Friday 31 October 2014

No more Irish solutions please

Published 31/08/2014 | 02:30

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was introduced following the death of Savita Halappanavar
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was introduced following the death of Savita Halappanavar

Irish politicians are certainly slow learners when it comes to the fundamental truth that political expediency always begets moral and political chaos. Few will now remember Charles Haughey's proud declaration in 1979, that his Family Planning Bill, where contraceptives could only be secured with a medical prescription, was an 'Irish solution to an Irish problem'. Three decades after that shambles, it is truly dispiriting to realise the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, devised by similarly fearful politicians looking for a return of the quiet life after the death of Savita Halappanavar, was informed by the same wretched ethos.

Often, when lawyers are attempting to maintain some morally indefensible state of affairs they will warn that hard cases make bad law. But the opposite side of that axiom is that bad law creates hard cases. It should in that regard be noted of the grotesque Y case where an immigrant, pregnant by rape, had a child she did not want cut out of her body, that all the personnel involved, implemented the law to its very last letter.

This Kafkaesque scenario is alas just another example of the wicked fruits that inevitably follow the all too common 'whatever you say, say nothing' school of Irish politics. The ongoing popularity of this stance on the Y case in Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will surprise few. The response though of Labour, where courage was swiftly outsourced to the next administration, will have embarrassed anyone who thought that party stood for better than the politics of Irish solutions. Some, God help us; have claimed such dilatory caution is 'clever politics'. It is nothing of the sort unless we believe moral negligence is politically clever.

Somewhat typically the predominant response of the political classes to the escape of the elusive abortion genie was one of self pity. It had been their profound wish that the Coalition's nervy pursuit of the liberal vote could focus on the fluffier issues such as gay marriage. However, the chaos of life cannot always co-operate with political timetables. It is understandable that the first instinct of our politicians when yet another abortion crisis occurs is to tip toe away waving despairing hands saying the thing cannot be fixed. Abortion is an issue, which brings out far too much passionate intensity in the citizens for an essentially amoral Irish political system to deal with. That, however, is no excuse for inaction over finding a solution that is informed by the democratic consent of the citizenry. In this regard, Mr Kenny needs to engage in a significant degree of political maturation, if he is not to be left fatally open to the accusation that inaction on current scandals prove the political crying over legacy affairs such as the Mother and Baby home was of the crocodile variety.

To date the ides are not propitious, for the performance of Mr Kenny is all too typical of a government that lacks the courage of its convictions in some things and has far too few courageous convictions on most things. This trait is not confined to abortion either. The Coalition's generic unease with real reform is epitomised by the shocking ongoing differentials between private and public sector pay, which elements of this government want to stretch even further in a desperate break for political popularity. This, allied to the premature jockeying over the budget suggests any real break from the canny politics of political expedience is, like abortion, set to be outsourced to some mythical future courageous administration.

Quotes of the week

"He gave a chilling impression of political bankruptcy, rather like a man who has lost a fortune by backing a particular number consistently at the roulette table and continues to stare at that number even though he no longer has a stake to play."

- Sir Ken Bloomfield, head of the Northern Ireland civil service, on John Hume in 1985, revealed in that year's British State papers, just published.

"Rather than spending these past years building a shared prosperity, both sides remain far too stuck in the past, making progress vulnerable and even reversible. Certainly progress has been made . . . but the two communities remain far too focused on the injustices of the past."

- Nancy Soderberg, former US deputy national security adviser, on Northern Ireland.

"The Rose of Tralee has been a dinosaur of an institution and overnight it has danced into the 21st Century courtesy of this beautiful, talented woman. It's one small word for a woman, one giant leap for lesbiankind."

- Oliver Callan, impressionist on the revelation Maria Walsh, is gay.

"I wouldn't want them. Forget it. The noise. I want to watch the telly. No, no, no, no. I don't even like other people's. I don't like kids."

- Louis Walsh, impresario.

"I'm sorry for being such an idiot and choosing the wrong way for glory."

- Mark Chapman, murderer of John Lennon, being turned down yet again for parole.

"I will be pilloried for saying so, but the rape conviction statistics will not improve until women stop getting drunk. I'm not saying it is right to rape a drunken woman . . . but juries are in a position where they've got a woman who says: 'I can't really remember what I was doing, I can't remember what I said, I can't remember if I consented or not but I know I wouldn't have done.'"

- Judge Mary Jane Mowat, Oxford Crown Court.

"What I don't get are people on TV or making records, who bleat about the paparazzi. I always say: 'Do a different job. You put yourself in that position. The people are buying your records, watching your shows, the least you could do is shake their hand.'"

- Simon Cowell, TV mogul.

"A Commission without women is, in my view, neither legitimate nor credible. I am continuing to insist with several heads of state that they send me a female candidate."

- Jean-Claude Junker, incoming EU Commission president.

"We need to have a wage-led recovery. When the economy recovers, workers' wages levels should improve so that they are spending more in the economy to sustain jobs. It's that virtuous circle idea. "

- Ged Nash, Labour junior Business/Employment minister.

"I don't believe the priority now is for wage increases. The priority is to continue to focus on employment opportunities. We have to create the opportunities for enterprise to grow."

- Richard Bruton, Fine Gael Enterprise Minister.

"She behaves as if we are not good enough for her now. So she does not need to respond to us or have any care. It's as if we are not good enough now and she's embarrassed by us. She is now even grander than the Queen."

- Joanne Callen, on her godmother, Carole Middleton, mother of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

"The regime we have satisfies nobody's aspirations and fails those involved again and again. The only way forward I can see is to take (Article 40.3.3) out of the Constitution altogether. That would have to be done by way of a referendum but would have to be preceded by a clear indication of what legislation would replace it. That should come about following a really informed debate, calmer than the one we have now."

- Olivia Mitchell, Fine Gael TD.

Sunday Independent

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