I do not think I have departed very much from the Bill. However, I shall return to it, distasteful though it may be. The Chair knows from his contacts in his own constituency that this is a Bill that stinks in the nostrils of every decent person in the country. The free availability of contraceptives will be detrimental to the common good. It will play a major part in destroying our sense of Christian values. In making reference to our Christian values, I do so as a Catholic. The Catholic faith commands the obedience of the vast majority of the people of Ireland. The Catholic Church has clearly spoken on the evil character of contraception. One of the main reasons the Church in this country has done so is that Ireland is still one of the most underpopulated countries in Europe.
We know that where the course of nature is interfered with there will be a reaction that will cause considerable damage to life. The whole balance of nature will be completely upset. The Minister for Justice does not have evidence in regard to the side effects of the use of contraceptives both from the physical and mental point of view. This has been referred to in very clear terms by the Church to which the vast majority of the people have obedience.
Anything that is unnatural damages our society. The Church has the wisdom of ages as well as the authority of God behind all its teachings but what have the other side to show? They have nothing to show only the evil and disastrous consequences that follow from the wrecking of family life and the complete disorganisation of the family as a unit. Any law that threatens family life— it is already under tremendous pressures from many sides—is a betrayal of the trust the people have reposed in the Government.
One of the arguments made in favour of the availability of contraceptives is that they are available in all the European countries. Would we not be described as good Europeans if contraceptives were not freely available here? Are we to change our Christian way of life, our confidence, belief, trust and faith in the family as a unit, simply because a few crackpots want us to get the title of good Europeans? Why should we have to change our laws, to adopt laws that have proved disastrous in other countries in regard to this matter? This is a question of public morality and, because it is a question of public morality, not private morality, many people in this House have strong religious convictions about it.
I want to express my appreciation of the Fine Gael Party for their wisdom in having a free vote on this issue. It enables us freely to speak and vote on the Bill in accordance with our religious beliefs and our Christian teaching. It would be quite wrong to whip Deputies into a division lobby against their religious beliefs. For that reason, I think the party have adopted the proper procedure because our consciences must be our guide. For that reason also legislators have a very grave responsibility.
Reference was made here this morning to the Bill in relation to the unity of Ireland. Does anybody mean to tell me for one moment that the making available of contraceptive devices in the Republic is going to have the slightest bearing on whether or not the Loyalists of the North want to consider seriously the question of a united Ireland? I speak from my own experience: there are fine Protestant and Catholic people in Northern Ireland who resent being linked with the question of contraception in the South. In my opinion it is an insult to the Protestant people in the North of Ireland to link them, as a part of barter for a united Ireland, with the making available of contraceptives in the Republic. I never read that Doctor Paisley ever advocated that. I never read that William Craig ever wanted it. I never read that Mr. Faulkner ever sought it. This is a concoction by the intellectual politicians of the South to try to hoodwink certain people— that all the Protestants in the North of Ireland wanted us to be buying and selling contraceptives and, when we would do that, they would say we were great people and that they wanted a united Ireland. There may be people in this House who would fall for that kind of claptrap but there are very few intelligent people in the country who would fall for it because all of us know that what these intellectual politicians mean is a gesture to the North, that we should all be using contraceptives because they can use them, that we should all be buying and selling contraceptives because they are on the market in the North of Ireland.
The removal of Article 44 of the Constitution was a gesture and did not improve the situation very much so far as North-South relations were concerned. There have been numerous other gestures. What I cannot understand is the intelligent politician, interested in Irish unity, who uses the stupid argument that changing our laws on contraception is going to change the opinion, or help to change the opinion, of the vast majority of our countrymen in the North into saying: "That is exactly what we wanted, now we are with you one hundred per cent". I feel this is an insult to the many thousand good Catholic and Protestant people of Northern Ireland. In my opinion, it is offensive and the less it is repeated the better because I give the Northern Protestant and Catholic people credit for more common sense and intelligence than that they would be swayed by the availability of contraceptives in the South as a step towards a united Ireland.
