature itself by the adoption of a crazy gender ideology.
Some but not all of these things have arrived in Ireland. But they surely will and the feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it in the face of an entrenched alien force is breeding despair. How ironic is this in the very year in which Ireland’s people “celebrate” the centenary of the rebellion which led to their winning independence from Britain?
For more than 700 years Ireland was subject to the British Crown. For much of three centuries of that era, up to the later part of the 18th century, her people suffered bitter and lethal persecution for adhering to the principles of their Catholic Faith. There are many who now fear that the Irish political and media establishment’s adherence to new definitions of humanity contrary to their Faith will usher in an new era of persecution.
In Ireland’s history, constitutional change and violent rebellion, sometimes one, sometimes the other, were resorted to as a way of rectifying injustice and of bringing persecution to an end. The hope is that the former will be the means of choice this time to restore to the powerless their democratic voice in the face of something which at times does not look too far removed from a new tyranny.
In looking for a solution to the problem in his country Brooks argues:
To address these problems we need big, responsible institutions (power centres) that can mobilize people, cobble together governing majorities and enact plans of actions. In the U.S. context that means functioning political parties and a functioning Congress.
Those institutions have been weakened of late. Parties have been rendered weak by both campaign finance laws and the Citizens United decision, which have cut off their funding streams and given power to polarized super-donors who work outside the party system. Congress has been weakened by polarization and disruptive members who don’t believe in legislating.
If we’re to have any hope of addressing big systemic problems we’ll have to repair big institutions and have functioning parties and a functioning Congress. We have to discard the anti-political, anti-institutional mood that is prevalent and rebuild effective democratic power centres.
So it may be for America – although I doubt it. In the Irish context is a party like Renua the solution? Or will it be the Social Democrats, or Sinn Fein? I doubt it even more. Why? Because none of these parties have anything of the vision of mankind which has in it the core truths which would enable it to frame consistent policies – social, political or economic – which will meet the needs of our nature and the aspirations which arise from that very nature. Some individuals within these movements have such a vision but these are dismissed by the establishment as “sanctimonious” dreamers. But these are the only hope that the powerless have. The fact is that there is no coherent collective voice in evidence yet which convinces the powerless that there is an alternative vision by which their country might be wisely and justly governed.
Until there is this substance in those currently hollow shells which pass for policies among all these alternatives, any new solution to our powerlessness will be fruitless. Until then the political and moral bankruptcy of our time will continue to plague us.
Be wary of commemoration. Be careful about what you celebrate. Not only may they be perniciously divisive but they may also grossly distort the truth which should first and foremost be the guide to authentic freedom and the ground on which we build our lives and our communities. When we commemorate what we call the Irish Revolution we should know that it was not really a revolution – certainly not at the time. It was a rebellion against the authority of the state and a rejection of its legitimacy. Those who rebelled were undeniably revolutionary in their intent – although their revolutionary agendas were not uniform.
While Ireland’s 1916 rebellion ultimately achieved regime change, for most of the century nothing else of a very radical nature happened. Ireland remained much the same culturally. The flowering of Irish literature, drama and the burning commitment to a Gaelic Ireland which had flourished in the two decades prior to the rebellion were in fact never matched again in the century which followed. In fact the new regime ultimately alienated many from the ideal of a Gaelic Ireland by seeking a compulsory imposition of Ireland’s native language on the people. Ireland is much less Gaelic at the beginning of the 21st century than she was at the beginning of the 20th. That is tragic. She is quintessentially Irish, no less now than she was then, although that Irishness is now heavily influenced and characterised by Anglo-American culture. Meanwhile, her Gaelic soul is on life-support.
Politically, Ireland continued to be ruled and administered through the time honoured institutions it had inherited from the old regime. That was no bad thing. They are the institutions, the machinery of state, that are envy of most of the world. In terms of political life, for many decades Ireland stagnated in the strait-jacket of the enmities generated in its post-rebellion Civil War. Only now, in the 21st century, does there seem to be any hope of escape from that. Escape to what? That remains a moot question.
For most of the 20th century the new Irish State sought to assert her sovereignty in the world and for a number of the early decades sought somewhat ineptly to do so economically. That came to an end with another Act of Union, union with the evolving entity which is now the European Union. Clearly there were differences between the terms and conditions which applied under this Act and the Act of 1801. Just as the terms and conditions of that first Act had evolved into a more benign character by 1900, so also the terms and conditions of our union with Europe are of a new order as well. By 1916 Home Rule for Ireland had been put on the statute books.
