A watershed election looming in Ireland?



As Ireland slides somewhat apathetically towards a potentially crucial general election in the centenary of the 1916 Irish rebellion against the British Empire, there are signs – and hopes among some – that this might be a watershed year in Irish politics.

The old party political structures which have persisted for nearly 100 years are tired and have gone far beyond their sell-by date. Worse, they are corrupted and for many they reek of some of the worst vices that relativism and it progeny, unprincipled pragmatism, can bring to any political culture.

In 1961the social and political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, was sent by The New Yorker magazine to Jerusalem to write about the trial of Adolf Eichmann. She was appalled by what she saw and heard. The spectacle which she saw unfold before her was of a man – indeed of many men and women – who set conscience aside to carry out the orders received from a government to which he had committed allegiance.

This appalled her at least as much as the catalogue of atrocities which the trial revisited. These she had anticipated and indeed lived through as a victim. In some senses was prepared for the repeated blows to her sensibilities which rained down on her. The former was something she was not prepared for and until her death in 1975 it haunted her. Well it might, and well it might haunt us all. The abnegation of conscience and its inevitable consequence, the abnegation of humanity, still stalks our public square today.

We may like to think that it does not manifest itself today in the horrendous proportions which it did in the case of Adolf Eichmann – and his co-criminals – but in essence it does. It does so in the same banal guise as it did in the case of that monstrous “ordinary” bureaucrat. It is at our peril that we think that it does not.

The coalition government of Enda Kenny, a politician more reviled by a sizeable proportion of the Irish electorate than any in living memory, is seeking to be returned to power along with his liberal coalition partners, the Irish Labour Party. He may well succeed. It is now widely expected, however, that there will be a strong representation in the new parliament for those who have been crying, “a plague on all your houses.” Kenny’s party may be the largest one in the Dáil after the election but its majority will be greatly reduced.

A poll at the start of the election campaign indicates that over 60 per cent of the electorate want rid of the present coalition. However, party fragmentation and independent deputies of all colours may result in them just getting more of the same. If Kenny can form a government he will have to do so with the help of all the colours of the rainbow, always a volatile and often a short-term mix.

There are multiple reasons for the disaffection of the Irish electorate. Ireland is not immune to this virus now found in many Western democracies. But in Ireland one in particular stands out. Enda Kenny is the leader of a party which in 2013 cut a number of its members adrift because they would not and could not, in conscience, support his government’s abortion legislation.

The members in question opposed the legislation on two grounds. The first was the ground of their moral conscience which told them that the termination of the lives of innocent unborn human beings in their mothers’ wombs was evil. The second, although not a matter of life and death like the first, was no less moral. They believed that promises made, undertakings given by politicians going into an election, should be honoured. Kenny’s party explicitly undertook not to legislate for abortion if it got the votes to enable it to form a government. Once in power, under pressure from their coalition partners and the media, they turned around and did just that.

But revulsion at Kenny goes even deeper than that. Not only did he unjustly punish those he could not bring with him. He corrupted the consciences of those too weak to stand their ground against him, those who in their hearts knew that what he was doing was both morally wrong and a betrayal of the trust of the electorate. These people, under pressure from him and his bullying acolytes caved in and voted for his legislation.

For many, sadly, this is just the stuff of political life. For others it is much more than that. Those who opposed Kenny did not see this as a matter involving the extermination of a race. For them it was about a law which was going to open the door to a regime of abortion through which their country would join a community of nations which have callously organised the extermination of millions of unborn babies over the past five decades. In secret meetings abortion advocates in Kenny’s coalition told their supporters that although limited in scope, the legislation he was introducing would open the door to abortion on demand in Ireland. That was no surprise to anyone.

Lucinda Creighton was a minister in Kenny’s government and was forced to resign when she was unable to support the legislation – legislation to which she was opposed in principle and which she had promised her electorate that the party would not introduce or pass into law. Media outlets in Ireland are overwhelmingly pro-abortion and Creighton is now their number one target. She is seeking re-election and is the head of a new party with a radical and comprehensive platform of policies. It is campaigning, among other things, to rid Irish party-politics of the paralysing and freedom-denying version of the parliamentary whip system it has be operating under.


Creighton’s new party is taking a much more liberal line on the application of the party whip because everyone sees that the system as used at present is simply turning the elected representatives in moronic “yes-men” – and women.