Perhaps the Minister for Justice could explain to us, in his reply, why there was not an explanatory memorandum issued with this Bill. This is one of the first Bills I have noticed with which there was not issued some form of explanatory memorandum. The position is probably that there was no explanation to give and that the terms of the Bill were so unworkable they could not be explained. There may have been many good reasons for not wishing to spell out clearly to people the full provisions of the Bill. We have no guarantee that if this Bill is passed there will not be widespread and reckless abuse of its provisions. This is an occasion on which many of us because of our religious convictions—however distasteful it may be—must stand up and be counted. I remember having to make a big decision in this House in 1944 on the Transport Bill—I was an Independent at the time—as to whether or not I would vote for the Bill. I voted against it in the knowledge that I was doing what was correct despite the fact that the vote I cast on that occasion was the means of defeating the Government. I always believed in doing what I felt was right. For that reason, I would be prepared to sacrifice my entire political life in an effort to beat this Bill. The argument cannot be used that I am voting with Fianna Fáil. I am voting against the Bill. It is bad, wrong and dangerous. There may be a number of Deputies here who may yet today have the courage to stand up and be counted because this is a Bill which must strike at their consciences. It is going through this House in the disguise of civil rights.
If there is to be a referendum on this issue, I have little doubt that the people will give a loud and clear rejection of its provisions. Every legislator who values the true Christian way of life has a major part to play here and because of our Irish heritage must make an effort to put this Bill where it deserves to be, on the shelves in the lumber rooms of history. I can see no reason whatever to justify this. The Minister for Justice may argue in regard to the Constitution. This is being freely done throughout the country. It is said action must be taken because of the Supreme Court decision. I have pointed out that the Constitution does not in any way mention contraceptives. Therefore, how does one interpret the Constitution as saying that a certain law violates a citizen's constitutional rights? Article 40 states:
The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.
The Supreme Court accepted that the rights claimed by Mrs. McGee would fall under Article 41, the article in regard to family rights. These points were accepted by the judges in the majority as the basis for their decision.
There is a point I want to raise particularly in this regard because if the Supreme Court is to rule on personal rights in so far as the Constitution is concerned, we as legislators for the common good of the majority of our citizens must remember that the Constitution has not listed personal rights beyond, in Article 40, the rights to life, personal good name and property rights. There was the 1965 case on fluoridation when the court held that the guaranteed personal rights extended beyond those mentioned in Article 40 and that it is for the courts to discover and to determine what these rights are in any case.
Now, I want to ask if the Minister for Justice has in relation to this Bill examined the rights conferred by Article 40—life, good name and the rights to property—and whether he has decided if this Bill will deprive the right to life. There is ample evidence that the majority of contraceptive devices, not all of them, are also abortion—they are responsible for abortion—and Deputies who try to divorce abortion from contraception cannot do so because it is backed up by the best medical opinion that certain contraceptive devices are and have been responsible for the taking as well as the prevention of human life.
If we are to enact legislation which will deprive life, a guaranteed right under article 20 of the Constitution, where do we stand? The purpose of contraception is to deny life, to deprive life, to take life. Where is our guaranteed right to life? To me it does not make sense but, perhaps, I am not reading the Constitution as a person would having a legally trained mind.
As I pointed out, if this Bill is passed it will deny life which is guaranteed under the Constitution. Is there, therefore, not a conflict? The Minister for Justice pointed out that he had to bring in some form of legislation because of the Supreme Court ruling and in this respect I want to direct attention to and to place on record the views of Mr. John M. Kelly in his document Fundamental Rights in the Irish Law and the Constitution, second edition. He referred to documents examined by him and stated that in 1937 Mr. de Valera, then Taoiseach, had misgivings about entrusting the task of constitutional interpretation to the courts but that he had to confess he could find no better medium than the Supreme Court. It was the Legislature that Mr. de Valera saw as the judge of the common good—this House. I agree that it is this House which should be the judge of the common good. Interpretation of the law is the duty of the Supreme Court. It was believed and intended that the Legislature should be able by its own judgment to decide —not the courts. The courts are there to interpret the laws but have not the responsibility this House carries. The Legislature have the responsibility of working in the public interest and of seeing in the fashioning of laws that the rights of the individual, as an individual, and the rights of the community do not conflict and are properly co-ordinated. That is the legal position.
