Consequence; perhaps the least considered word in the entire Irish political lexicon. Repeatedly, governments have embarked on policies with little consideration of consequence. This recklessness is almost built into the DNA of the State from 1916 onwards: politicians did what made them feel good, or which satisfied a personal ambition, regardless of the actual outcome. And consequence was then seen as some wholly unfair act of either an evil history or of the British, which in nationalist thinking, came down pretty much to the same thing.
So how much thought went into the recent Fianna Fail vote to give full marriage rights to same-sex couples? A second's worth, maybe? But we were recently told very clearly by the Supreme Court that judges do not like imposing their own views on parliamentary laws relating to sexual morality. So, just as in the contemptible and disgusting law by which a 15-year-old boy can be imprisoned for being seduced by a sexually experienced 16-year-old girl, but she may not, and which the Supreme Court ruled was constitutional, our law-makers cannot now expect to be rescued from their own bad decisions by some clever judges. The Supreme Court will not impose its own wisdom on any law that establishes legal parity between homosexual and heterosexual marriages.
Therefore, equality in law having been achieved, what happens when a lesbian couple and a heterosexual couple are competing to adopt the same baby boy? Without a legal protection for the rights of the child, the claim of each is equally valid, though the record of every society shows that boys without a strong stable male figure in their lives are an express train heading for trouble. Indeed, one prison survey in the US showed that 90pc of jail-inmates were the product of fatherless homes. But with marital parity achieved, an adoption agency would be breaking the law if it ruled in favour of the heterosexual couple. We have seen the workings of this sort of law in Britain, where it is illegal for Catholic adoption agencies to seek heterosexual homes for their children. The consequence -- ah, that word again -- is that Catholic adoption agencies have closed, rather than do something they feel is immoral, which is to hand children over to homosexual couples. It is not even lawful for the birth mother to stipulate that she wants her child to be raised by a heterosexual married couple.
What about a law which gives an agency discretionary powers? Actually, discretionary law is usually no law: the adoption agency that is given the semi-judicial power to prefer one couple over another will sooner or later be challenged in the courts, and then the only people who will be happy will be our old friends the lawyers, as the baby is left in a maze of domestic, familial and legal Caucasian Chalk Circles.
Now, if you think that two homosexual men are just as suitable parents for a baby as a heterosexual couple, then quite clearly, the Fianna Fail vote for equality of marriage is not a problem for you. But if you think differently: if you consider that a boy should be raised with a mother and father, then the Fianna Fail vote is more than a difficulty, for it will legally prevent an adoption agency from even having an opinion on such matters. Two men with a gay lifestyle will be as absolutely entitled to adopt as a church-going married couple: and I am not implying any paedophilia here. I am merely talking about lifestyle. One will be equal to the other.
Admittedly, Ireland is not unique in its failure to admit to the immutable power of the laws of inconvenient consequence. It is a general liberal failing. For example, conservatives in the US warned of the dire calamity that would result from the liberalisation of the laws against homosexual acts. Actually, their pessimistic forecasts fell far short of the catastrophic reality: at least 250,000 deaths from AIDS. Now just about every American liberal could tell you the price of the Vietnam War for the US: 65,000 dead. But almost no one is aware that the price for male homosexual liberation was around four times the death-toll of Vietnam, and in a far shorter period. OK: so was that worth it? And I'm not expressing an opinion either way, just asking a question.
What about a woman's right to choose? Well in Britain, that has just run into the moral brick wall of selective abortions, whereby mothers of Asian origin are having sex-scans, and then having the foetus aborted if female. Sorry: what was that mantra about "a woman's right to choose"? The recent feminist indignation in Britain over this "gendercide" would almost be entertaining if the moral complexity and implicit human tragedy were less horrifying (the foetus has to be well-advanced before her sex can be identified, at which point the little girl is beheaded in utero, before the inconvenient she-matter is hosed out of the womb). Consequence, you see; every single human decision has a consequence. It's as well to remember that the next time you vote for someone's "rights".