Saturday 1 October 2016

Fianna Fáil lacking courage on the Eighth

Published 28/10/2015 | 02:30

The refusal by Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin to engage with one of the major social issues in the forthcoming General Election is a calculated act of political and moral cowardice
The refusal by Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin to engage with one of the major social issues in the forthcoming General Election is a calculated act of political and moral cowardice

The refusal by Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin to engage with one of the major social issues in the forthcoming General Election is a calculated act of political and moral cowardice.

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There are no easy ways to discuss the impact of and potential repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but leadership requires that the issue must be addressed by all parties.

The circumstances in which women and young girls can or should avail of lawful termination of pregnancy - and the circumstances in which clinicians can perform terminations without fear of criminal and civil sanctions - has convulsed the country at routine intervals for more than 30 years.

For much of that period, Fianna Fáil was in office, devolving all responsibility for the Eighth Amendment to the judiciary in Ireland and further afield when difficult cases arose.

It was a Fianna Fáil-led government that told the European Court of Human Rights in 2005 that it was an open question as to whether Article 40.3.3 would allow for lawful terminations where an unborn suffered from an abnormality incompatible with life.

Yet the former Health Minister, by declaring that he and his party are "not going there" on the Eighth, is turning his back on women and families who have experienced fatal foetal pregnancies and other categories of women facing crisis pregnancies including victims of rape and incest.

It is also a reckless attitude to adopt when clinicians need statutory guidance to inform their practice.

The non-policy stance (the "not going there" position is in fact an endorsement of the status quo) is presumably aimed at courting an older cohort of conservative right-wing voters.

That is entirely legitimate, however Mr Martin does not even have the courage to state that he would not repeal the Eighth.

The refusal to engage with the perennially divisive abortion question also exposes Fianna Fáil as a party that supports that this is no country for women, some 50pc of the population.

The policy of non-engagement will not wash with voters and is an abject failure of leadership on Mr Martin's part.

We can't have it both ways in refugee crisis

With some European countries sealing off their borders, and others busing refugees to their neighbour's doorstep, the Union met to "slow the flow," yesterday. The surge of desperate people across the Balkans is continuing.

So what is the plan? Reception capacities should be boosted in Greece and along the Balkans migration route to shelter 100,000 more people.

But the full use of biometric data like fingerprints at border stations will also be introduced. Thus, as they register, refugees will be screened before deciding whether to grant them asylum or send them home. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said that: "It cannot be that in the Europe of 2015 people are left to fend for themselves, sleeping in fields."

But at the same time the union is looking at sending people back. Even as ministers met in Brussels, another woman and two children died at sea off Turkey,

We can't have it both ways. We either help, or we look the other way.

Unless there are secure sanctuaries, "sending them back," would be a betrayal of all the EU purports to believe in.

Irish Independent

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