At no time did this House ever hand over to the Supreme Court the right to legislate. It was clearly the intention of the then Taoiseach in 1937 that such power and authority could never and would never be vested in the Supreme Court. It is, therefore, the duty of the Legislature to legislate. We do not want to see the Legislature so restricted that it will be unable to function properly. That is exactly the position. We cannot function properly as a Parliament because there is a conflict seemingly on this issue of the common good and the individual's rights. We legislate for the common good and that is our duty and we do not want to see the Legislature in any way restricted in that regard.
I cherish the right of Parliament to rule but I deplore a gun being put to my head by anybody from outside as to the type of laws that should be passed in this Parliament. That is what is happening here. To interpret the law is one thing but to tell us what to do is another. That is exactly what Mr. de Valera had misgivings about in 1937. It was never intended and is not now intended, and it never happened in the years since then, that the rights of Parliament were in any way challenged in regard to legislation.
As regards the Supreme Court, it could be that the honourable men who sat on the bench might not, under other circumstances, have given the same decision. It is no harm to mention that the American Supreme Court have also unwrapped the box of privacy in regard to the rights of citizens. This has not come overnight. They found that within it was the right of contraception for the unmarried, the right of pornography and also the right of abortion. These were all approved by the US Supreme Court. If the right of abortion and pornography is given by any three or four men by means of interpreting the law, does it mean that in 12 months' time we come here again and legalise pornography and abortion as we are being driven to do in the case of contraception? We have yet to find out what the Supreme Court may rule in regard to abortion, pornography and other features objectionable to the common good of the majority of our people.
I put it to the Minister that if a case comes to the Supreme Court that a citizen has the right to have an abortion as a private right, does this mean the Minister will come here and legalise abortion? That is what he is doing as a result of the opinion of men outside this House on the interpretation of the law, contrary to what was intended in 1937. The same applies to numerous other rights to which citizens may think themselves entitled. It is farcical; if this procedure is to be adopted we may well have a position here where the citizen may feel that as in Britain, the North and elsewhere he is entitled to have all the legal requirements tied up so that he may be free to have abortion. If the Supreme Court so rules must this House act, knowing that it is contrary to God's law, contrary to the Catholic faith professed by the majority of citizens and contrary to the natural law? Assuming a citizen claims the right to set up a brothel and have it legalised and if the Supreme Court rules that that is a right to which the citizen is entitled, do we come in with a Bill to legalise brothels? This, in my opinion, is the principle that is at stake at present in regard to the issue being debated here.
Humanae Vitae is a document that is more spoken of than read and it is amazing to note the number of Deputies in this House who, without ever having read that encyclical, make scant reference to it. Therefore, I consider it incumbent on me to place on record some excerpts from Humanae Vitae. For example, it contains a passage that is directed to rulers of nations and in which they are told that to them is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good. The Holy Father reminds them that they can contribute much to the preservation of morals and he begs them never to allow the morals of young people to be undermined. He reminds them, too, that the family is the primary unit in the State and that they should not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the law of God because, as the Holy Father says, there are other ways by which a Government can and should solve the population problem and he tells them they can do this by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of citizens are both safeguarded.
I wonder whether Humanae Vitae was examined by the Government when this Bill was being drafted. I know that there are some members of the Government who would be only too eager to examine the encyclical carefully but that there are other members who would merely throw it out the window and describe it as tommy-rot and nonsense. This encyclical was issued by the Holy Father as the Supreme Head of the Catholic Church, that Church in which the majority of our people profess to believe. The Holy Father goes on to refer to the grave responsibility of the Legislature. Are we standing by that responsibility? Are we not reneging on it and running away from it?
Will this Bill not be the means of withdrawing forever any contribution we might make to the preservation of morals in our society? The majority of our young people are doing their best in so far as moral standards are concerned but there are great temptations in their paths. By this Bill we are allowing the moral standards of our people to be undermined. Does this outstanding, intellectual and common sense pronouncement by the Head of the Catholic Church mean anything to Catholic legislators in Ireland today? Is the Holy Father's encyclical to be ignored as if he had not been addressing the rulers of the world which, of course, included the rulers of this country? This Bill is an attack on the family as a unit. It is evil in its conception and design and is an attempt to wreck the family at its foundations.
