There are some interesting twists in the abortion debate in the Republic. As Michael Kelly of the Irish Catholic newspaper noted yesterday Armagh’s new-boy-to-be Eamonn Martin has been clear in ways his soon-to-be predecessor Sean Brady never was. As he also added, Rome will be pleased.
And as Kelly rightly observes, polls can be wrong, especially if there is a referendum coming up:
Ipsos MRBI told us 4pc would oppose children’s rights referendum. 42pc voted against it. #justsaying
— Michael Kelly (@MichaelKellyIC) June 12, 2013
Nevertheless, the latest MRBI/IPOSOS poll on whether there should be legislation (as opposed to guidelines) is still pretty overwhelmingly in favour…
Asked if they were for or against the heads of the Bill to legislate for the Supreme Court X judgment of 1992 permitting abortion where a mother’s life is in danger, 75 per cent said Yes, 14 per cent said No and 11 per cent had no opinion.
Supporters of both Coalition parties were the strongest backers of the legislation with 79 per cent of Fine Gael voters favour; 78 per cent of Labour; 77 per cent of Sinn Féin and 74 per cent of Fianna Fáil supporters.
People over 65 were the least enthusiastic about the legislation with 60 per cent in favour and 26 per cent against. The 25 to 34 age group was the most strongly in favour but there were large majorities across all age cohorts.
The best-off social categories were strongest in support of legislation while farmers and the poorest DE social group were the least enthusiastic.
The thing is that there won’t be a referendum on this issue. The referendum will be in the chamber, and this is where the church’s rather intemperate (not to mention very general) threat of ex communication was aimed.
And it has caused a lot of difficulty. Micheal Martin had intended to march his party through on a whip, but was the first to relax and for the first time in his party’s history allowed his TDs have a free vote. We’ll see later on whether there are consequences to letting ‘soldiers of destiny’ have such a free hand.
Meanwhile Enda Kenny, posing as the most unlikely secular hero in the history of the state is choosing the book of statute over the book of church law and in the process denying a party a free vote that’s been accustomed to having one in times past.
The world turned upside down?
Political insiders argue that the church could have chosen a more conciliatory line on the X case legislation. And that in alienating the political classes they may stand in future to have fewer allies when it comes to defending the real bulwark against abortion in the constitution if the current drift towards secularism continues:
Article 40. 3. 3° The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
That, the Church may calculate, may a price worth paying in order to save its own spiritual soul. There appears to be two way commerce going on here. In taking a much harder, fundamentalist line the Church is finding more coherence in its own moral arguments, whilst accepting, perhaps that its influence on matters of state in Ireland are long since over.
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