In their hue and cry pursuit of her Irish media show themselves, no less that the majority of the politicians in the traditional parties do, totally insensitive to the ethical quagmire which Hannah Arendt discerned in heart of Adolf Eichmann at his fateful trial in Jerusalem.

One journalist typified this a few weeks ago when she attacked Creighton for her conscientious stand. “I think she was wrong. She was wrong to leave over abortion and she was wrong to leave at all,” she said. Creighton should have understood, the journalist argued, why the party whip had to be imposed. According to her the TDs – an acronym derived from the Irish term for a parliamentary representative – and senators needed the “protection” of the whip. She denied that it was a method of ensuring group think and mind control. Read another way that means they needed the “protection” of the whip to shield them from their own consciences and to absolve them of personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Creighton’s spirited and inspiring defence of her stand in 2013 obviously meant nothing to this journalist. It did, however, to many, right around the world where it was read, listened to and admired.

I never bought into the line about matters of conscience…., the journalist went on. If you can’t stand being told what to do, how do you intend to take part in Cabinet decisions, which are constitutionally collective and confidential? So in the end, you can dress it up in principles all day, but ultimately, Lucinda is just another splitter.

She concluded, the following applies, not just to Lucinda, but the rest of them: Compromise can be framed as the means by which ideals are undone, one vote at a time. You can sacrifice your soul on the altar of loyalty, but nothing changes the fact that politics is a collective business.

So yes, there’s a game to be played. But it’s a long game.

There are chilling echoes of Eichmann’s defence in those words. In the light of what she observed in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction.

All this is symptomatic of what many see as a cancer at the heart of not just Irish political life, but of Western democracy generally. Politicians today are fond of telling us that their thinking and their principles are “evolving”. That, in most cases, is just a euphemism which describes political thinking devoid of principles.

For the next three weeks some Irish men and women are living in the hope that, 100 years after men went in good conscience to their deaths for an ideal, they might again have representatives in their parliament for whom conscience and ideals, as opposed to power, mean something.

Ireland imagining an alternative politics

Leinster House, Dublin. Ireland’s parliament building.

Does it not seem that the most important thing about the forthcoming event being organised by Ireland’s new political movement, the Reform Alliance (RA), in the Royal Dublin Society’s conference centre on 25 January is first and foremost the challenge it throws down to us to free our imagination?

Ostensibly “policy” is on the agenda. But unless we break free of the bondage which ties us to habits of thought about ourselves and our society, which have become second nature to us over the past few decades, then we will be wasting our time.

Philip Blond, an English philosopher and political thinker with an Irish lineage, is addressing the conference. This gives us reason to hope that it is all on the right track. Blond has written about the condition of Western society in his paradoxically entitled book, Red Tory [1]. In it he looks at the generally sorry state we have allowed ourselves to get into and how we have enslaved ourselves in all sorts of practical ways.

Philip Blond

 However, he writes, even our minds are not free. In order to be truly liberated we have to be able to imagine an alternative to the prevailing order. This we manifestly cannot do at present. So colonised have we become by consumption, fantasies of glamour, and cynicism about the public good that we cannot envisage anything different from that which we currently experience. In order to create such an alternative one has to look both backwards and forwards. Backwards, because history tells us that things were different once and that what has happened need not have occurred. Forwards because with knowledge of an alternative past in a manner that isn’t simply naive or idealistic, it is possible to envisage a better future that we all might inhabit.

 That must surely be the starting point and basis for any creative political life which will offer us a way out of the mess we are now in. Our thinking about education, health, social and economic policy has to engage in a truly Promethean struggle and to break itself free from the ideological bonds of selfish individualism and once again see the common good as the only foundation stone on which a just and equitable society can be built.

It is hard to know why we lost the plot so badly. Were we so scared of Communism and Socialism that we overcompensated by elevating the individual to the centre of the universe? Did we then surrender ourselves to selfishness and narcissism – which is the inevitable consequence of setting the individual up as master of all he surveys? Whatever the reason for us getting there, we must now find a way out of this prison.

Blond in his book offers an analysis of why this happened in Britain over the past half century, and what the dire consequences were. It does not take a huge leap of the imagination to see how what he describes applies to the island of Ireland in almost equal measure – or to see that the pace of our pursuit of our neighbour’s folly has increased to breakneck speed. Blond is addressing the RA conference and hopefully he will underline all this in the stark detail which he provides in his book.