The modern British state has evolved by Burkean principles for more than two centuries. Its mode of change was and remains evolutionary and constitutional. This was not good enough for the Irish. The Irish insurgents took the law into their own hands in a way which would be an anathema to that greatest of Irishmen, Edmund Burke. The foolish violence which ensued, after the inept leader of the militants tried to call off the planned insurrection, begot more and equally terrible counter-violence, including the foolish execution of the Insurrection’s leaders. Ireland has had to live with the consequences of that ever since.
One way or the other – and probably it had nothing to do with the act of rebellion in 19 16 – Ireland is now a society much closer to the mores and ideals of Rosamund Jacob, P.S. O’Hegarty and the Sheehy-Skeffingtons of that time. If it was a revolution, it really was a long revolution. What cannot be denied is that in what is now about to be celebrated there is much of the tragic – not least the loss of almost 6000 lives between its inception and its celebration 100 years later.
But human history will never be devoid of tragedy. How could it be otherwise if what Christian theology and divine revelation tell us is true? We are a fallen nature and on the level of nature much of what we touch does not turn to gold. This may be denied by the Jacobs and the O’Hegartys of the New Ireland – of whom there are now many more among us. That does not make it any less true.
Commemorate? Yes, perhaps. There was nobility and heroism in the lives of many of those who sought to carve a different identity for their country than the one they found it had in their time. Celebrate their actions and all their consequences? That path seems more problematic. Commemoration allows for a level of questioning of the wisdom of those we commemorate? Celebration seems not to do so.
Since history began the institution of marriage between men and women has existed in all societies to ensure that the next generation, children, are brought up wherever practicable by the mothers and fathers who are responsible for conceiving them, until those children reach adulthood.
This is ABC in any sociology textbook. Male-female marriage is the basis of the natural links between the generations. It antedates the great religions. No society anywhere, apart from a few in recent years in Latin America and Europe, has regarded marriage as covering homosexuals, because lesbian and gay couples cannot conceive or produce children.
What we are being asked to do on Friday is to amend Article 41 of the Constitution to change marriage and the family from the male-female-based institution that it has always been understood to be in Ireland’s Constitution and laws, into something profoundly different.
It is not a mere matter of EXTENDING THE SCOPE AND COVERAGE of the institution of marriage and the family to include LGBT people. It is TO TRANSFORM FUNDAMENTALLY THE SOCIAL, CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL CHARACTER OF THE INSTITUTION ITSELF.
If people vote Yes it means that henceforth in Ireland families based on so-called “marriage” between two males or two females – who are incapable as couples of producing children – will be included among families that are stated in our Constitution as being “the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society . . . a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights antecedent and superior to all positive law. . . the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State.”
That is a ludicrous proposition, as UCC Professor John A. Murphy has pointed out in the Irish Times.
If we agree to write such an absurdity into the Irish Constitution, it will surely make this country and those in our political class who are responsible for it, into an international laughing stock … And deservedly so.
There are some 198 States in the world. Fewer than one-tenth of them, 17 I understand, have introduced same-sex marriage – all of them by Parliamentary vote or Court order.
Writing same-sex marriage into one’s State Constitution however is permanent, irreversible and likely to have many unforeseen, unintended and unwanted consequences. No other country has done that.
A MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE WAY OF DOING JUSTICE to the 1-2% of the population who are permanently homosexual without transforming the nature of marriage for the 98-99% who are not, would be to give recognition in the Constitution to civil partnerships, which is not the case at present.
Such an obvious way of being fair to our homosexual fellow-citizens does not seem to have been considered by the Government in its rush to push through homosexual “marriage” without any teasing out of its likely complex consequences in a Green Paper or White Paper beforehand.
If Irish voters transform the nature of marriage in the Constitution by voting Yes on Friday they will be endowing gay and lesbian couples with exactly the same constitutional rights to “procreate”, to “found” a family and to have children as opposite-sex couples have.
How can two men “found” a family?
Gay and lesbian couples can only exercise their new constitutional right to “procreate as a family” by the use of eggs or sperm donated by others and the use of surrogate mothers who are willing to “rent out” their wombs to others for nine months at a time.
