Wednesday 16 October 2019

Sham vote on Daly's bill exposes true hypocrisy

The motives behind Clare Daly's bill were good - but criticism of Kenny is wilfully cynical

IMPORTANT ISSUE: Clare Daly proposed a bill to legalise terminations in the case of fatal foetal abnormality
IMPORTANT ISSUE: Clare Daly proposed a bill to legalise terminations in the case of fatal foetal abnormality

Sarah Carey

Last week, I said I liked authentic people. Clare Daly is authentic. Unlike some of the privileged posh boys who share her politics, she's an actual working-class woman, overcoming both snobbery and sexism to win her rightful place in Irish politics.

So I understand why she proposed the Bill to legalise terminations of pregnancies when there's a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality. It's a good way to raise awareness of the issue. But, as usual, hysterical and unfair criticism trumped calm, compassionate debate.

What is the priority here? To persuade people there's a problem and suggest realistic solutions? Or paint Enda Kenny as the Conservative Devil Incarnate? In reality, Kenny is the only Taoiseach since the 1992 X-case who has tackled the abortion issue with integrity, bravery and practicality. In return, he's personally attacked by both the pro-life and pro-choice campaigners.

The actual conservatives accuse him of personally introducing abortion to Ireland - ignoring the two referendums we had on the issue. And when he forced through the Pregnancy in Life Bill, where were the liberal commentators? Drooling all over Lucinda and her precious conscience! Lamenting the imposition of the whip even though the whip was the critical factor in getting the bill through! Talk about hypocrisy.

This is why people dread a referendum. It's not lack of compassion. It's the wilful polarisation of the political spectrum by a commentariat that cares more about embarrassing the hick from Mayo, whom they've never accepted as a legitimate Taoiseach, than they do about the issue at hand.

Meanwhile, for those unfortunate parents who've found themselves in the horrible situation of a horrible diagnosis, a sham vote in the Dail is no solution.

As for myself, when I went for 20-week scans during my pregnancies, I presumed a terminal diagnosis would see me on the next plane to England. How could you go on? It would be the questions from other people that would break me. Even strangers ask so many questions when you're pregnant. It's meant kindly, but if there's a problem, it makes everything much harder. So I think we should legalise terminations here. But last year I realised there's another reason to change the law.

We covered the topic on my show on Newstalk and our research surprised me. You can't generalise - because everyone is different. But experts told us that couples who carried on with the pregnancy had a better chance of a more positive psychological outcome than those who panicked and decided to end the pregnancy. Carrying to term meant the parents got to hold their baby, have it baptised, take photographs and have a funeral.

One woman said that she realised that if the life of her pregnancy was the only life her baby would have, every day it went on was another precious day. I'd never looked at it like that before.

Meanwhile, the couples who terminated faced unforeseen trauma. The England part made it much worse, but the lack of something simple, like a birth and death certificate - hurt them in ways they hadn't anticipated. There was no acknowledgement of their baby's life. They didn't expect that to matter. But it did. That's when I realised that one conversation had disastrously drowned out another more important conversation.

If we only talk about why we should make terminations legal in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities, then we never talk about whether or not it's the right decision. If we changed the law, we could change the conversation. Then, those couples who went to term could be listened to as voices of experience rather than pro-life propagandists.

But there's no room to even talk about that when the Emoting Dial is turned up to 11 by people who care more about embarrassing the Government than dealing with the problem.

First, there's the wilful dispensing of the facts. I hear the term "arguable case" being lamely pitched around by campaigners. They say there's an "arguable case" that terminations could be legalised without a referendum. They say there's an "arguable case" that the Government could vote for the Bill, even if they know it's unconstitutional.

I'll tell you what "arguable case" means. It means that whoever is using the term knows perfectly well they haven't a leg to stand on. The Bill was unconstitutional. We know that. We also know that the Government couldn't vote for it just to look nice and liberal in front of the columnists and tweeters, because governments are also prohibited by the Constitution from passing bills they know are un-Constitutional. Campaigners know that but they pretend they don't. So which politicians are we for? The ones who mean what they say? Or the ones who do things for show?

And meanwhile, where was Sinn Fein? Running a mile from the issue with their cowardly abstention, and being quietly ignored by the same people who fawn over Deputy McDonald, who not for the first time, puts strategy before integrity. When will someone call her out on her contrived principles and lack of authenticity?

This government paid a huge political price for doing the right thing by legislating for abortion in cases of suicide. It will be the obligation of the next government to deal with fatal foetal abnormalities. If that government is led by Kenny, I believe he'll do it. But he'll get no thanks for it either - from anyone. Politics. A great little game.

Sunday Independent

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