Monday 24 October 2016

Right to die is as important as the right to life

Published 03/01/2016 | 02:30

Tom and Marie: a couple who refused to be seen as victims despite the cruelty and unfairness of their situation
Tom and Marie: a couple who refused to be seen as victims despite the cruelty and unfairness of their situation
Motorhead's Lemmy: politically incorrect

When it comes to Christmas busy season, we tend to think of those hideous sales which feature skangers boxing the head off each other for a cheap telly.

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But as I was passing Mount Jerome cemetery the other day, the cars were double-parked as people gathered to pay a visit to their loved ones in the grave. It's a time when we remember those who went too soon - and also those who didn't go soon enough.

I was thinking about this when I read the Indo interview with Tom Curran the other day. Curran is the doughty partner of Marie Fleming, Ireland's highest-profile campaigner for assisted suicide.

This has been his third Christmas without his partner and as he admitted in the piece: "The first went in a blur and it is hitting me an awful lot more now… Every minute of my day was spent with her. But the family are great… I've loads of good memories. We've had some wonderful times together."

Fleming and Curran struck a chord with the country because, apart from anything else, they refused to be victims in the ongoing battle between State interference and the rights of the individual to decide the time and manner of their own death.

Anyone who saw Marie Fleming was left in no doubt that she was a tough cookie who bitterly resented the fact that the courts and politicians offered plenty of comforting platitudes while doing precisely nothing to rectify the legal quagmire that is the right-to-die argument.

Curran expressed frustration that, despite his assurances, Enda Kenny has done nothing to speed up legislation that would prevent people like him, or fellow campaigner Gail O'Rourke, from being prosecuted if they help a loved one die with some semblance of dignity.

Despite the mealy mouthed words and expressions of regret from Official Ireland, there is little political appetite for a serious discussion about assisted suicide in this country, although Labour's Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has at least called for a public debate on the issue. It's not much, but it's a lot better than anything his colleagues have suggested.

Anyone who has ever been around someone suffering from a debilitating, painful terminal illness knows that there is no such thing as dignity in death - that's a myth spread by religious cranks like Mother Theresa who think a non-existent soul is more important than a dying person's comfort.

Down here in the real world, however, such nonsense is scant consolation for someone who can no longer clean themselves and who only finds respite from pain when they're doped up on opiates.

People of faith like to claim that they have the monopoly on morality, but this is one of those areas where religion plays an active and explicitly cruel role in prolonging a life that has run its course.

Simply put, if your faith dictates that you cannot take steps to hasten your own demise, then that is entirely reasonable - for you, and for you alone. The idea, however, that someone can project their own religious beliefs onto the rest of us is something which should be repugnant to anyone with a moral compass.

This is a far more important question than, say, gay marriage, which was ultimately just a referendum about hurt feelings.

But this cause will have no parades, no media luvvies queueing up to show how tolerant and enlightened they are.

It is not, ultimately, a sexy issue.

If we are to have one those tedious 'national conversations' in 2016, the right to die is surely the one topic we should be discussing.

But I wouldn't bet on it.

No special favours please for any group on that long  housing list

I had the delightful experience of debating with some Travellers - and their fellow, um, travellers - on the radio a few weeks ago.

As is often the case with such conversations, it didn't take long for the usual litany of whining complaints and demands for special treatment and, of course, the inevitable accusations that anyone who has any observations to make about the Traveller way of life is obviously a racist and a bigot.

Of course, what Traveller activists and their cheer leaders in the Irish media seem to forget is that most people simply don't care one way or the other.

Every citizen of this State deserves to be treated in the same way, and that's the problem that many members of the settled community have with the Traveller issue - the fact that they don't want to be treated the same as everyone else, they want special 'cultural' concessions.

And, of course, special treatment always costs money, such as the €867,000 that was spent in Cork building a measly two houses for some local Travellers.

Yup, the guts of 900 grand was blown by Cork County Council to facilitate "specialist" accommodation for two families who were threatening legal action if their housing demands weren't up to spec.

There's a simple solution to this profligate waste of money - put them on the housing list like everyone else. Or is it bigoted to ask them to live in houses like the rest of us?


So, farewell then, Ian Kilmister, better known as Lemmy.

Perhaps the last of the great rock and roll outlaws, he was a geezer who lived life on his own terms.

Apart from having a capacity for drugs that would make even Keith Richards balk in envy, Lemmy was the kind of guy who would have been invented if he didn't already exist.

In fact, even those of who were never really into Motorhead - in my weaker moments, I actually prefer his first band Hawkwind, which is a pretty humbling admission to make in public - always admired and, in our own way, adored the legendary bassist.

Not for him the whims and vicissitudes of modern life - he sneered at pomposity and snarled at political correctness.

Often wrongly described as a Nazi sympathiser simply because he collected World War II memorabilia, my favourite Lemmy story involves Motorhead's gig in Dresden during their infamous 'Bomber' tour.

That tour featured a large replica of a Lancaster bomber hoisted above the stage and when the band came on, Lemmy looked out at the audience, pointed up to the bomber and said: "Bet it's been a while since you seen one of these things around here, eh?"


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