That is why surrogacy is a relevant issue. It is not an invention, as Yes-side people assert.
Surrogacy means more children being brought up without links to their genetic mothers. It means more exploitation of poor women in poor countries for the benefit of rich people.
Surrogacy is unregulated in Ireland now, but if we change the Constitution homosexual couples will be able to claim it in the Courts as essential to the exercise of their new constitutional rights to procreate and to found families as couples – on the ground of “equality”.
This is presumably the reason why the Government wants to get voters to change the Constitution first, and thereby clear a constitutional path to facilitating surrogacy for LGBT couples by ordinary statute law later.
CAN AMERICAN MONEY BUY AN IRISH REFERENDUM?
One of the many unconsidered consequences of voting to change the Constitution is that it would alter the legal-political effect of the first Lisbon Treaty Protocol, which the Government used to persuade Irish people to ratify the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, after they had rejected it in 2008.
The Lisbon Treaty, which establishes the EU Constitution, gives the EU the power to lay down human rights standards as a matter of supranational law across its 28 Member States. Article 9 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights allows for same-sex marriage and the right “to found a family” on that basis.
As it stands, Ireland’s Lisbon Treaty Protocol is an insurmountable legal barrier to supranational EU law on marriage, the family and education across the EU. If we remove that barrier by changing the Constitution ourselves, we clear the way for EU law on same-sex marriage in all EU countries by decision of the EU Court of Justice in due time.
Ireland would thus become a bridgehead in the EU for the powerful pharmaceutical companies that make up the donor-assisted human reproduction industry and the accompanying lucrative surrogacy business in America and Europe.
Can American money buy an Irish referendum? That is the question put in an Irish Times article (and further afield) last week under that title.
In it we were informed how key elements of the Yes campaign – Marriage Equality, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network(GLEN), and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, have received some $17 million in recent years from the American foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, to help transform the position of marriage in the Irish Constitution.
The taxpayer-funded Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission(IHREC), the State’s official human rights body, wrongly advised the Government, the political parties and the general public that there is a right to same-sex marriage under the European Convention on Human Rights, even though the Court which interprets the Convention has laid down in the Hamalainen v.Finland case that there is no such right.
It turns out that the IHREC too got €2 million from Atlantic Philanthropies.
It has been calculated from Atlantic’s own web-site that this single American foundation invested €735 million in Irish projects in the past 13 years, of which €25 million has been devoted to agencies promoting change in the area of LBGT interests.
It is clear from its web-site also that the Board of this US-based body has had intimate relations with the Government and has determinedly exerted that influence in recent years to change Irish social policy and the Irish Constitution as regards same-sex marriage. The money it provided has been responsible for the systematic lobbying of politicians of all parties on this matter.
We were also told last week that the withdrawal of Government funding of pre-marriage courses by the Catholic charity Accord, is mere coincidence. Then the next day we learned that the Government agency Tusla, which finances Accord, has just received €8 million from the same Atlantic Philanthropies. The coincidences get more curious.
Whether they are aware of it or not, it looks very much as if the key bodies on the Yes-side mentioned have become outriders for US-based Big Pharma, the American social media companies that are cheerleaders for this issue, and the accompanying gender-neutral ideology which seeks to legitimate same-sex marriage across Europe.
If voters change the Constitution on Friday the Irish State will become an ideological flag-bearer in the EU for the powerful economic interests involved in the donor-assisted human reproduction industry and the lucrative international surrogacy business that is its complement.
Worth mentioning in conclusion is that if people vote Yes it will become constitutionally impossible for future Irish public policy to support or favour male-female couples and their children in any way over the “families” of homosexuals.
That is what constitutional and legal “equality” will have to mean.
The new constitutional position of marriage and the family will then have to be taught in our schools, at least in civics classes.
THIS IN TURN IS LIKELY TO CAUSE FAR MORE PAINFUL CONFUSION REGARDING SEXUAL IDENTITY and orientation among vulnerable adolescent young people in the future than is the case at present or has been in the past.
Voters feel that they are being pressurized into voting Yes in order to do the decent thing by homosexuals.
They are told they should feel guilty by not voting for “equality” when the Constitution provides that all citizens are already equal before the law.
They are being deceived and misled by many people who should know better.
IRISH VOTERS SHOULD HAVE THE COURAGE OF FREE CITIZENS, THOUGHTFUL LIBERALS AND TRUE REPUBLICANS and give the nonsense that is currently being thrown at them from all sides a firm “No”.