In that part of the encyclical addressed to rulers of nations the Holy Father advised them not to tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family these practices which are opposed to the law of God. Are we not doing that? Are we not ignoring the advice of the Head of that Church to which belong the vast majority of the people of the Republic?
It is well for our Catholic legislators to realise that they are kicking in the teeth the teaching of their own Church. It has been stated that the citizen has a right to control his family or to have no family if he so wishes and in this context we hear much of bad housing conditions but the Holy Father has reminded Governments that there are other means of dealing with the population problem. We all know that there are families living in accommodation that is not adequate for their needs but we must help to house these people in suitable accommodation. Humanae Vitae does not give us the right to take a short cut to the solution of our population problem by accepting what is unnatural and wrong.
Should this Bill be passed it will be responsible for undue interference with the natural law and with the high moral standard that should prevail in the interest of the common good.
There is a vast difference between private and public morality. This House deals with public morality. Legislators have the responsibility of dealing with the population problem but we have no such problem in this country because ours is one of the most under-populated countries in Europe. What laws have we passed in accordance with the wishes of the Church with a view to educating the people wisely and to ensure that the freedom of citizens and the moral law are both safeguarded? We have not done that. One would imagine that Humanae Vitae would have been the Christian charter which would be a guide to legislators in matters of this kind.
It is right and proper that the quotation which I have given should be on the record because of its truth, its wisdom and its value to legislators. There are none so blind as those who do not want to see. I have often wondered why so many references have been made to Humanae Vitae, why it has been spoken of so freely, discussed so much but read and studied so little. This morning the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs made reference to the views and opinions of a variety of Churches which he quoted from in relation to this Bill. He made very little reference to the statement issued by the Irish Hierarchy last November. Why, I do not know. We can all use our own judgment as to why that statement did not get as much prominence from the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs as the other documents from which he quoted.
I want to tell the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and every other Minister that the Irish Hierarchy are all busy men who do not dabble in politics. In the numbers of years that I have been a Member of this House I have had no knowledge of the Irish Hierarchy ever telling legislators what should be done or what should not be done. Occasionally they issue statements as to what the true moral law is in relation to certain aspects of legislation. So it was in November when the statement was issued on behalf of the Irish hierarchy by Dr. McCormack, Bishop of Meath. I quote from the statement:
The question at issue is whether artificial contraception is morally right or wrong. The clear teaching of the Catholic Church is that it is morally wrong. No change in the State law can make the use of contraceptives morally right since what is wrong in itself remains wrong regardless of what the State law says.
Could the bishops put the facts any clearer before legislators in this regard? I quote again from the statement:
The real question facing the legislators is what effect would the increased availability of contraceptives have on the quality of life in the Republic.
That is exactly what we are being asked. Some Deputies say none and they are quite satisfied if their conscience tells them so after full examination of all the facts but in other countries the position has not been satisfactory in so far as public morality is concerned. What effect would the increased availability of contraceptives have on the quality of life in the Republic of Ireland? Some say none. I say disastrous. That is the question that every Member of this House must ask himself when making up his mind to vote on this Bill. That is a question of public, not private morality. What the legislators have to decide is whether a change in the law would on balance do more harm than good by damaging the character of the society for which we are responsible. I readily answer that question by saying that in my opinion this Bill will do far more harm than good and will immensely damage the character of the society for which we are responsible.
There is one other section of their lordships' statement which is very relevant but which Members of this House may not want to hear. It is this:
The link between legislation on contraception and abortion is also significant. Increasingly abortion is being seen as the ultimate method of birth control. There seems to be a chain reaction on these matters by which the first piece of legislation tends to set in motion a process of change which no one can control.
There is the advice of the Catholic Hierarchy in this country, given freely, independently, as a guide to legislators. I have seen it mocked and scoffed and laughed at by Catholic Members of the Dáil, endeavouring to belittle truth coming from men who are charged with the responsibility before God of speaking the truth by word and expressed opinion. I want to warn this House finally that if this Bill is passed it is the thin end of the wedge to complete moral disaster in so far as Irish society is concerned. The Irish Hierarchy are quite right because no matter what the Minister for Justice, or any other Minister, may say one cannot divorce contraception from abortion. The link is there. Medical science has proven that the link is there. It is readily and freely admitted that that link exists. There is ample and clear evidence that increasingly abortion is seen as the ultimate method of birth control.
