Last weekend, Fine Gael, the majority Party in Ireland’s coalition government held it’s annual meeting in central Dublin. It was a time for the Party faithful to come together for two days of backslapping and encouragement, presided over by Party leader (and Irish Prime Minister), Enda Kenny.
Given the events of the past few months however, it’s hard to imagine that anyone in Fine Gael spent too much time talking about the issue of abortion at the weekend. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that short-term memory loss among pro-life voters might be exactly what Enda Kenny is hoping for these days. If, by some miracle, that were to happen, the disaster that was the enactment of the Protection Of Human Life In Pregnancy Act would be forgotten. Maybe the fact that Fine Gael politicians gave a commitment before the last general election not to legislate for abortion – only to turn around and do exactly that – would be overlooked. In that political fantasy, it might still be possible for Fine Gael and Enda Kenny to lay claim to pro-life votes.
It’s not too cynical to think that this possibility was being taken into consideration at the recent re-opening of the Irish Vatican Embassy. You can imagine the train of thought. Re-open the Embassy to a great fanfare, just before swathes of Fine Gael politicians hit the campaign trail for local council elections in late May 2014. At least then when the inevitable question of the Abortion Act comes up during canvassing, there would be something to point to, some proof that this government isn’t all about throwing out the things that matter. But there are a few reasons why the re-opening of the Vatican Embassy won’t matter to pro-life voters.
Firstly, despite what various commentators like to think, the abortion issue concerns human rights, not religious belief. It is of course true that abortion contradicts the fundamental religious belief that only God can give and take a human life, but most people I know don’t see it in those terms. They focus instead on the injustice of abortion, the unfairness, the inhumanity of deciding that a life already begun can be arbitrarily ended. Religious belief may strengthen that belief, but at its heart, the pro-life struggle is one of human rights.
The second reason concerns the Embassy issue itself – another debacle created by this government which seems to lurch from one disaster to another. The closure of the Embassy in November 2011 was seen by many to be a diplomatic mistake. It followed Enda Kenny’s now-infamous speech in July of that year, criticising the Vatican for its handling of child abuse. There was something immature about the closure, a sense that if we closed our Embassies every time an issue arose with the State in question, we wouldn’t have too many left. It felt petty and small-minded, as if we were withdrawing from dialogue with the Vatican at the very time it was most needed. In short, it wasn’t the action of a mature State. So for the government to have now realized this and moved to correct their mistake – well, do they expect to be congratulated?
But those reasons pale in significance when compared to the real issue, the real reason why pro-life voters will not be won back by Enda Kenny’s latest gambit. Here’s the thing: pro-life voters don’t care how many Embassies he opens or re-opens. Last year, his government introduced a law that allows the lives of unborn babies to be ended. There is no medical evidence to prove that this is necessary to save a woman’s life, and Enda Kenny knows this. He should do; enough experts were invited to give evidence to the Dail Health Committee last summer and they all said the same thing. The evidence was also there to show that abortion can have a negative impact on a woman suffering from suicidal ideation. Enda Kenny didn’t care about that either.
Before the last election, he gave a pre-election commitment to the Irish People that he wouldn’t introduce abortion. The politicians in his Party gave the same commitment. Enda Kenny then broke that commitment, and most of his Party colleagues were browbeaten into following him, or simply chose to do so of their own accord. Either way, the re-opening of the Embassy does not erase the fact that the current members of the Fine Gael Party don’t know how to keep a commitment to a voter.
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It’s right that the Vatican Embassy was re-opened. It should never have been closed in the first place. It has tremendous significance for our international relations and as such matters hugely to the Irish People. But it is unrelated to the ongoing travesty of our new, unjust abortion law. Enda Kenny showed what his government thinks of human life last summer. In the eyes of the new law, human life can be easily discarded. If the members of Fine Gael think that pro-life voters have forgotten their betrayal of the most vulnerable members in this society, then they are very much mistaken.
The only thing that will appease pro-life voters in Ireland is the repeal of this unnecessary and inhumane law which attacks unborn babies and ignores best medical practice for women in Ireland.
LifeNews Note: Cora Sherlock writes for the ProLife Campaign.