The State can then take the creative social policy initiative of putting civil partnership into the Irish Constitution, setting a good international example in doing that.
That would give affectional shared-domicile relations between same-sex couples, whether homosexual, platonic friends or siblings who desire such, full constitutional recognition, while leaving marriage and the marriage-based family as it has always been.
But for that to happen voters must say No to same-sex “marriage” first.
A PERSONAL NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
My views on marriage are not religiously based, but are grounded rather in the ABCs of sociology and anthropology. I do not belong to any of the No-side groups on this matter.
I have however taught social policy at TCD for over 30 years, and dealt a lot with family law and public policy on family issues over that time.
I have nothing personal to gain by giving my views on this issue.
I do so only because as a social science professional I believe that Irish voters will be making a mistake which many will come to regret if they vote on Friday to transform fundamentally the character of marriage and the family based on marriage in their State Constitution. No other country has done this.
Irish social policy can easily do justice to the interests of LGBT people by building upon Civil Partnership and putting that into the Constitution in some future referendum, without transforming the nature of marriage for everyone else in this one.
I set out my reasons for holding this view in the article above.
With reference to the point in the article about American money being used to buy an Irish referendum, I understand that Mr Chuck Feeney, who did outstanding work for the Irish Peace Process in the 1990s, has had no say for years in the funding decisions of the Board of the Atlantic Philanthropies foundation.
(John) Anthony Coughlan is Associate Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Work and Social Policy in Trinity College Dublin.
Sitting in the studio audience for a TV debate on Ireland’s Marriage Referendum last night in Dublin I could not suppress the sense of a multiple tragedy unfolding before me which this primeval battle induced.
Whatever way this plays out on May 22, it seems that a nemesis awaits us.
If this foolish and careless Government succeeds it will not kill the reality that is marriage. The reality that the word marriage gives institutional form to, that is, the coming together in conjugal union of man and woman, is beyond the manipulative control of governments. They can mess with the word which describes it as much as they like but as long as men and women exit, it will exist.
But this messing by governments with those things that nature designed does have consequences for human beings and their life in society. In this case, the Irish Government will become responsible for the clouding in people’s minds of what marriage really is. This in turn will have consequences for generations to come. This will be the first tragedy.
If the Irish Government drains the word marriage of its true meaning, its essential identity, by describing it as a bond between people regardless of their sex, homosexuals and heterosexuals will suffer equally and the victory which some homosexuals feel they will have won will prove to be, and will be seen to be, as hollow as the arguments now being advanced for it.
For those who understand that the essence of a thing remains the same no matter what we call it, marriage will remain what it is and always was – a lifelong bond between a man and a woman, open, where nature allows, to the begetting of future generations. “A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” For those who think that they have changed the thing because they have changed the name – or turned one thing into another by using the other’s name – there is the tragedy of delusion. This is the second tragedy.
This was the tragedy averted by Solomon who in his wisdom was able to resolve the folly of the woman who sought to relieve her pain of loss by dividing in two the child of her companion. But Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is no Solomon. He has succumbed to the foolish thinking of a militant group of culture warriors who have led the gay community astray into thinking that access to marriage is just a matter of manipulating language.
If the Irish Government wins this referendum everyone will wake up on the May 24 and find that nature has preserved this thing called marriage. But they will also find that in the futile attempt to meddle with nature they will have a meaningless human artefact posturing as “marriage” in their nation’s Constitution. This sham thing will be bringing with it a myriad of muddy legal complications. Bad laws impact on human lives, some with tragic consequences. There will be numerous personal tragedies as “motherless” and “fatherless” children search for their natural progenitors to try to rescue them from the limbo of those quotation marks. Some will succeed, more will never do so. This is the third tragedy.
And if this chaos is avoided and a “No” victory results, what nemesis awaits us? This will be the nemesis for a bitterly disappointed community which has been misled into thinking that this manipulation of language, spun by a Government which has in turn been manipulated by an international ideological movement backed by millions of dollars – scandalously ignored by a biased national media, – was going to bring it to a haven of happiness and contentment.
The utterly bewildering illusion being fed to people that this is a struggle for equality has been spun so effectively that the consequences of its inevitable evaporation will be tragic. A Government complicit in this charade is a truly bad Government. It is now compounding this crime by declaring that a rejection of their proposal – a proposal which declares that two things which are different from each other are in fact the same – will amount to a disdainful rejection of some of their fellow human beings by the majority of the electorate.