He traces a good deal of the rot back to the 1960s when what he describes as “fragments of the middle classes”, some of them associated with the ‘new left – the ultra fashionable intellectual left of that era – “preached personal pleasure as a means of public salvation.” They had little idea what they were doing, he says.

 While toxic to civilised middle-class life, this mixture was lethal to the working class. Some measure of sexual liberation was necessary, and could have led to a deepening of loyal relationships between men and women. But, in reality, it was contaminated by narcissism from the outset. For the working class this narcissism meant the dissolving of the social bonds that had kept the poorest together during the worst times of the 1930s – illegitimacy increased and family breakdown began in earnest.

 He then goes on to describe how the “new left”, contaminated by this self-centred ideology became disengaged from the politics and needs of working-class people, “as a politics of desire overwhelmed whatever was good and decent in its prior ethic. This license to express the self allowed the advocates of liberation in the late 1960s to embrace drugs and hedonism as if personal emancipation for bohemians would lead to the liberation of all.” The consequences of this were disastrous for the working class as the cancer seeped into the building blocks of society – the family and the communities which families constituted. This corrosive culture of self-indulgence continues to flourish.

 The family is the first and the most intimate social institution that human beings have, Blond reminds us, – it might vary by extension but nothing can challenge its decisive importance. But just look at what has happened to the British family: in 1964, 63,300 births were recorded outside marriage, only 7.3% of all births. In 2003 it was 257,225, over 41% of all those born.

 If present trends continue, soon the majority of UK children will be born out of wedlock, with all the pejorative consequences for the young that both sociology and statistics have amply elucidated. For example, each child born to unmarried parents has only a 38% chance of seeing out their childhood with both parents present. Marriage is clearly better for children: 70% of children of married parents can expect their mother and father to stay together during their childhood. But marriage is failing too: the number of divorces rose in 2008 to 167,000; in 1961 there were only 27,000 divorces granted.

 Do the Irish think they are immune from this contagion? From the way all Irish political leaders are charging ahead with every piece of permissive legislation the Irish liberal left shouts for, you would think they do.

Last year the Iona Institute surveyed the situation in the Republic of Ireland and revealed the following:
<p style=”padding-left:30px;”>■ There are now 200,000 adults who have suffered a broken marriage. This is five times more than in 1986 (divorce was put on the statute books in the Republic in 1996).

■ There has been an increase of 80 per cent in the number of lone parent families since 1986

and the total now stands at almost 190,000.

■ There are 121,000 cohabiting couples, up nearly fourfold in just ten years.

■ The number of children being raised in non-marital families is now one in four, which is

drawing close to American and British levels.

 As Blond says, “The picture isn’t pretty” – neither in Britain nor in Ireland. With family breakdown affecting so many – and continuing to increase, – “the fundamental bedrock of civic life has been destroyed.” He points the finger without apology – and Ireland knows that the finger is pointing in the same direction there:

 It was some of the very people who thought themselves left-wing – the pleasure-seeking, mind-altering drug takers and sexual pioneers of the 1960s who instigated the fragmentation of the working-class family and sold the poor the poisonous idea of liberation through chemical and sexual experimentation.

 And they haven’t gone away, you know.

The whole problem has been compounded by the disastrous corrosion of political life and political institutions. In both Britain and Ireland huge segments of the electorate have been disenfranchised by the merging of all established political forces, left and right, into one amorphous mass of politically correct puppets pandering to that other increasingly arrogant force in the public life of a country – the mass media.

As the influence of this force grew, public representatives needed to take account of it at all times. To do this more effectively they had to enlist the help of professionals from within the media and the “spin doctor” came into existence. The term itself denotes deceitfulness. All this further enhanced the media’s influence to the point where it can only now be described as power. The unelected tribunes within the media now effectively lead the elected representatives along the path of least resistance to goals which they identify as “progress”, manipulating the politicians who live in fear and dread of being pilloried by this new bardic class. This is the trend in every country but true with far more dire consequences in Ireland where a monolithically liberal-left clique dominates the country’s print and broadcast media. Meanwhile increasing numbers of the electorate look on in helpless dismay.

Blond sums it up like this:

 The real outcome of the last thirty years of the left-right legacy is a state of disempowerment. Nowadays we have the worst of the left and the right combined in one philosophy: an authoritarian, illiberal, bureaucratic state coupled with an extreme ideology of markets and the unlimited sway of capital. Little wonder then that most Britons feel they cannot influence their locality let alone their region or nation. Passive and compliant, all we can do is shop – and after a while that doesn’t make us particularly happy either.

