Not So Fast


From left Senator Catherine Noone, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris during the referendum campaign

Minister Harris has sought permission to work through his summer break to draft abortion legislation. While he has been hailed as the poster boy of the Yes campaign, and he can finally take some heat away from the CervicalCheck scandal and hospital overcrowding, this is not necessarily good.

Speed is not conducive to good law.

The legislation that is created must be perfect. Not right, not good. Perfect. This campaign has been divisive and although the outcome was decisive even those who voted for repeal are not in agreement about what they want to see.

Having repealed the 8th it now lies on our lawmakers to to ensure that women are supported, treated with dignity and medically cared for in every aspect.

However, Minister Harris and Taoiseach Varadkar do know what they want to see. They have seen an opportunity: “69% of the population voted for repeal, lets plaster our names, faces and views to this and quick. If Fianna Fáil bring us down at the next budget we’ve legislated for marriage equality and repealing the 8th…what could possibly go wrong.” (Coincidentally, a large cache of documentation relating to the SCU was released Friday evening)

With the emphatic passing of this referendum Fine Gael have understandably taken the seismic events in Ireland and wish to harness them. Additionally, because Fine Gael have taken this stance a large number of TDs are pushing for speed. No voice can be seen to be delaying this legislation. This needs to be carefully considered.

Lets for an instant consider if the referendum had been split 53/47. What if SImon Coveney’s Cork South Central Constituency had split 54/46 or if Damien English’s Meath West had been tighter?

If the referendum outcome had not been so clean cut would Fine Gael be so keen to get this through? I think it may well have been left in the long grass until after the next general election.

A Fine Gael-led government could pick it up again after forming a new government and the next time an election rears its head it would be a distant memory, or if Fianna Fáil had won the election it would be a little grenade ready to rip the newly formed government asunder. I do realise that these musings are an irrelevancy: The majority of the country said repeal and so it will be.

The referendum has been supported and opposed from all sides of the house. The success of the Yes campaign is commendable and shows Ireland to be progressive building on the support for the marriage equality referendum. It also shows how politicians can work together for the good of the nations citizens from all sides of the house.

This does not give the government the right to ram legislation through.

There is an obvious problem to what I am saying: abortion is needed. It is needed now. As a nation we need to avoid trauma, hurt and stigma that has been associated with abortion.

Potentially, the state can support women with crisis pregnancies. In situations potentially offer financial support to procure the necessary treatment in England, possibly the judiciary could ensure that no custodial sentences are threatened or enforced in the case of terminations.

Steps need to be taken to support our citizens in times of crisis, however the law we enact must be perfect, not rushed. Bad cases make bad law. Often bad cases result in rushed law. It remains to be seen if this case will result in rushed law becoming bad law.

What Minister Harris needs to do is take time to ensure that the law now made is perfect. Having removed the 8th we now need to make sure that the constitution is as perfect as possible. Time is needed.

Rushing through law in a bid to ride on its coat tails to the next general election is a dangerous move. The 8th amendment lived longer in Ireland than I have. We only get one chance at getting this right, let’s make this law perfect.

David Wall is a freelance writer


15 thoughts on “Not So Fast

  1. Fact Checker

    This is a good point.

    The bottleneck is not necessarily the presence of the legislators.

    The drafting process is extremely complex, should be free of ambiguity, and have proper scrutiny.

    It should not be rushed.

  2. Cu Cullan

    There is no ‘perfect’.. we can and will amend and perfect over time. No more lonely journeys. No more crime.

  3. Wait For It

    Just a note, since he was mentioned in the text. I’m a Meath West constituent, represented by Sinn Fein’s Peadar Toibin, who was a very public ‘no campaigner, Fianna Fail’s Shane Cassells, who voted against having the referendum and was also a ‘no’ campaigner, and Fine Gael’s Damien English, who was . . . absolutely nowhere to be found throughout the entire campaign. He voted in favour of the referendum and then disappeared off the face of the earth, as far as I could tell. As a ‘yes’ voter, I was completely unrepresented throughout the campaign by my elected representatives, and while I disagreed with Deputies Cassells and Toibin, at least I knew where they stood. I found Deputy English’s apparent cowardice or at least reluctance to engage equally repulsive in a different way. While there has been a lot of talk of punishing ‘no’ campaigners at the ballot box, I wanted to highlight those who stayed silent but will no doubt be putting themselves front and centre in order to bask in the reflected glory of the hard work of others. That shouldn’t be forgotten either, even if, as in my case, there is little chance of all three facing any consequences to their direct opposition to the public mood.

