BBC’s HARDtalk was in Ireland this week to meet Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton.
Only a week ago presenter Stephen Sackur met Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal.
Did he hear a more moderate voice on women’s rights and marriage equality in Dublin?
Stephen Sackur: “I wonder why you have decided to take a couple of high profile positions that maybe wouldn’t fit easily into that notion of modernisation.First one, on gay marriage you’ve said you’re absolutely up for civil partnerships. You believe they’re the right way to go but you do not want to see gay marriage in Ireland. Why?”
Lucinda Creighton: “Well I suppose I have been a supporter of em the notion that em that gay people should have…”
Creighton: “…rights. Of course and have that recognised.”
Sackur: “Surely equality means that should they wish to do so they can get married in just the same way that heterosexual couples can get married.”
Creighton: “Well I suppose it is a matter of opinion, I mean in our constitution and the way it is interpreted by our courts system, marriage is and has been and continues to be defined as marriage between a man and woman.”
Sackur: “So you’re defending this on the basis of tradition?”
Creighton: “Well there’s not always something wrong with tradition I mean you know. I think…”
Sackur: “Well I’m just trying to tease out how this fits with your notion that you know Ireland needs to modernise, needs to look forward to the 21st century, not back.”
Creighton: “Oh absolutely. But I don’t think necessarily that modernisation means that you just totally abandon tradition. I think you can have both in fact, side by side. And there are many ways in which we need to modernise I just don’t believe that that’s one of them. And you know, speaking as somebody who unlike many of my colleagues in our parliament eh spoke eh on our legislation two years ago on civil partnership I spoke
passionately in favour of it because I believe it was the right thing. But that I suppose is a, a matter of opinion. One thing I do think will happen just while we’re on that subject is that I do think there will be a referendum to change the definition of marriage eh in our constitution at some point.”
Sackur: “What do you think they would decide?”
Creighton: “I really don’t know, genuinely I don’t know. Em I think there are very divided opinions.”
Sackur: “Opinions are shifting, aren’t they? And if one is going to be very blunt about it the role and influence of the Catholic Church is changing pretty rapidly in this country.”
Creighton: “Absolutely. Oh yeah I mean I think…”
Sackur: “Which brings me to another point if I may, which is your passionate defence of Ireland’s current laws and practices when it comes to abortion. It’s one of the most draconian countries in Europe when it comes to outlawing abortion em…abortions can only happen in this country if there is a substantial significant risk to the life of the mother. You want the curent status quo to be maintained even though there is a very loud and public argument now with many Irish people now who want it to change. Indeed your own government is talking about legislating to be clearer and actually a little broader about the specifications in which an abortion can be carried out. Why are you so against that?”
Creighton: “Well firstly, I would very much take issue with the view that em having a very restrictive em position on abortion in this country is somehow draconian. We have a very clear position in our constitution…”
Sackur: “What word would you choose?”
Creighton: “Well I wouldn’t call it draconian. No…Well..I…to explain, I mean firstly in our constitution, we as a country, the Irish State, values equally the right to life of mothers and babies and that includes unborn babies so there is no distinction or hierarchy.”
Sackur: “Final point on this, you know better than I do the stats here. Hundreds and hundreds of women over the last three years alone who have left the Irish Republic to get abortions abroad, many in the UK. These include nineteen rape victims, twenty one with severe health problems, more than twenty girls under the age of sixteen.
Now does it seem to you, right that the way the system works right now, those extremely vulnerable young women all have to go abroad to get abortions?”
Creighton: “Well firstly, I don’t know where your information is coming from but I think it’s..I think it’s from my point of view and I’m just speaking from my personal point of view, I feel very strongly em that you know there is virtually, very very few em circumstances that I’m aware of where treatment cannot and should not be provided for..for women who are vulnerable, who are pregnant.
I don’t see abortion as a treatment for vulnerable women em I mean it depends I suppose on your view of life and it depends on your view of unborn children. But I feel very strongly and I support very strongly our constitutional position which is that there is an equal right to life of women and unborn babies and you know that is something I think Irish people have held dear for many many years and it is something I consider to be worth defending.”