Sunday 16 June 2019

Referendum vote is major step forward

REPEAL: Together for Yes campaigners embrace at the announcement of results at the
Referendum count in Cork City Hall. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
REPEAL: Together for Yes campaigners embrace at the announcement of results at the Referendum count in Cork City Hall. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision


It was the right thing to do. For too long, the good of the women of Ireland has been low on the agenda, and the result has been tragedies from Ann Lovett to Savita Halappanavar.

From now on, no woman need linger between life and death because a doctor fears prosecution and imprisonment for offering expert help. No more will we have to listen to the claim that women are hurt by abortion without taking into account the fact that they might be less hurt if they didn't have to slink off to the UK or elsewhere, often alone and in secret.

And we won't have to listen to claims that the women of Ireland cannot be trusted not to feign suicidal ideation on finding themselves pregnant.

There are hard cases resulting from rape, both within the family and outside. And fatal foetal abnormality places women in a tragic situation. But there are plenty of crisis pregnancies outside of these circumstances resulting from consensual sex. And for the women concerned, this crisis is real, and the stress is genuine. While it was a relatively civilised campaign, exception has been taken to the force with which some of the No campaigners sought to make their case, including their very direct poster campaign.

Nevertheless, now that the people have spoken, the matter is at an end for us, the voters, and it is now over to our elected politicians to take the next legislative steps. There is nothing to be gained by being triumphalist. But equally, those who were most vocal in the No campaign must also accept the outcome.

The result of the referendum will not end the abortion trail abroad, but it should significantly reduce it. What it will do is ease the pressure on women of childbearing age who decide, for whatever reason, that they are unable or unwilling to proceed with a full pregnancy.

And in those circumstances they will be able to place themselves in the care of the Irish health system without risking their lives.

That is a major step forward.

FG should be wary with SF

During the course of a debate of the proposed Judicial Appointments Bill last week, the Sinn Fein TD, Aengus O Snodaigh claimed that the Special Criminal Court had shown what he referred to as an "anti-republican bias",  to his mind, presumably, a "bias" against members of the  Provisional IRA, the subversive wing of Sinn Fein, when there is no evidence to suggest such an alleged bias in the first place.  If anything, the opposite is the case. The Special Criminal Court has, in fact, shown itself to be scrupulous in the  administration of justice. Contrary to what is sometimes asserted, the Court, which is bound by the Constitution and the law, and whose practice and procedure is statutorily  assimilated to that of the Central Criminal Court, must and does apply ordinary rules of evidence.

That is not to say that the operation of the Special Criminal Court should not be kept under regular review. Indeed, since its present phase of operation from May 1972, reviews have routinely taken place involving consultations with the Department of Justice, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Gardai. In each review to date, the continuing necessity for the Special Criminal Court was considered to be warranted on a number of grounds, including the continuing threat to the security of the State posed by subversive organisations and the ruthlessness of certain organised criminal gangs which operate within the State.

The inaccurate claim by the Sinn Fein deputy concerned has served as a salutary reminder to Fine Gael TDs, particularly those who were in Dail Eireann at the height of the Provisional IRA campaign, that while the new leader of that party seeks to present a modern, new face for a modern, new country, there are undoubtedly forces at play within Sinn Fein and the wider republican movement who will never forget, and may still resent the resolute and necessary stand this State took in the face of the subversive actions of the Provisional IRA, and that any reach for modernity should not be accompanied by a passive willingness to re-write history or to discard or traduce the institutions of the State which have stood the test of time. In short, Mr Varadkar, sup with a long spoon.

Sunday Independent

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