      1. bisted

        …Damian ‘can’t believe he’s not a FFer’ English…he even does that FFer thing of talking out of both sides of his mouth…

  4. Ina.

    That’s easy for a conservative man to say. Women want to have access to abortions in their own country. They want it now. It will not take long to draft legislation and get this through quickly. If we get parts wrong we can amend very quickly, the ref. gave the Oireachtas the ability to legislate repeatedly on this issue if it so wishes. I’ve got a feeling that the reason this is being stalled is not to make ‘good law’ but rather not to upset the FG fold (Dave Wall included), to bring the party as a whole into agreement. It’s about internal FG politics, not about women’s health, it’s about the John Bruton wing of the party needing to be appeased. Harris and Varadker don’t care about women’s health, sure not too long ago (before they saw the polling) Harris and Varadker were anti-choice. Now back to the cervical screening scandal….

  5. Cian

    The 8th amendment lived longer in Ireland than I have. We only get one chance at getting this right, let’s make this law perfect.
    Abortion will now be dealt with in primary legislation. It will be drafted and reviewed by many, many people, and it will (3-6 months) be signed into law.
    And if there are any wrinkles in the final law, they can be fixed in the same way as all our other laws are – by going through the Oireachtas again. There is no need for another referendum.

    Secondly, there is no such thing as a “perfect law”. Regardless of the law, there will always be something that was overlooked.

    1. scottser

      there are legislative models in other countries to follow for precedent. uniquely here though, the church’s influence on the boards of hospitals performing these procedures may prove a stumbling block. it will take not just a craft for the law but a hard neck to get the best outcomes from this.

  6. Annon

    Better get it passed before the government confidence and supply agreement collapses!

  7. SB

    At least as it will be handled by legislation, and not cemented into the constitution, it can be perfected over time in an iterative process. Repeal of the any legislation enforcing penalties for procuring an abortion etc, based on the 8th, should occur immediately though, in advance of any new law.

  8. Optimus Grime

    I’d agree with the point here. Let’s try to get this right so that we don’t have people dying because we didn’t think of something while drafting the law. Procedures, processes, edge cases all have to be taken into account while drafting the law. The referendum result was only the start of the process. If we get it in place by the end of the year I think we’ll be doing well. I know that it is not what people want to hear but it was never going to be an overnight change.

  9. Rob_G

    While I agree with the author’s point that fast legislation is not necessarily good legislation, much of his article is based on hypotheticals that did not come to pass.

    “If the referendum outcome had not been so clean cut would Fine Gael be so keen to get this through?”

    But it was clear-cut, the Yes side won in a landslide. This gives the government a broad, overwhelming mandate for legislating for abortion in the Dáil. Most of the rest of the argument then collapses without this central plank.

  10. rotide

    Who is this gobdaw
    We only get one chance at getting this right, let’s make this law perfect.
    It’s legislation. Legislation can be changed and it can be changed a lot easier than the constituition
    It takes a partcular kind of eejit to make that statement 2 days after voting to repeal an amendment

    In fairness to Harris, he said quite openly that the vehement nature of the vote would make no difference to the eventual law. They legislated for divorce and SSM with less of a majority. SSM in particular was pretty speedy too.

    This stinks of Damned if you don’t, Damned if you do

  11. Sheik Yahbouti

    I disagree with David Wall. What is necessary has been known for a long time – the current situation is no surprise. Any parliamentary draughtsman with half a brain (who isn’t running his own agenda) should be able to produce acceptable draft legislation tout suite. Enough delaying already.

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