Members of the Reform Alliance in the Irish Parliament: Billy Timmins, Paul Bradford, Peter Matthews, Fidelma Healy-Eames, Lucinda Creighton and Terence Flanagan.

Many in Ireland – it is estimated that between 40 and 50 percent are disillusioned with all the political options presented to them by the current political establishment – are living in hope. Their hope is that what is now stirring in the public square will emerge as a political force to challenge this essentially corrupted status quo. They hope that it will restore integrity to the system, that it will offer them something in which they can again place their trust, their aspirations for the future, the future of their children and their country.

[1] Blond, Philip, Red Tory. How the Left and Right Have Broken Britain and How We Can Fix It. Faber and Faber, London. 2010.

More good news for the disenfranchised Irish

There is more good news for the disenfranchised Irish in today’s Sunday Independent (Dublin).

The paper reports that the Reform Alliance, initiated by the members of the Irish parliament expelled for voting against abortion for reasons of conscience,will stage its first rally rally this month as it seeks set out its principled stall in the political arena.

The Alliance, the paper tells us, has been secretly planning the event – scheduled for January 25 – over the past two months away from the glare of the media spotlight.

“We thought, ‘New Year, new political ideas’. The timing seems right,” Ludinda Creighton told this newspaper last night. She added: “This is not about any one individual, but about being a vehicle for new thinking.”

The Alliance is currently made up of seven former Fine Gael party members; TDs Ms Creighton, Denis Naughten, Billy Timmins, Peter Mathews and Terence Flanagan and senators Paul Bradford and Fidelma Healy Eames.

There will be no shortage of snipers ready to try to take down this brave effort to put integrity back into Irish public life. The online comments with the Indepandent’s story offers plenty evidence of sniper activity. The left-liberal alliance is not going to sit around but will be out with all guns blazing. This movement is anchored on principles – honesty, respect for the truth, trust, sincerity and loyalty. The actual debate is something else. Let us all first agree on the principles. The rot in Irish political life is not in the policies primarily. Any rottenness there comes from the rot in the minds and hearts of those at the head of the political machines colluding in the system. Reform, radical reform at this deepest level is what is necessary. Reform the roots and the branches will flower.

Signs of promise of a new Irish politics

Lucinda Creighton – not going away anytime soon

If anyone, in the aftermath of last week’s shameful political shenanigans in the Irish parliament, doubts the character and determination of sacked Minister, Lucinda Creighton, to be a force in the public life and politics of that country in the years ahead, let them begin by reading her blog entry today. It was published in the Irish Mail on Sunday and is now posted on Lucinda Creighton.ie.

This is not a manifesto for a future Irish politics but it is a preliminary for such a manifesto. It addresses from the depths of her heart and soul the concerns which thousands of Irish people share with here this week – not just on the issue of abortion but on the corruption in the very heart of a country which in just two and a half years will be celebrating the centenary of the beginning of its final battle for freedom and independence as a state among the nations of the earth. What freedom, what independence, many are asking? Lucinda Creighton seems to be on the verge of offering Ireland something to make that a redundant question.

On July 1st she delivered a speech in the Irish chamber of deputies, the Dail, in which she elaborated her concerns about abortion in a general societal sense, as well as focusing on specific aspects of the proposed and shamefully designated Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill which she considered, and still considers, to be deeply flawed.

In it she referred to an underlying cancer afflicting Irish public life – in politics, in business, and above all in the media. Reaction to that was near-apoplectic in some quarters. The cries of hurt and indignation from those who thought they were being targeted made headlines the next day

“My speech”, she correctly says, “was incorrectly picked up as singling out members of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party for participating in group think. This is not what I said.”

“What I said in fact, was that group think is a negative feature in society, in the media and in political life. Increasingly we are all supposed to think and speak the same way. There is less and less room in this country for a diversity of opinion, for real and meaningful debate and for genuine analysis. We are all supposed to swim with the tide on every occasion. I consider this dangerous. I am certain that this is dangerous for our democracy.”

That is just as things are in Ireland and the daily exasperation of the millions who listen to and read what the Irish media turns out on a daily basis is sufficient evidence to prove it. When the manifesto for a New Ireland come this must be among the serious illnesses to which it will address itself.

