On the possible return of Bertie Ahern to the political stage….
David Wall writes:
The Liberal Left: architects of the modern day malaise we find ourselves in, the ones to blame for the plight of the worker, the state of the country, the failure of multiculturalism. The lily livered left have much to answer for.
Yet this argument is baffling. I can understand the words, but not the logic. Surely for the left to be blamed for the current climate we find ourselves in the parties of the left must have been in power.
The media must be propagating a socialist policy whereby the right are victimised and we have been led blindly to our own social destruction by Trotskyites.
Who could forget those great liberal lefties Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and David Cameron. Those soft hearted, socially pandering politicians have made left leaning decisions constantly at the expense of private industry and profit making.
These valiant champions of the working people have hindered the development of private wealth. These men and women who have consistently stripped a magnificent health service of public funding, given their schools to private companies and privatised their postal service at a loss must surely be left leaning. Somehow this is the logic that we meet.
That the left is to blame for modern problems and yet they have had no power (before people jump on the inclusion of Tony Blair I am aware he was a Labour P.M. however his actions outdid even the conservatives).
Let’s not forget our own social warriors like Charlie McCreevy, Phil Hogan and Charlie Haughey. All liberal lefties who have crippled our country through their socially minded inclusive policies.
How these men, representative of the political class, have brought the private sector to its knees is astounding. These Guevaras, these valiant men must be saluted as heroes of the left. Not to mention the left leaning media as owned by Denis O’ Brien and Rupert Murdoch.
Now, as we face crises both nationally and internationally our main opposition party, who are propping up a floundering government, are inviting back the architect of our travails. A man, who resigned rather than be banished, is being brought back as the great white hope.
Here is a man who knows how to win elections, knows his constituency inside out and knows exactly his own role in our plight. And here is a public being ridiculed again. The arrogance of both centre right parties is astonishing and would be hilarious if it wasn’t so insulting.
The reason I am writing this is because I am sick of hearing how the left are to blame, regardless of the problem. The left have not been in power to actually make any decisions in Ireland, England or the US. In fact there is no liberal left in Ireland. Both of our functioning parties are to the right of centre. This is indisputable.
The left is in disarray both here and in England while the middle class and working class get squeezed tighter and tighter. Of course nothing changes because there is no option. There is no alternative to politics of the right in Ireland.
The media dismisses the parties who try to take up the mantle of the left as being radical and loony. They are presented as being incapable and even to blame for where we are now.
All the while the established parties somehow are presented as the safe option. The parties who forced us into this crisis and who implemented a failed austerity policy are the ones to trust.
This leads me again back to where I started…the damn left have got us into this trouble. Let’s keep voting the same heroes back into power. If we do, maybe we can keep the housing crisis going, watch homelessness rise, see the privatisation of water we already pay for, watch hospital overcrowding reach record highs on a weekly basis and maybe see a rise in emigration again.
Education Minister Richard Bruton speaking on RTÉ Radio One at lunchtime
Audrey Carville, on RTÉ’s News At One, interviewed Minister for Education Richard Bruton earlier today.
The interview followed an earlier report by Conor McMorrow which included exchanges between Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly and Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil this morning, ahead of tomorrow’s vote on Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace’s bill on fatal foetal abnormalities.
During her speech, Ms Daly said:
“You hide behind the advice of the Attorney General, advice we haven’t seen, advice which is substantially at variance with the advice of other Attorney Generals and disputed by a whole array of legal experts. Taoiseach, my question to you is: who do you think you are? That you believe that you can allow the continued violation of human rights. The constitution can never be used to deal with this. If you haven’t go the leadership or the guts to do it yourself, will you stop using your position to block the courts or the people from dealing with this.”
During the interview…
Audrey Carville: “Just, following on there from those exchanges [between Ms Daly and Mr Kenny], Clare Daly says your government, and others, have been repeatedly told by the UN and others that you’re violating women’s human rights. Is that acceptable to you?”
