Friday 21 July 2017

Lise Hand: Sandymount Salome leads Enda a merry dance

THE Taoiseach tried to explain the perilousness of his situation to RTE's Sean O'Rourke.

"I'm receiving correspondence and messages from all over the country. I'm now being branded as being worse than Herod," he said with a soupcon of despondency.

Poor Enda. When it comes to the fraught topic of abortion legislation, he's doomed to eternally enrage one side or the other in this dirtiest of wars.

The pro-choice camp are (for now) holding their fire until the draft legislation (or the heads of the Government's bill) is published, but the anti-choice side are already on the march in numbers.

No wonder he was crestfallen. Herod the Great is a serious biblical baddie who, according to one gospel account, ordered up the slaughter of infants without batting a royal eye.

However, at least the Taoiseach can be assured of a public show of loyalty from the subjects within his own Fine Gael fiefdom.

But wait. For here comes trouble in the shape of the Sandymount Salome, Junior Minister Lucinda Creighton. Just as the grand-daughter of King Herod caused ructions by demanding the head of John the Baptist on a platter as reward for her bedazzling dance, there are ominous signs for Enda that his Minister for European Affairs may demand a similar fate for the heads of his bill, if it displeases her.

And just in case anyone is in any doubt, in between playing official First Hostess during our six-month presidency of the EU, Lucinda is busily drafting her own abortion bill, which would legislate for the 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling but would not include a suicide clause.

Moreover, she hammered home her point firmly on 'Morning Ireland' yesterday, stating she had "grave reservations" about the Government's intention to include the risk of suicide as grounds for abortion. Oh dear.

While insisting that she isn't "at odds" with her party leader, it does look as if the Sandymount Salome is set to lead Enda a merry dance.


It also means that the subject will stick to the junior minister like chewing gum to her shoe for the duration, and while she may fervently wish to speak of EU enlargement, she may be spending much of the time answering questions on abortion.

And Lucinda is genuinely enthusiastic about the EU and is relishing her high-profile role in this presidency.

Yesterday, she hosted a meeting of her fellow European Affairs Ministers in Dublin Castle and happily expounded upon their discussions in a press conference afterwards alongside the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fule.

"Even if we put aside the ideological and the romantic reasons for enlargements – and I believe strongly in those – but if you simply look at the economic case, it's very much in our interest that we encourage these countries on the European path," she said.

But then the abortion questions arose. Earlier, her cabinet colleague Joan Burton had criticised the bandying about of Herod-style biblical brickbats – would Lucinda do likewise?

"I think any insults that are offered by any side of the campaign are unhelpful," she reckoned. "I think it's clear that we in Government are trying to conduct a reasonable, rational and tolerant debate, even though there are differences of opinion within the political parties.

"It's not helpful to throw around names or engage in name-calling on any occasion, least of all a sensitive debate of this sort," she added.

And, in fairness, she is trying to be helpful, what with drawing up her own legislation and all that.

But why should Lucinda stop with this bill? Perhaps she should present her own version of the next Budget to the Finance Minister while she's at it?

A word of advice to Michael Noonan – if Lucinda materialises in your office next September with a bunch of veils under her arm, run like the clappers.

Irish Independent

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