PERHAPS the most grimly entertaining item in the 1937 Constitution is Article 40, which opens: "All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law." But then, anticipating Orwell's "some are more equal than others" from 'Animal Farm' of 1945 by eight years, it declares: "This shall not be held to mean that the State shall not in its enactments have due regard to differences of capacity, physical and moral, and of social function."
In other words, "equality" means exactly what you want it to mean, or perhaps more accurately, exactly what the prevailing political mores adjudge it to mean.
Once upon a time those mores interpreted equality to mean that women could be paid less than men for doing the same job, or even sacked for getting married.
Today's mores mean that a 15-year-old boy may be jailed for having consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl but, by law, she may not. And the grounds for this, as explicitly stated in rulings by the High Court and the Supreme Court, are that the girl can get pregnant. Yet if an employer were to cite this as a reason not to give a job to a woman, he would be left dangling by his P45s by our many quangos.
That we do not actually live in an equal world is surely attested to by the fate of the serial rapist Patrick O'Brien, an enchanting man who repeatedly violated his young daughter for a decade. As perhaps one of the few people in Ireland who accepts the fundamental principle of capital punishment – Herr Hitler constituting my primary argument – I would not raise a finger in protest if this despicable beast were placed on a trapdoor and given a Pierrepoint to a future composed entirely of brief verticality. However, European law doesn't allow this: so let's settle for 10 years' imprisonment for every rape – about 20,000 years. Fair enough?
The grounds for the quite startling leniency of Central Criminal Court's original sentence on O'Brien – which was immediate freedom, pending an appeal against 12 years' imprisonment, with nine of them (but not, alas, his lifeless corpse) suspended – were the rapist's age and ill-health. This was revised yesterday to three years' imprisonment, with immediate effect.
So, presumably it is now the judicially accepted practice that if you violate your daughter, or indeed any child, and get away with it for decades, you will then receive a shorter sentence than a younger, healthier man guilty of similarly unspeakable crimes? As in, "some are more equal than others".
"Equality" is the dominant political delusion of our age, a toxic piety that is ruthlessly promoted in our media studies courses, just as the catechism was once taught in Catholic schools.
We inherited this heresy largely as a rejection of the racist evils of the Third Reich.
The Nazis' totalitarian belief in group inequalities was actually a mirror-image of the earlier Bolshevik dogma of totalitarian equality. These competing concentration-camp cultures became brief allies, and then bestial foes, until the T-34s entered Berlin, and all of Eastern Europe became equal and unfree.
Yet something strange happened then: like bacterial DNA leaping species, (and perhaps because so many of the founders of the Common Market had been communists in their youth) the equality gene was also transmitted into the social democracies of Western Europe, and thence into the fabric of the EU. The regular incantation of the e-word within our culture is now a form of modern voodoo, the hocus-pocus that accompanies the next politically correct sleight-of-hand.
Under its general aegis, a sexually active 15-year-old boy can be imprisoned; while his 15-year-old female accomplice, by explicitly stated law, must go free. It similarly permits an aged rapist to be treated more leniently than a younger man who is guilty of exactly the same evil deeds. Yet all, we are assured, are equal. So though the e-word is clearly meaningless, politicians or judges, or especially journalists, will still cite it to justify any oxymoronic absurdity. Thus, the common liberal mantra, "The purpose of education is to maximise equality". Wrong. Its purpose is to maximise an individual's potential, so that he or she is completely without equal in their particular calling.
Do you believe in equality? You do? Good. So, do you believe that the owner of an illegally parked Bentley should be fined the same as the disabled owner of an identically parked 10-year-old Toyota? Or that an 18-stone hydrophobic woman with vertigo should be employed as a firefighter? Or that 20-year-old male nurses should have an equal right to work in gynaecology units? Or that Ann Summers should be legally obliged to employ an avowed male member of Opus Dei at the vibrator counter? Or that an off-licence should give a sales job to a Muslim who is vehemently opposed to alcohol? Or that an ancient rapist should be treated far more leniently than a younger one?