Bloody but unbowed, Ms. Creighton tells us that “This was a long and difficult week, particularly for many in the Fine Gael party. Five of us argued for the right to express an alternative … view on this vitally important piece of legislation. We lost the internal battle to have our voices heard and our consciences respected. This is not a good thing for the democratic process in this State.

“Much of the commentary in the aftermath of Thursday’s vote confirmed to me that our media perpetuates the blind group think which prevailed and contributed to the economic collapse in this country.”

She tells of her “alarm” listening to one of Irish radio’s premier news analysis programmes on the morning after her historic stand against the “flawed” legislation.  “The level of analysis or understanding of what is happening in our shambolic Parliamentary system was alarming,” she said.

“A commentator from the Irish Times seemed only capable of understanding the events of the week in terms of ‘strength’, ‘power’ and ‘crushing opponents’. To him it was just a numbers game. He was entirely uninterested in the substance of the disagreement, or the fact that an important viewpoint was ignored or ‘whipped into line’.

“He seemed to believe that the only issue at hand was the fact that ‘only five’ TDs had voted against the legislation and this was somehow a great victory for the Government, its senior figures and Fine Gael. This is a sad and shallow analysis, which ignores the fundamental questions of democracy which were raised thoughout the last few weeks when elected Members of our Parliament were, in many instances, coerced and cajoled into voting for legislation they clearly considered to be faulty and against their better judgement.”

One of the most shocking spectacles in the drama in the Irish parliament last Thursday and into the early hours of Friday morning was the speech of a young woman member, Michelle Mulherrin, voting against her conscience after the whipping she had received from the party leader, Prime Minister, Enda Kenny. Ms. Creighton’s response to it says it all. “I understand completely the dilemma she found herself in. I was there too. I took a different decision, by voting against the legislation. She clearly wrestled with her ultimate decision and eventually decided to vote for it. She did so to avoid being “booted out” of Fine Gael, her party. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach listening to her speech in the Dáil Chamber – out of sadness for her, and the choice she has clearly been forced to take to avoid expulsion. There is something so, so wrong with this. Citizens of this country ought to be concerned at the words uttered by Michelle. They genuinely gave me a deep sense of foreboding.

“In every other modern western democracy that I have studied, public representatives are not and would never be, forced to choose between their conscience and their party. That is worth considering and reflecting upon. This includes Australia, New Zeland, the USA, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and many, many more. In my investigations I could not find any other democratic country on this planet that forces people to vote against their conscience. Ireland has the dubious distinction of standing alone in its denial of conscience. This is not something I am proud of. Nobody should be.”

“The great democrat and peace maker Mahatma Ghandi said ‘In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place’. This is correct. History has taught us what savagery and crimes against humanity can occur, when people abandon their conscience, for the sake of the quiet life, or worse, to satisfy personal ambition. Our State should guard against this, rather than try to normalise it. And we as citizens should demand that this be so.”

She concludes by saying that politicians in her country “really do need to stand up and be counted” – and there will be more cries of hurt and pain from the numerous public representatives who know very well that they have failed to do so, and who have not had the courage to tell the truth about their shame like Deputy Mulherrin.  Ms. Creighton sees the value of the discipline in parliamentary democracy. “I don’t advocate the abandonment of the Whip system. It is an essential fundament of a stable economy and a stable society. Coherent positions and voting by political parties are essential in the context of the annual Budget, all finance measures, social welfare measures and so on. But there it should stop.”

Finally, she has a word for those “commentators” who cheer the crushing of political opponents, and applaud the stifling of debate in Ireland. We are back to the driving force behind group think. They “do no service to either good journalism or good politics. In fact they are complicit with the rot in a system which so desperately needs changing. Their anxiety to take quotes and spin from ‘well placed sources’ may make their contributions sound plausible and knowledgeable. In fact, they are missing the real story.”

There has been a good deal of sympathising, moaning, regrets at the loss of a promising political voice in Irish politics over the past few days and this weekend. These words tell us that we need not worry. This is a voice which is not going away and for that the Irish should all – well, nearly all, – be very grateful. There will be no shortage of stories, real stories, coming down the line.

“When I use a word,” said Humpty-Dumpty Kenny “it means just what I intended it to mean, and neither more nor less.”

