Thursday 21 November 2019

Declan Lynch: Barry's Tomfoolery is just part of wider charade in abortion debate

Real shame lies in denying UK does dirty work.

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

THEY were monstering Tom Barry, the TD who dragged his Fine Gael colleague Aine Collins onto his lap in the Dail chamber at about 2.40am last Thursday. They said it was embarrassing, which would probably be the right word in most circumstances. But maybe not in a joint like this.

Lucinda Creighton announced during the week that she had joined Fine Gael at the age of 18. Now that's embarrassing.

To me it is more deeply embarrassing than the Barry manoeuvre, because unlike Lucinda, Barry knew that he had done wrong, and was stricken with remorse – he'd been drinking, but not "excessively".

And while others were clothing themselves in the garb of piety, Barry seemed to understand that this late-nite abortion debate was all just a game.

I think most of us have encountered fellows like Tom Barry along the way, "letting their lugs back", as they say, making eejits out of themselves with women. Indeed a large percentage of the male population of Ireland, if they're honest, have been that soldier during the lost hours at a drunken party or a dance, or in Tom's case, whilst overseeing the passage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 through Dail Eireann.

On the whole, I wouldn't worry too much about those guys. It's the ones who join Fine Gael at 18 that I would tend to avoid.

Lucinda will be fine. Already the Irish political class has found a label for her that will stay with her for the next 48 years: "The woman of conviction" – a badly drawn cartoon, but they know no other way of interpreting the world.

And in 48 years' time, women will still be going to England for abortions, and in Leinster House they will still be doing embarrassing things, long into the night.

Indeed, you could say that Tom's inappropriate behaviour was perhaps the least embarrassing thing in that room at the time. This, after all, was not really the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013, it was the Getting England To Continue To Do Our Dirty Work For Us Bill 2013.

A serious politician would have stood up and spoken about this ancient curse of ours, this terrible self-delusion that can make us proclaim that there's still no abortion in Ireland – not much anyway – when we know there is plenty of it, which just happens to be outsourced to another jurisdiction. The speaker would have framed the problem primarily as one of infantilism on our part, not infanticide. He would marvel at the fact that not only is Ireland not embarrassed by this amazing body of fiction, it is actually proud of itself.

Even Tom Barry might have stopped whatever he was doing, for that. But there was no such speaker.

It was left to Tom himself, acting the mick because he couldn't think of anything else to do, to capture the true spirit of the occasion.

Irish Independent

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