The gay community – as it is called, and isn’t there something wrong with the very idea of segregating people into communities on the basis of their sexuality? – has been deceived into thinking that redefining marriage is a solution to the difficulties they experienced in human societies in the past or present. They have been deceived into thinking that it will in some way compensate for wrongs done to them. It will not and it never do so, because it is a meaningless act. This deceit is just one more tragedy.
The final tragedy has already taken place. When we should be concentrating our efforts on the task – always necessary – of building up the cultivation of real civilizing values in our community we are distracted and divided by this unreal conflict. True equality should be our goal, true values of fraternity and justice should be our objective and not this false synthetic concoction of something that can never really exist.
This horrible and divisive battle, which ideologues have forced on a good-humoured and generally kind-hearted nation, may be leading it into a new – even if as yet low-level – era of civil strife. After last night’s debate, one member of the audience on the “Yes” side came over to the speaker for the “No” side and uttered with uncivil vehemence words of bitter reproach for what he had presented to all, in good faith, for consideration. The producers of the programme – which was rchesrated with exemplary skill and fairness by presenter Claire Byrne and her team, – in a departure from normal procedure before these debates, separated the “Yes” and “No” supporters into separate rooms. “No” participants wondered why, and in fact regretted the segregation and the loss of the chance to mix and share views. But it was a sign of the times.
Of course there will be. It will be their next target.
Does anyone doubt that education is where they hope to have their final victory in the battle for a genderless society. This battle is not about the rights of gay people. It is a doom-laden vision of human nature held by ideologists who think that by controlling language and thought they can change human nature itself. A “yes” vote is not a vote for gay people’s rights. The gender ideologues are lying when they say it is.
A “No” vote is a vote for the preservation of our sense of what it is to be human. End of story.
Ireland is now in the second last week of its liberal establishment’s tiresome campaign to get the country to radically change its understanding of marriage as an institution naturally fitted to the conjugal relationship between a man and a woman. All the opinion polls are still pointing to a triumph for them. But there are warnings of hubris. This morning’ mass-circulation Sunday Independent carries that warning in a no-holds-barred column by one of the country’s more open-minded journalists and TV hosts, Brendan O’Connor.
The Yes campaign, he muses, must be very nervous looking at what just happened in the UK. Everybody knew what the result in the UK election was going to be. Every poll was in agreement. Neck and neck. Hung parliament. Weeks of manoeuvring to try and create a Government. Everybody agreed. And, as usual, when everyone agrees so wholeheartedly on something, they were all wrong. The media was wrong, the polls were wrong; the whole establishment got it wrong.
The Yes side must be wondering this weekend if the same could be true here. What if the polls are wrong? What if the media is wrong? What if the whole political establishment has got this one wrong? On Friday morning, Antony Worrall Thomson, of all people, pointed out that a lot of Tory voters are his age and they tend not to admit their intentions in advance, saving the truth instead for the privacy of the ballot box. And lets face it, being a No voter in this country is even more shameful that being a Tory in the UK. So the likelihood is a lot more people are lying about their voting intentions in the upcoming referendum. And who could blame them?
O’Connor goes on to catalogue what might at first have looked like winning strokes by the Yes campaign – Twitter et al calling for a Yes vote, massive media support, 100% party political approval – but which reflection might suggest could turn out to be a poisonous concoction. He also mentions the abusive treatment of the opposite side but does not talk about public revulsion at the denial of freedom of expression which their tearing down of No posters is provoking
A friend of mine visited his barber yesterday. The barber told him that he had a few young people in with him earlier, potentially Yes voters, who spoke of their disgust at such hostile, negative and undemocratic tactics.
The thing about Irish people, O’Connor says, is that they don’t like being told what to think. They don’t like being told what to think by the media. They don’t like being told what to think by politicians. And they certainly don’t like being told what to think by the bosses of tech companies. It’s the kind of thing that is bound to get people’s backs up.
The No campaigners can only hope that the Yes campaigners do not read O’Connor’s warning and change their tactics to a more democratic one. Keep the own goals coming and they will be more than happy.