Paraphrasing Lord Hartley Shawcross: “The Dáil is sovereign; it can make any laws. It could ordain that all blue-eyed babies should be destroyed at birth, and because the Dáil so declared it, it would be legal.” More or less, setting aside the small complication of a Supreme Court appointed by the same sovereign and a Head of State who owes his position to the manipulation of the Fourth Estate. We will have legal abortion in Ireland in a matter of weeks.

Legal, but utterly immoral. It is not enough that Parliament “reflect” society. Parliament’s duty is seek justice and legislate according to the principles of that justice and right reason. In the Irish parliament’s debate on abortion – and debate was all it was, a debate without any determining effect – one member spoke of Ireland’s old law prohibiting the destruction of children awaiting birth as being “out of kilter with society”. Well, that parliament has now changed this and by an abuse of the spirit and letter of its Constitution has legalized the snuffing out of those lives.

Abuse? Yes. The party system, governed by a whip regime, the exercise of which in this case proved to be nothing short of totalitarian, has lead to this immoral law being passed and in the process of so doing  has denied the representatives of the people their fundamental right of personal political judgement and freedom of conscience.

But what was more frightening about the entire process which has led to the passing of this bad law was the abuse of language. Yesterday’s statement from the Pro Life Campaign  outlines some of it – the questions which the Parties-in-Power refused to answer or answered with blatant untruths. But it went much farther that this. It was indeed surreal. It reminded one of Alice in Wonderland.

‘“When I use a word,” said Humpty-Dumpty “it means just what I intended it to mean, and neither more nor less.”

“But,” said Alice, “the question is whether you can make a word mean different things.”

“Not so,” said Humpty-Dumpty,” the question is which is to be the master. That’s all”.’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny kept telling the Irish people that he was not changing Irish law, that he was not introducing abortion to Ireland, etc, etc. Yet the international Press, the pro-abortion lobbies across the world were rejoicing at what he was trying to do and are celebrating today. They grasped the truth of all this. Is he stupid? does he think the Irish people are stupid? Or is he Humpty Dumpty?

But Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall. Mr. Kenny’s natural political life is coming to an end. Most people expect that he will not contest another general election. Some regret that because they would like to see him fall like Humpty Dumpty.

“My end is my beginning”, Mary Queen of Scots, is reported to have said before she went to the block. Ex-Minister Lucinda Creighton will not go to the block but had she lived in the age of Mary she might have. Nevertheless, very many Irish people hope that Queen Mary’s words will apply to her – that Kenny’s taking of her political life will be just the beginning of a political life free from a system as corrupt as that which he sought to impose on her. She and the four party colleagues who broke from the straitjacket their leader tried to force them into – along with the senators of the party who will do the same over the next few hours – stand tall among the sad members of that party who professed themselves to be pro-life and then voted for abortion.

Ireland needs a new politics. Lucinda Creighton and her honourable colleagues offer a new hope that the disenfranchised Irish might get this.

Conscience-free politics – truly bizarre

Two faces of Irish politics – Creighton and Kenny

Irish TAOISEACH (prime minister) Enda Kenny thinks politics is all about fixing things. He is a mechanic without a clue when it comes to principles – either philosophical or anthropological, not to talk of his bizarre theology. He is now is facing an unprecedented party rebellion for the very reason that he has failed on all these counts. Those who rebelled against him in the Irish parliament – and those who will do so over the next two weeks – know that there is more to life and the pursuit of the common good than “arranging things” so that those who want to can do what they like – regardless of its consequences.

This abortion Bill which the Irish parliament is about to pass into law will be the undoing of Kenny’s reputation as any kind of statesman. It may also be the undoing of his party and many are hoping that it may be the catalyst which will bring about a realignment of Irish political forces into a meaningful one where the illiberal ideologues of the left, and their populist followers, will be confronted with a politics guided by a true perception of humankind and its common good.

Kenny – and the governments of whatever party mixes which have been in power for the last 20 years – inherited a constitutional mess created by a rogue Supreme Court decision, the notorious “X” case decision, based on faulty evidence. This decision compromised the Irish Constitution’s guarantee of the right to life of children in their first nine months of life. Kenny and his acolytes’ ham-fisted effort to “fix” this mess is even more flawed than what it tried to fix.