The bishops are quite correct and any of us who have studied the problem seriously know that that is and has been the position in every country which started off with the free availability of contraceptives. That is the thin end of the wedge and as sure as this Bill becomes law what has been forecast by the Irish bishops will most certainly materialise in the not too distant future. For example, in Britain they had the contraceptives first, followed by the free availability of contraceptives which was followed by the provision of contraceptives under the health services. They now have abortion. The position has become so appalling there that there is a vast lobby in the House of Commons of members of all parties in an effort to change the law in relation to abortion. This lobby built up after these members saw so many dead bodies of children being dumped out in dustbins on corporation dumps every day of the week.
Any member of the British House of Commons will clearly explain the reports being made to him. We have seen photographs and pictures of certain dustbins in Birmingham which contained the tiny bodies of the baby that Almighty God gave life to but which the law of the land took away. These bodies were destined, not for a proper Christian burial, but to take their place with the scrap out of dustbins on the corporation dump. That is a most terrible and horrifying thought for Christian, not alone Catholic, legislators to be paving the way and planning for in our own country. There is no point in thinking it will not come because five years ago who could see this Bill coming before Parliament. Three years ago, or even 12 months ago, no one could see such a Bill being presented to this House.
As sure as this Bill goes on the Statute Books it will be the raising of the latch of the sluice gates of every kind of immorality with the ultimate result of abortion and everything that abortion stands for. Therefore, what the bishops have advised in relation to this matter is worthy of serious thought and expression of opinion. The last paragraph of the statement issued by the Irish Hierarchy last November contains a warning to Members of this Parliament:
The issue before legislators and the people is therefore a grave one. People must try to weigh up all the issues fairly in their own minds, asking themselves what kind of society do they want for themselves and their children.
That final paragraph of the document issued by the bishops is addressed to the Members of this House and to the people who sent us here.
I should like to ask the Members of this House if, when they were seeking votes at the last election, they stood outside the church gates and told the people that if they were elected they would make contraceptives available for all married people, or did they re-echo the sentiment of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Keating, when he said that he would like to see contraceptives made available to all single people. Was that clearly put before the people for a verdict at the last general election.
I respectfully agree with those people who have clearly indicated that the Supreme Court ruling is being used to drive this legislation through. I have already referred to the right to life under section 40 of the Constitution and this is a serious and grave matter in so far as Members of this Parliament are concerned. Because it is so grave Members should pause and ponder before they vote when the Irish bishops have clearly indicated the link between contraception and abortion and, particularly, the fact that the ultimate development of birth control will be abortion.
I hope the Members of this House will weigh this Bill up seriously. It is not a matter of the individual. We are not passing the Bill to provide Mrs. McGee with contraceptives. We are passing the Bill to provide everybody else with them even those who do not want them. We are dealing with public morality, not private morality, and when we are dealing with public morality it is a serious problem on which will rest the responsibility of legislators in this regard.
I accept Humanae Vitae in all its form, because I accept the advice so readily and freely given by the Holy Father, in relation to the granting and giving of God's greatest gift, the gift of life. Legislators so eagerly anxious to prevent the creation of life should bear in mind that after all had our parents used contraceptives none of us would be here today. Life comes from God and God alone. He has the right to create and since He has that right anything which is morally wrong cannot become right by the passage of a Bill through this House. I am voting against this Bill. I would vote against this Bill in any circumstances. I must ask myself whether it is for the good of the majority and I must immediately conscientiously answer that it is not in the interests of the good of the majority of the people in the country. Because I have made such a thorough study of the whole situation I am satisfied that this Bill is the first step towards disaster so far as Irish society is concerned. I hope there will be enough Members of the Dáil to reject this Bill. I think it is bad, immoral, evilly-designed, evilly-disposed, with intent to corrupt the innocent who do not yet realise what the provisions of the Bill mean. Even those who are as yet unborn will fall victims of the legislation which is at present before the House.