Bruce Arnold’s astounding open letter to Ireland’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach), Enda Kenny, should find him a place in the pantheon of political thinkers alongside Edmund Burke, Abraham Lincoln, Cicero and just a handful of others.
This letter, a call to prudence and wisdom to a straying political establishment is heroic, practical and much deeper in its implications than it might at first seem.
Edmund Burke, an Irishman in England’s 18th century House of Commons, twice called on his fellow parliamentarians to come to their senses. Firstly he did so over their folly in their treatment of the American colonists. Secondly he warned them of the bloody consequences which he saw flowing from the rash political excesses of their French contemporaries in 1789.
In the one, his call for conciliation with the British settlers in America, he failed to win their support and both England and the thirteen colonies paid the price in a bloody war. In the other he was more successful and his countrymen set their faces against the excesses of the French and braced themselves for the eventual and finally victorious struggle with the megalomaniac who sought to straddle the world.
Arnold is an Englishman, a journalist and writer, who has made his home in Ireland and, while not a parliamentarian, is playing a crucial role as one of the leading voices of the only political opposition Ireland’s parliament has today.
Ireland’s Dáil now bears all the hallmarks of a one-party state. Recently it rushed through an important and radical piece of legislation on Children and Family Relationships. While this enactment contained some important reforms it was, however, riddled with provisions which many felt were inimical to children and the family. It was initially envisaged that it would make provision for surrogacy as a legitimate way for same-sex couples to beget children. This was withdrawn for strategic reasons and will now be proposed in separate legislation. Other elements were questioned but, despite some efforts by independent parliamentarians to propose amendments, the Party machines on all sides of the parliament, Government and non-Government, pushed the Bill into law.
Simultaneously – and not coincidentally, for the latter was part of strategic plot to help win the other – it rushed through legislation for a referendum on same-sex marriage. It was so rushed in fact that they did not even take time to get the Irish language – the “first” official language of the State – wording of the measure to synch with the English. They had to correct this to avoid what would have been a very embarrassing legal quagmire.
Arnold’s open letter – ostensibly to the Taoiseach but it should in fact be taken to heart by 90% of the Irish parliament who have sheepishly followed his lead on these things – deals with the detail of what is proposed to the electorate as a change to their constitution. It reveals the devastating superficiality of what is passing for government in the Irish Republic today and which is exemplified in this current political action.
This journalist, in the role now of a true tribune of the people, is calling on Ireland’s political class to come to its senses and to start thinking seriously again. His call has worrying resonances, touching on much more than one single issue. His questioning of the political wisdom of this small country’s parliament casts doubt over its competence to deal with everything that it touches. The context of Arnold’s remarks is the current issue of this referendum. The broader issue which it exposes is that of quality of governance – which is why we can call the letter “astounding”. That this should be so on the eve of Ireland’s centenary celebrations of its achieving independence as a nation is truly disheartening.
Ireland gave the gift of Edmund Burke to England in the 18th century, and to parliamentary democracy across the world. He is now recognised as the father of a political philosophy which puts common sense, the value of the common good and an inherent but open-minded respect for society’s good traditions, over fanatical ideology. Perhaps England has now returned the compliment by giving Ireland a voice which loudly and clearly speaks to power on behalf of a people whose parliament is now attempting to foolishly destroy an institution which has served it beneficially from time immemorial and replace it with an empty and meaningless shell, genderless marriage, which will serve no one’s real interest.
Arnold first wrote to Kenny on this issue of the referendum in February last. That was a more formal approach, raising the constitutional, social and moral questions that are actively bothering about 25 percent of the electorate – a percentage increasing as the campaign continues towards it finale on May 22. Most people now concede that the result of this ballot will be much closer than the opinion polls suggest.
This letter, Arnold begins, is more familiar and personal than the previous one for reasons that will soon become apparent.
We have known each other for the whole of your political career, having first met after you succeeded your father in the by-election that resulted from his death. Henry Kenny was a friend of mine during his two short years as a parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Finance, Richie Ryan. These were my first two years as a journalist working in the Dail. It is probable I met you at that time as well. With ups and downs, inevitable in the relationship between politicians and the journalists who record their lives, I have always had an admiration for your calm style, in opposition and in power, and for a quality I have admired in you, the likeable human appeal that I think of when I think about the career of another politician I have always greatly admired, Jack Lynch. He had the common touch as you have, an ability to be naturally relaxed and friendly.