Mr Kenny has adopted a hardline stance against those who voted against the Government’s legislation last night. He expelled all four members from the parliamentary party immediately, promising to end their political careers. But Irish people looking on at this debacle can now see a handful of principled politicians who are prepared to think about what they are being asked to sign their names to. On the other side they see a crowd of sheep following a leader who ordered them to vote with him, regardless of their conscience.

Both Ireland’s main political parties – whose origins go back to Ireland’s Civil War over 90 years ago – now look like unravelling. The Fianna Fail party leader, Michéal Martin, supports the legislation and if principled voices within the party had not prevailed he would also have denied its members freedom of conscience on this matter. Potentially the Irish parliament has now been divided into two camps, those from who conscience counts for something and those for who it clearly counts for nothing – for it it doesn’t pertain to matters of life and death what does to what does it pertain?

This unravelling will be no bad thing. There is every hope now that the women and men of principle – of any and no party – inside and outside the parliament might now come together to give an effective voice to a disenfranchised electorate disillusioned for at least a decade by a political culture devoid of anything other than a “fix-it-up-at-any-cost” mentality.

Lucinda Creighton, a Minister in Kenny’s government, whom all observers expect will take her stand against him on the issue next week, made a powerful defence of the dissidents’ case in the parliament yesterday and would be the natural leader if a new political force were it to emerge. If it does this will be no single issue movement but a movement based on a vision of human society and the true nature of humankind within it – just, free and enterprising. There are many currently outside the formal politics of the country who would have been ashamed to stand beside those currently in power but who would be very happy to cooperate and support those who are now revealing themselves as politician with principles.

Ms. Creighton put her cards on the table in the parliament in a long, articulate and detailed speech on Monday. At one point she told us that I’ve had people contact me in recent months condemning me for having a ‘moral’ or ethical concern about abortion. Some demanded that I leave my morals or conscience aside in order to support abortion. Now I must say that I find this bizarre.

There is an emerging consensus in Ireland which suggests that having a sense of morality has something to do with the Catholic Church. It is automatically assumed that if you consult your conscience, you are essentially consulting with Rome. This is deeply worrying. It is a lazy way of attempting to undermine the worth of an argument, without actually dealing with the substance. This is not just a Catholic issue, any more than it is a Protestant or Muslim issue. This is not a religious issue. It is a human rights issue.

This was nothing less than a veiled criticism of her leader who has been proclaiming his peculiar brand of religion and politics around the country over the past few months – a very bizarre political philosophy indeed.

I wonder what one should consult when voting on a fundamental human rights issue such as this, Ms. Creighton continued, if not one’s own conscience? My personal view is that all I can do, when making a decision on life and death, and that is what we are considering here, is consult my conscience, which is based on my sense of what is right and what is wrong. What else can I consult? The latest opinion poll? The party hierarchy? The editor of the most popular newspaper?

I mentioned groupthink, which is a corrosive affliction in this country. We saw it in the Haughey era, we saw it during the Celtic Tiger era, and we see it on this question of abortion. It is easy to understand why people in positions of responsibility want thorny issues to simply disappear. It is far easier than risking conflict, unpopularity or worse; paying the price for speaking up…

Some were very offended by her groupthink remark. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? ‘Groupthinkers’ never see themselves as such.

This is a voice we have not heard in Irish politics for many years. This represents a political philosophy of depth and substance worthy of Ireland’s greatest political thinker, Edmund Burke. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a new era in Irish politics in which cant, posturing and “fixing” will be a thing of the grim past.

A further six Fine Gael may follow Ms. Creighton next week. With two thirds of Michéal Martin’s party voting contrary to his line and without any substantial policy differences between them and the Fine Gael rebels on other issues, there is every hope that the old outdated party structure might finally crumble.

Green Shoots of Moral Recovery?

I was so glad to see Lucinda Creighton’s remarks as quoted by Michael Kelly in this piece. Although not a Party animal, I voted Fine Gael in the last election but the way the Labour Party has seemingly hijacked this Government on so many social, moral and educational issues is profoundly disturbing. To hear one voice of significance bucking the trend is somewhat reassuring. I am still deeply disturbed about the ideological direction in which the country is being taken. This ideology is hostile to what I think are the deepest values of the majority in our society. The sad thing is that this majority currently lacks serious leadership. Her words give a glimmer of hope that this might be changing.


“Ireland Stand Up” 96,000 postcards have been sent to Ireland’s prime minister protesting the closing of country’s Embassy to the Holy See. Michael Kelly