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The argument for the inclusion of provision for an abortion in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality is is eloquently put in this piece. It was not included in the current legislation because the Government wanted to retain the argument that it was merely codifying the current legal position following the Supreme Court ruling in the X case (20 years ago) and a fatal foetal abnormality was not at issue in that case.

The best that can be said for the legislation as is is that it sets a precedent for legislation of this kind, and the door is now ajar for legislation providing for additional limited circumstances where an abortion will be lawful in the future.  That is why this legislation was so vociferously opposed by the Catholic Church.

I do not expect, however, that this government will want to revisit this issue within the lifetime of this Dail. That is because most people will vote on economic issues and judge it on it's economic performance. Fine Gael can ill afford to lose part of its socially conservative base which would normally be part of it's core vote, and so will want to put this issue to bed and out of the limelight as quickly as possible. At present the pro-life moment has nowhere else to go politically, as even Fianna Fail, the other conservative political party, has been reluctant to fully embrace their cause.

The pro-life movement could form its own Catholic heartland conservative party, however, and win seats in marginal rural constituencies even with less than 15% of the vote, thanks to Ireland's multi-seat proportional representation system. There are already a large number of (mostly left leaning) independents in the Dail, and collectively they have about 20% support nationally, such is the national disillusionment with the current party political system generally. The five expelled Fine Gael deputies - led by the able and telegenic Lucinda Creighton - could form the nucleus of such a new political party, siphoning off conservative support from Fine Gael, independents, and even some Fianna Fail supporters.

Fortunately Lucinda Creighton is ambitious enough to aspire to the leadership of Fine Gael itself, and so may not wish to alienate herself from the party further by forming a splinter group. Nevertheless Fine Gael will want to shut off any political momentum the five expelled TD's might gain in the media and elsewhere as quickly as possible, and so I don't expect the issue of abortion to be revisited again by the current Government despite the opinion poll showing that 83% of the population support abortion in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality.

Ireland may be moving on from craw-thumping adherence to Catholic Church doctrines, but but 15% of the older, wealthier, better organised and more politically active elements of the population can still hold the political system to ransom when they put their collective minds to it. The fact that the otherwise very conservative Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, held firm in the face of their wrath is to his enduring political credit despite the very limited nature of the legislation now passed in the lower house. It would have inconceivable just a few years ago - prior to the child abuse scandals - for an Irish Government to have acted in this way.

It may not have been coincidental that the long redacted Chapter 20 of the Murphy report was finally published yesterday. It criticised three successive Archbishops of Dublin in the most trenchant of ways for their longstanding policy of protecting serially offending paedophile priests which resulted in many more children being abused. The Catholic Church, too, will want to put this chapter behind them as quickly as possible, but the chutzpah with which they have sought to portray themselves as the representatives and defenders of unborn children in this whole debate has been utterly remarkable.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 13th, 2013 at 05:33:56 AM EST

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