Perhaps the most important challenge you faced in your political career was the last general election. Fianna Fail had made an undoubted mess of their time in office, tolerating excessive spending, wildly uncontrolled property development and a political dishonesty that was deeply damaging to this country.
I supported your candidature and your courage in putting a quality back into the search for power and a set of principles, not always effective, but good enough to support in the contest during that election. You had the good grace to recognise and acknowledge my consistent support for your campaign and I have no hesitation in saying now that I did it for good and reasoned endorsement of those principles for which you stood.
I have to confess that much of this support and sympathy has been undermined by the inept and already damaging impact of your handling of the Marriage Referendum. If the referendum is carried, I see this as irreparably damaging to moral life in this country, to married life and the future of the family, and leading to the encroachment of wildly inappropriate approaches to the birth and development of children. It runs the risk of splitting the country irreparably.
I have shown recently (through the document I circulated on Wednesday about international developments in the area of same-sex marriage) how totally out of step with the rest of the world Ireland has become in pursuing an unwanted and unjustified constitutional amendment. It is being pushed through in a political atmosphere of almost total ignorance and hysteria. If the referendum is carried, Ireland will be the only jurisdiction in the world providing explicitly for same-sex marriage in its Constitution. It will become the flag bearer for same-sex marriage and gender ideology internationally.
This week, in a pithy and courageous call to the people, Brendan Howlin used a phrase about an aspect of the economy that resonated immediately with me. He called for “the full ventilation of the full truth”. In the marriage referendum the opposite has been the case. In your article in the Irish Independent on April 27th, for example, you repeat the blatant untruth that underlies your whole approach (“… importantly, marriage equality will not in any way affect the institution of marriage. It will only extend equal legal protections to all couples.”). How then could the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court also say on April 27th, to proponents of gay marriage: “you’re not seeking to join the institution, you’re seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship?”
Do you, Enda, take us all for fools? The dogs in the street know that marriage will change radically. What is now a natural institution that predates the Constitution and is protected by it, will become an artificial creation of the Constitution and be defined by it.
An approach of almost unprecedented ignorance is being purveyed and blindly supported. Talk of love and equality is no substitute for reasoned analysis of the consequences. Huge sums of money from outside the state have been employed, contrary to firm expenditure principles in most other political campaigns. Ministers are hailing the Yes Vote while at the same time refusing to say why and how it is appropriate. They are not answering any of the questions being put to them. Largely this is because they do not know the answers.
You are leading a campaign in a prejudicial and one-sided way that has all the faults of previous referendums, faults that led on several occasions to successful challenges by private citizens. The purpose of a referendum is to allow the Irish people to legislate directly on whether to amend their Constitution or not. Such acts of direct legislation should take place without voters feeling pressurised and intimidated by the Government of the day into voting in a particular way, with all members of that Government favouring a particular outcome, and certain organs of the State being allowed or even encouraged to act in a one-sided way also.
The Gardai have been engaged, quite inappropriately, on the side of the Yes Vote. Their permitting of voter registration sites in universities, enrolling young people, to be used as posts to distribute Yes campaign materials and literature and to be decked with Yes campaign posters and murals, is a denial of their pledge to uphold the Constitution. Young and innocent people are being deliberately misled. The older generations are bewildered by the mood of near-hysteria that prevails in the country.
The criticism of the Gardaí by Nuala O’Loan was devastating. Yet Minister Fitzgerald has taken no effective action as she should have done. She has tolerated silently this putting of the legality of the referendum process at risk. How would you like to stand in an election in which the supervision of the integrity of the ballot, the collection of votes and the transfer of boxes were all entrusted to Sinn Féin with that party supervising registration? That is what it looks like when the Gardaí take sides in a referendum. Have no doubt that the Supreme Court would deem this to be a grave misconduct. You and the members of your Government have been silent about it.
I gave you a copy of a Private Study Paper on Same Sex Marriage in the Irish Constitution with my letter of 25th February. (It is referred to as a private study paper as it was prepared by private citizens who have done work the State should have done.) You replied to me saying that you would read the study paper. I acknowledge that you heeded my call to rectify the crass error in the Irish text of amendment, but I have not heard from you since.
You have instead chosen to deal with an issue that is exceptionally complex, both legally and morally, and which has implications for family law that are at the borders of medical technology and that stretch ethics to their very limits, and indeed beyond, in a trivial manner through a one-page referendum Bill, a single line in the Constitution and a threadbare draft Marriage Bill.
