Friday 21 October 2016

Halligan's twist on a vision for Ireland is alien to most of us

Published 05/08/2016 | 02:30

Training and Skills Minister John Halligan. Photo: Tom Burke
Training and Skills Minister John Halligan. Photo: Tom Burke

Imagine this if you can: Life in a Hunter S Thompson utopia led by Simon Coveney.

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It would be the definition of an oxymoron, but that's where junior minister John Halligan's head appears to be at.

Thompson's novels, including 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas', trawled through a counter-culture where society was defined through the eyes of the individual rather than the collective. It was at the extreme end of the 'American Dream' to say the least.

Mr Halligan's vision for Ireland is not quiet as radical but this is a country just getting over its Catholic Church hang-ups.

He believes in brothels where activities can be monitored by cameras and prostitutes tested for sexually transmitted diseases. This would benefit "lonely men".


On drugs, he told 'Hot Press' magazine that people caught "smoking a bit of hash" shouldn't be brought to court and we should assess whether to decriminalise Class-A drugs like cocaine.

He also openly admitted that he would be prepared to help somebody die by suicide in spite of the existing laws.

The Waterford TD knows "for a fact" that God doesn't exist, but aliens which are far more sophisticated than humans probably do.

And all that doesn't really matter anyway because we'll be gone "in relative time" anyway when the sun explodes and destroys the solar system.

In the really ironic twist this brave new liberal society would be led by the most conservative of Fine Gael leadership contenders, Simon Coveney.

It would be easy to dismiss Mr Halligan's forthright views as 'out there', but remember he is now in a position of actual influence.

So strong is that authority that, along with colleagues Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, he managed to persuade/coerce the Taoiseach into effectively abandoning the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility on Mick Wallace's abortion bill.

Sarah Benson, CEO of Ruhama, an NGO which works with women affected by prostitution, told the Irish Independent that no matter "how well intentioned he may have been, the fact is the evidence isn't there" to back up his claims that a regulated sex industry would protect women.

"The only winner is the buyer and those facilitating it," she said, citing several overseas studies on the issue.

Mr Halligan accepts that successive governments have failed to stop alcohol having an invasive effect on society, so what chance would they have with strong drugs?

And while his argument on assisted suicide is no doubt a heartfelt one, he was elected to make laws, not break them. He has a bill on the issue coming before the Dáil and he should stick with that.

Of course, Mr Halligan has form on this. He previously said he would "jail the bastards", referring to landlords who charge over-inflated prices. After two months reflection he now believes he "probably shouldn't" have said that.

So you have to question if his latest comments are shock politics or a genuine vision for Ireland.

Irish Independent

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