So the Sinn Fein motion dropped, as we knew it would, last night in the Dail. It’s a complex situation, in which there are no obviously easy wins. Last week, Gerard Howlin noted that the fault lies with the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution:
Would legislating for the Ms X case have helped Savita Halappanavar? That judgement required ‘a real and substantial risk’ to the life of the mother before a termination is lawful. It is not clear if such a risk was plain in time to save Ms Halappanavar. That will be a central point of any inquiry.
It is certain, however, that legislation under the Ms X case will not be enough to protect the health of women in uncertain medical circumstances. What is clearly required is the repeal of the eighth amendment to the constitution.
Elaine Byrne on Twitter last night, called it just about right:
It takes an outsider – Praveen Halappanavar – to expose the cowardice of Irish political life, the tactics of delay and flawed inquiries.
— Elaine Byrne (@ElaineByrne) November 21, 2012
It calls to mind a review of her book, Political Corruption in Ireland, by Peter Geoghegan:
Adopting a narrow definition of corruption as the exchange of public goods for private gain, the Free State’s early leaders saw no need to legislate against conflicts of interest. In 1946, in the wake of a tax scandal, one Irish TD told a sympathetic Dáil that the Ten Commandments and “the ordinary principles of decency and good conduct” were sufficient to ensure probity in Irish public life.
It’s this absence of a code, or as Howlin puts, the almost complete absence of a mandate to legislate on the permissive use of abortion that’s help create this moral paralysis in the Irish body politic.
Everyone is sure that something must be done, they just seem unsure about whether or how ask the people if they agree. Just striking the eighth amendment leaves a whole that would have be to filled with something.
To quote Jean Claude Junker’s famous line:
“We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty