Tuesday 25 October 2016

The next goal for liberals will be referendum on abortion

Published 25/05/2015 | 02:30

"I wouldn't be surprised if we have a referendum to remove the pro-life clause of our Constitution in the next two or three years"

Almost 750,000 people voted against the redefinition of marriage and the family last Friday. This is not far short of the popular vote won by Fine Gael in the General Election of 2011. It represents 38pc of all those who voted.

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I was hoping the No vote would breach the 40pc mark. I was dreading it dipping below the 30pc mark. A victory for the No side would have been the most stupendous upset in Irish political history.

But 750,000 voters is a lot of people and I was proud to help represent them. The Government cannot now pretend they don't exist. Will it treat them with respect? Will it take any of their concerns into account in such areas of freedom of conscience or surrogacy?

It is amazing to think that so many people hadn't a single political party to represent them. Instead it fell to a handful of individuals from civic society and a handful of mostly independent politicians to do so.

Had even one of the major political parties backed the No side, the number of people who voted No would have swelled. It would have made a big difference to have the machinery of one of the main parties on our side. Not a decisive difference necessarily, but a difference.

It would also have helped to have had a major media outlet on our side, especially one of the radio stations. Imagine if one of the national media organisations was on the No side?

It would be a useful exercise to properly survey those who voted Yes to find out their reasons for doing so. We would probably find that every one of them had voted Yes out of a sense of fairness.

But how many really believe that the biological ties between children and their parents don't really matter? How many really believe that mothers and fathers are interchangeable and that the differences between the sexes don't matter at all when it comes to raising children?

Some 62pc of the electorate voted Yes on Friday, but opinions polls also consistently show that about the same number believe that children are best raised by a mother and father, all things being equal.

Obviously a lot of people didn't make a connection between that and changing Article 41.

It's disappointing that such a huge majority of people in working class areas voted Yes. Is this a rebellion against the traditional family of mum and dad? If so, it's self-destructive.

Professor Robert Putnam, one of the world's leading academics and impeccably liberal in his credentials, has just written a book called 'Our Kids'. It deals with how our children will have less opportunities to get ahead in life than we have had, relatively speaking.

One reason for this, he says, is the breakdown of the traditional family in working class parts of America compared with middle class areas. The same thing is happening in Ireland.

Where does the 'liberal agenda' go to from here? The liberal agenda tries to advance individual freedom. The freedom to marry whoever you want (within certain limits) is part of that.

I believe this can come at the expense of other goods, in the case of same-sex marriage the good of having a mother and a father whenever possible.

In the case of divorce, we have seen the number of separated and divorced people climb in the space of 25 years from 40,000 in 1986 to 250,000 in 2011. That doesn't include all the children affected by this.

It is plain and obvious that abortion and assisted suicide are next on the agenda.

Liberals believe that women ought to have a choice about whether to bring a baby to term or to abort it.

They also believe that people ought to have the choice to end their own life at a time of their choosing, based on certain limitations.

The pressure to permit assisted suicide has been building for some time. Both have the support of many politicians and most of the media and a growing section of the public.

Assisted suicide will not require a referendum. It is entirely possible that the next Government will make moves in favour of allowing assisted suicide in initially limited circumstances, to be widened over time.

I wouldn't be surprised if we have a referendum to remove the pro-life clause of our Constitution in the next two or three years. The issue of 'fatal foetal abnormalities' will be used to persuade the public to get rid of the Eighth Amendment.

Those seeking abortion will be hugely emboldened by what happened on Friday. At the same time, however, many politicians will know that the 38pc of people who voted against same-sex marriage can be turned into a majority opposed to deleting the Eighth Amendment. Perhaps this will slow things down a little, but not for long.

Irish Independent

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