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An anti-abortion poster erected in Dublin earlier this year. Photo by: Google Images

The nine things Ireland has learned from the frustrating abortion debate

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An anti-abortion poster erected in Dublin earlier this year. Photo by: Google Images

Billboard in Ireland earlier in 2013
Billboard in Ireland earlier in 2013

After 21 long years and 6 feckless governments, abortion is now a teensy weensy bit legal in Ireland. As one tweeter said, she became an adult in the time it took them to get their act together. But if that isn't a big enough development, the debate has certainly brought up a number of issues. For example:

1) Political Conviction Only Applies To The Unborn

Call me naive but I was always of the opinion that politically minded people had a whole issue profile of things they felt strongly about. It turns out abortion is apparently the only political issue that matters. Words like conviction and conscience were thrown around for the abortion debate in a way you never see for, say, an efficient public health service or education provision. It's bizarre, macabre even, that people who are arch-pragmatists when it comes to punishing waiting lists or gutted education funding for people who are actually walking around living their lives become principled absolutists over a pregnant woman's womb. Which brings me on to my next point...

2) Lucinda Wasn't So Much Brave As Proud

Yes, on one level a Minister sacrificing their position on a point of principle is a hell of a thing. But in this case the questions keep totting up. Why now and why this? How is it that the risk of a mother committing suicide being grounds for having an abortion is the moral red line when she's been part of a government that has implemented all manner of harsh policies? She already voted with the government for some of the amendments, so why not work inside government to put a proposal to the people on abortion that would leave the constraints of the X-Case a thing of the past? Why insist on a collision course with the leader and deputy leader of her party, and so soon after being a key figure of Ireland's EU Presidency? People on the pro-life side laud her bravery but self-immolation feels more like it.

3) Peter Matthews Is A Wee Bit Bananas

Peter Matthews was a banker in a past life, and brought in to the Fine Gael ticket thanks to the oft-unfashionable notion that legislators who regularly discuss certain topics should have a background in them before speaking up. Peter Matthews has in recent times ditched talking money and gone on a full-on pro life tirade crusade. He's pretty hardcore about it, having somewhat perversely replied that "We're all going to die anyway" when posed with a question about a hypothetical dying mother's plight. But his appeal late at night in the Dáil for everyone to "Wake Up!" to what's happening was a bit warning-the-end-is-nigh-wearing-a-sandwich-board.

4) Mattie McGrath Thinks Shouting The Parliamentary Equivalent Of "Jumanji!" Will Sort Everything

Mattie McGrath, a man who has spent so much time working the parish pump he must have arms like Rafa Nadal, must have been watching Perry Mason or something the night before the debate as he claimed the whole thing was unconstitutional and should be suspended. Nobody paid a blind bit of heed. But he was just one in a long line of TDs who had blithe regard for the terms of previous referenda who were happy to ignore democratic will because they didn't fancy it themselves.

5) Bitterness In Fine Gael Could Corrode Titanium

It was clear from some of the exchanges in the Dail that a lot of people are pissed off in Fine Gael. Michelle Mulherin was clearly seething at the threat of being booted out if she voted against the government, but not seething enough to actually do it. Interplay between Lucinda and James Reilly and Lucinda and Enda Kenny has been icy at best, and Reilly said of the aforementioned Peter Matthews "You're not a doctor or a lawyer". I'd suggest a saucer of milk for all concerned but it'd go immediately sour.

6) Declan Ganley Really Needs To Wind His Neck In

Poor Declan Ganley is the political success equivalent of Mean Girls' Gretchen Wieners, always trying to make "Fetch" happen. It's not going to happen. But on he goes on his doomed quest for relevance anyway, trying to assemble the dual forces of right wing economics and strident pro-life bona fides in various ways. On the night of the overnight debate, he tweeted about Texan changes in abortion law and made reference to Ireland to Ireland taking it up as it becomes "unfashionable". He actually used that word.

7) The Whip Situation In Ireland, Along With Everything Else, Needs A Rethink

There was something a bit merciless about the way parties used the whip to settle any dissent in the ranks, and in an ideal world TDs would have more flexibility to vote what they think. But as long as the vast majority of TDs are acting the role of souped up county councillors playing to the gallery every time they open their mouths and not proper legislators, then whips are necessary to get anything more nationally pressing than potholes done.

8) Fierce Late Night Debates Make Some TDs Awful Grabby

Hey, who among us hasn't been working til 3 and yanked a national legislator on to his lap? Oh. Not even Benny Hill would be at that.

9) Youth Defence Are Just The Worst

I don't really need to elaborate on this, do I?

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