Richard Bruton: “No, it’s certainly not. I think the situation though is three times attempts have been made to change the Constitution in this area and three times they failed. Now they’re on different issues but it clearly shows that constitutional change needs careful preparation and that’s what the Citizens’ Assembly is designed to do. Now in the context of Deputy Wallace’s bill, the medical advise has been absolutely stark, that this bill would be of no value to mothers or to doctors who would be faced with the sort of difficult situation that Clare Daly described. The Attorney General’s view is also clear, that this bill conflicts with the constitution. So we are driven back to the situation that if we want change, we have to create an environment where the people can reflect on the change that’s needed and make a decision in due course in a referendum, that’s the only way which you can change a constitution which provides a protection, at present, for the unborn with due regard to the life of the mother.”
Carville: “Indeed, so why not just call the referendum? Everything else is a delaying tactic.”
Bruton: “That’s not the case. I mean, as I say, efforts have been made in the past to change the constitution and have failed and I think that experience that we have seen for example, in dealing with this issue when we were simply trying to legislate, as you know, for the Life in Pregnancy Bill in the last session, that the work of having a Citizens’ Assembly reflect or hearings, to reflect on the content and what changes were about was really important to getting the degree of support that was possible. This is really complicated when you go to the people. And people will have to be able to see when they are faced with a vote, what it is they’re voting on, what are the implications of the changes that are being proposed to them. And that will take careful teasing out. There are many cases that will have to be teased out. Fatal foetal abnormality and other situations like rape and incest where very difficult circumstances are consulted…”
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former Tanaiste Mary Harney
In the Irish Times on September 11, 1999…
The newspaper’s then chief political correspondent Denis Coghlan wrote:
Publication of a Government Green Paper on abortion has reopened divisive debate and raised the prospect of serious friction between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. In 1992 Albert Reynolds sought to roll back the Supreme Court judgment in the X case and dared Dessie O’Malley to risk a general election on the issue. This time, Bertie Ahern seems willing to face down Mary Harney.
Of course, we don’t know precisely what the Taoiseach has in mind. And he is unlikely to tell us in the short term. But the pre-election commitment he gave to the Irish Catholic in 1997 appears to lean towards a restriction of the X case judgment or a legislative restatement of the prohibition on abortion.
But nothing is static in politics, and the commitment given by the Fianna Fail leader in opposition could crumble in the face of internal and external pressures. The only certainty at this stage is that Mr Ahern and his backbenchers are the main comfort-providers to the anti-abortion lobby and are anxious to retain its support.
The Progressive Democrats are doing what they did in 1992: reluctantly going along with a process they do not relish.
On the first occasion, the collapse of the coalition government allowed Mr O’Malley to advocate legislation to deal with the implications of the X case, rather than the constitutional referendum put forward by Mr Reynolds. And there is no indication that party policy has changed under the Tanaiste.
Reaching a consensus on this issue within Cabinet appears as remote as the possibility of Brian Lenihan and his all-party Committee of the Constitution producing an agreed set of recommendations.
For the main Opposition parties are still firmly entrenched in the positions they took up in 1997, when Mr Ahern resurrected abortion as an election issue.
Yesterday Alan Shatter of Fine Gael dutifully reiterated the position adopted by John Bruton when he was Taoiseach. The party was opposed to a referendum, he said, because no constitutional wording could fully and properly address this difficult area.
And they were concerned that any legislation would have the opposite effect to that intended, when applied in practice or interpreted by the courts.
Rather than embark on another referendum, Mr Shatter said, the Government should expand counselling services for women in crisis pregnancies and reform the adoption laws and services so that adoption would be seen as a preferred alternative to abortion.
Ruairi Quinn took a similar line. The way to reduce the number ofabortions among Irish women was to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies through education on sexuality, personal responsibility and access to contraception.
As for the deliberations of the all-party Committee on the Constitution, Mr Quinn felt it was unlikely to come to a different conclusion from that reached by the Expert Committee on the Constitution in 1995.