Many of us in this country have fought seriously and energetically to keep the country clean. We have had to fight to keep this country clean against the advocacy of every kind of filth published in Irish and imported journals and by the Press, radio and television. It may be modern, it may be what the man of today wants, it may be in the disguise of civil rights but one thing is certain, every Member of this Parliament has a duty, a bounden duty, to protect the morals of the community and the public in general. What is private morality is none of our business but to legislate for the good of the majority is most certainly our business. I conscientiously, honestly, within my heart, sincerely believe that I would be reneging on everything I ever believed in and on the traditions of my own people who went before me if I supported a Bill of this kind that sells out our true Christian values that have been cherished by so many and attacked without effect by so few until recent times when the few who attack true Christian values appear to be led by the intellectuals in the guise of the defenders of freedom of conscience, civil rights and civil liberties. These people are a danger in public life. They may be a danger to themselves in private life but that is no concern of ours. Each man gets his reward according to the labour he renders, but when it comes to sowing the seeds of complete disruption of the family as a unit that is the time when there is a duty on all of us to stand up and be counted.
I oppose this Bill and all its provisions. It is badly drafted, unworkable, ill-conceived, improperly designed and has an evil intention. If I was never a Member of this House, as a member of the Catholic Church with allegiance to Rome, I could not support it. I could not conscientiously say I accept the teachings of the Church of which I am a member if I supported this Bill. Because of the strong conviction of conscience I have in relation to it, I could not contribute in any way towards the implementation of a Bill which is designed to make legal what is unnatural according to the laws of God Who created all of us and Who, at the ultimate end, will be the supreme legislator Who will judge all legislators and their code of conduct. Let us not give scandal because of all sins scandal is, perhaps, the worst and the greatest. Those of us who believe this Bill is wrong will most certainly be guilty of scandal if we support a Bill which we know will not be in the best interests of and for the good of the majority of the people.
I hope this Bill will be beaten. I would ask the legislators to reply to the one question addressed to them by the Irish Hierarchy and that is whether this legislation, weighing up all circumstances, will do more harm than good to the society in which we live. If they calmly study it, they must conscientiously answer that a Bill of this kind is not in the best interests of our present day Irish society and will not be in the interests of the common good but will be a means of planting the seeds of immorality and will also be encouraging and giving State recognition to what is unnatural. They will be recognising as right what the Church in its wisdom through the ages, has taught to be wrong. That is the responsibility of legislators. That is the responsibility which I, as one Member, will undoubtedly exercise here tonight if God spares me until the division bells ring.
When I vote I can set off on the road home with a clear conscience that I have done my job in Parliament, the place to speak, that I have defended the teaching of the Supreme Being Who made me and gave me all the talents that I possess and thank Him for a million times over. Perhaps I did not get very far in the public life of this country but I got as far as He wanted me to go. While I am here in this House, I will be on the list of speakers in regard to what I believe is right and just where public morality is concerned. If the Bill is beaten, I can readily say I contributed my share to its defeat. If it wins, I will go home with a very clear conscience in the full knowledge that I have done my part in advising my colleagues in this House and I will have given the example of the courage of standing up to be counted in the defence of what I believe is a right over a wrong.
I hope my contribution will be accepted in that spirit. I have made it with great respect to the views of all Deputies. There are many Deputies who do not share my views and there are those who will laugh at the views I have been expressing for the past few hours. They are entitled to their views and to their laugh. That is one of the privileges associated with a democratic parliament. I am glad some of the Deputies who have spoken are not in responsible positions where they can implement their views. I hope for Ireland's sake, and for the sake of future generations, they never are.
I believe that the future of this country depends on the creation of a sound public opinion. Before I resume my seat I will make a final appeal to those who can contribute so generously towards the creation of a clean and new climate of public opinion in this country, that is, the Press, radio and television. We need a good climate of public opinion and we need Christian representatives to stand up and be counted in their rejection of any legislation which comes before us which is in conflict with the law of God and the law of man. I hope this Bill will be beaten. It is a bad Bill, ill conceived and evilly disposed.