That is no way for a developed state to behave. It is also entirely contrary to the intent and spirit of the huge reform work undertaken by the Constitutional Review Group led by Ken Whitaker. I cannot understand why you have chosen to approach same-sex marriage in such a reckless and ill-thought out manner, a manner that would result in referendum after referendum to try to correct the results of a “yes” vote and which will make us the laughing stock internationally.
It has now also come to my attention that the Marriage Referendum, if carried, will serve to subvert directly the first of the Irish (Treaty of Lisbon) Protocols in relation to Article 41 (The Family) and Article 42 (Education). As Leader of the Opposition, you witnessed the defeat of the referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon in June, 2008 and it being subsequently carried in a second referendum in 2009, once certain protocols for Ireland were secured. These protocols became legally binding when, appended to the Croatian Accession Treaty, it became law on December 1st, 2014.
It really is bewildering for me to see that once we adopt a protocol to protect the integrity of Article 41 and Article 42 of the our Constitution from being overridden by European law and the new wave of European genderless ideology, which utterly and falsely denies the differences between men and women, we then proceed within six months thereafter to try to change, radically and irreparably, our national understanding that marriage is based on gender difference. Thereafter, we will insist that the falsehood of genderless ideology be taught to our children in schools.
Young children and young adults will become increasingly confused, when as boys and girls, young men and young women, they are told that there is no difference between the male and the female. If this Referendum is carried our young people will be told in schools that marriage, which is based on the dignity of the difference between a man and a woman, has no regard to this difference. Can you not see how the false genderless ideology will underpin all of this in a way that leads to confusion? Great confusion will be done to our young people in realising their true identities and their God-given potential?
While certain countries in Europe are being seduced by a false gender ideology, which denies the differences between men and women, we have a clear defence against this falsehood with the first of the Irish (Treaty of Lisbon) Protocols. You worked hard for these protocols yet your Government are now trying to abolish their protection. More significantly, ministers are telling the Irish people nothing about this. Can you not see how wrong this is? Has no adviser explained that the first of the protocols, which were necessary to secure the carrying of the referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, will be destroyed if this referendum is carried?
In fairness to you, one cannot expect that you will have heard this from our Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. This body is meant to advise all of us independently upon how our human and constitutional rights are being affected. Since leading representatives of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network shape its policy statements, there is no surprise there.
In the light of all that has happened and of our long relationship, I would deeply appreciate answers from you to the following questions:
Did the Ministers for Justice and Equality or Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Attorney General inform the Government of the Irish (Treaty of Lisbon) Protocols when considering the Marriage Referendum Proposal? Was there any discussion about the first protocol (in so far as it protects Articles 41 and 42) being totally undermined by the Marriage Referendum proposal?
When Article 41.3.1 of the Constitution provides that the State pledges to protect the institution of Marriage upon which the Family is founded from attack, what does this really mean for a marriage of two men? Does it not mean that they will have a constitutional right to donor assisted human reproduction and surrogacy to “found” their family? Must not all legislative restrictions on these practices be subject to this new and radical constitutional right?
Did the Minister for Education and Skills inform the Government of the potential effect on the education system of
placing same-sex marriage on the same level as heterosexual marriage for the future of primary and secondary education in our country in terms of what will be taught to children and young adults about gender, sexual orientation and sexual practices?
Has the Minister for Justice and Equality informed the Government of her view of the involvement of the Gardai on
the “yes” side of the referendum campaign?
Have you not considered the inappropriate and unwarranted statements made by state employees on behalf of their organisations, pledging a support they should be unable to offer?
We need answers. Remembering your father and what he stood for, I need answers.
I do not doubt that you and the Government have done enormous damage to any fair, balanced and EQUAL handling of this Marriage Referendum. I think that you should put a stop immediately by qualifying your position and that of the Government and indicating that you at least are reconsidering your own vote on 22 May, and that you are doing this in light of the many unforeseen, unintended and unconsidered consequences of this referendum that have been brought to your attention.
Will debate-shy Kenny respond meaningfully to this wise and democratic cri de coeur? Kenny has made prepared speeches on the issue. He has yet to engage in public debate on the matter – despite multiple invitations to do so. Will he even give a meaningful reply to this letter? We are, wisely, not going to hold our breath.