That approach would require giving legislative effect to the Supreme Court judgment in the X case, and was the position favoured by the Labour Party.
The Government sub-committee that produced the Green Paper – Brian Cowen, Mary O’Rourke, John O’Donoghue, Michael McDowell and Liz O’Donnell – took the five recommendations of the expert committee and expanded them to seven.
Four of the recommendations were common: the insertion of an absolute ban on abortion in the Constitution; to legislate for the X case; to restrict the terms of the X case’ and to return to the pre-1983 position.
The fifth recommendation from the expert committee suggested amending Article 40.3.3 so as to legalise abortion in constitutionally defined circumstances.
This was reworked into two options by the Government sub-committee: amend the Constitution so as to restrict application of the X case, and retain the “status quo” with a legislative restatement of the prohibition on abortion.
Finally, the sub-committee suggested that abortion might be permitted on grounds beyond those specified in the X case.
The last referendum on abortion, in 1992, clarified one issue. A solid 35 per cent of the electorate opposed giving women the right to travel and information on abortion.
It was that constituency Mr Ahern courted as Fianna Fail’s new leader in 1995 when he allowed his backbenchers off the leash to oppose Michael Noonan’s legislation giving effect to the electorate’s decisions to permit travel and abortion information.
Having established his anti-abortion credentials, Mr Ahern went on to cultivate that constituency by establishing an expert group on abortion within Fianna Fail.
Two years later he promised a referendum and legislation in the run-up to the general election of 1997.
At the time, his announcement went down like a lead balloon with the Progressive Democrats.
More than two years after those promises were made, the public is no wiser about what precisely the Taoiseach has in mind.
An early notion about utilising Article 27 of the Constitution has been dropped. The status of a commitment to draft the heads of legislation that would be put to the people – as happened in the divorce referendum – is unclear.
The Taoiseach now appears to be taking cover behind the Oireachtas committee and collective Cabinet responsibility.
It is a delicate stage in the exercise. The next step will involve open-ended consideration by the all-party committee on the Constitution. If a miracle happens and agreement is reached there on a way forward, the matter will come back to the Government. There could then be further consultations, a White Paper and a referendum/legislation.
It should come as no surprise that in spite of pressure from the Independent TDs, Mildred Fox and Harry Blaney, few Ministers expect a referendum to be held in the lifetime of this Government.
But anti-abortion groups are determined to pressurise the Government and Fianna Fail backbenchers into completing the process by next summer.
They have a mountain to climb. Resistance to an outright constitutional ban on abortion is widespread within the political system. Mr Ahern may be anxious to retain their support in advance of the next general election.
But he may be neither willing nor able to deliver their demands.
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern spoke to Pat Kenny on Newstalk earlier after Fianna Fáil’s general secretary directed that the party’s General Election candidates in the Dublin South Central and Dublin Central constituencies must be women – in order to satisfy new gender quota rules which state 30 per cent of a party’s candidates must be female.
Mr Ahern told Newstalk:
“I don’t agree with it, Pat. If you want my honest opinion, I think it’s zany but I think whether it’s a man or a woman, whoever comes through the position [deserves the nomination]. I have served at cabinet table with very formidable ladies like Mary O’Rourke, Mary Harney and Mary Coughlan, who came through the ranks.”
“The idea, like in my old constituency, the ruling is that they’re not allowed not nominate [a male] so there’s no point in a man even contesting the convention because even if he won it, he wouldn’t get through. And, you know, imagine if it was the other way around, if it was only a male person being allowed through? I bet you your programme this morning would be exclusively be on that issue, but some genius thought it up and then, you know, there goes it.”
“I think it’s mad. I think the idea that a person who works their way through the system, works their way through their branch or Cuman or organisation, gets themselves popular with the public, with the local organisations, then comes to the convention of the party and (the party is) saying ‘yes you have done a very good job in the last ten years, breaking your neck in your community, breaking it through with the organisation, but you happen to be the wrong gender, so go away’.”