Might the sky fall in on the Irish Government?


The question being asked in Ireland this morning is not whether the Government will win its ill-considered referendum asking its people to redefine marriage as a bond between people regardless of their sex, but whether it can long outlive the defeat of this proposal.

The Irish people are a warm-hearted lot but they are not irrational. Among the countries of Europe most tried by the debacle of the financial melt-down in the last decade, they were the ones who resisted the emotional response and knuckled down to sort it out. All observers now give them credit for this. The only rage which they gave vent to was in the face of another piece of gross mismanagement by their Government when it muddled its way through the realignment of the country’s water utility.

Despite what very suspect opinion polls – conducted through cell-phone users in many cases – are telling us, the writing on the wall for the Enda Kenny and his ministers is ominous. It has been a bad week for them – and it is still only Wednesday.

On Monday their star spokesman and campaign leader, Minister Simon Coveney, was pummelled on television by the reasoned legal and social policy arguments of his podium opponent, Senator Ronan Mullen, and pro-marriage supporters in the studio audience. He could not answer any questions convincingly and was left plucking emotional strings. His efforts, combined with similar responses from the pro-redefinition segment of the audience, did nothing but show that there simply are no rational arguments which can be advanced for this proposal, riddled as it is with inconsistencies.

Yesterday the Irish Times – now beginning to redeem itself in some eyes as an even-handed communicator of news and opinion – carried op-eds on the issue from two expert witnesses – to employ a legal metaphor – exposing the deep flaws in Government policy. Emeritus Regius Professor of Law in Trinity College, Dublin, William Binchy, exposed the fallacies in the Government’s arguments that the passing of this referendum would have no impact of the State’s child welfare laws. In the other piece, another former Trinity academic, sociologist and constitutional expert, Dr. Anthony Coughlan, argued that the impact of a ‘Yes’ vote would have repercussions beyond Ireland’s shores. By effectively nullifying a protocol won by Ireland under the Lisbon EU Treaty, the passing of the referendum could lead to same-sex marriage becoming an undeniable human right throughout all 28 EU states. For many this suggests that the entire project, funded as it is by international gender ideologists, is a Trojan Horse designed to destroy marriage across the European continent.

That was yesterday. Today we have news of another own-goal by the Government itself. The lead story in the online Irish Times this morning covers the retrospective withdrawal by a Government quango of funding for the Catholic Church’s marriage advisory council, ACCORD. Despite the attempt to dress this up as routine cost-cutting, the ineptly handled decision makes the Government look every inch the draconian agents that they are. People have been reminded that the Minister for Children – whose brief this comes under – is the same man who as Minister for Health two years ago shepherded the Government’s abortion legislation through parliament. After a thoroughly undemocratic exercise, he reminded Catholic hospitals that their funding would be cut if they did not implement that legislation as law required. He is now trying to tell people that the cutting of ACCORD’s funding has nothing to do with plans to redefine marriage. Good luck to him.

Add to this the truly scathing letter in this morning’s Irish Times from one of the country’s leading liberals, Emeritus Professor of History in University College Cork, John A. Murphy. It is not just the razor-sharp content of this letter which will dismay the Government. It is the fact that it comes from one of the country’s most respected historians, that he is one who has often been highly critical of the Catholic Church, and that his liberal credentials are impeccable.

Finally – although probably not, because it is still only 11.30 as this is written, – after a flood of ‘Yes’ endorsements from a range of celebrity sports stars, media people and pop stars, most of it mindless gushing of emotion, comes a very reasoned argument from one of the stars of Ireland’s most popular and most participative sport, Gaelic Football, the first cousin of Australian Rules Football. This comes from Dublin star, Ger Brennan, and again makes front page news in the largest circulation morning paper in the country, the Irish Independent.

Brennan writes, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that everybody is equal in dignity and it holds that marriage is a male-female union. I don’t think the Declaration of Human Rights is homophobic. I’m voting ‘No’”. Brennan’s well argued declaration, exuding respect for his gay friends and playing companions, will speak to his generation in a way that will worry a Government that thought it had that constituency in its grasp. This will put a serious dent in the Dublin metropolitan vote, as will Murphy’s in the second largest metropolitan area, Cork.

But the most significant element in all these interventions in the debate is not just that they question this proposal. It is that they place a massive question mark in people’s minds about the general competence of this Irish Government.

Options now for Ireland’s defenders of human life?

Senator Ronan Mullen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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