Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 5 Apr 1979

Vol. 313 No. 8

Health (Family Planning) Bill, 1978: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The nature of this legislation and the type of provisions it contains are, in my opinion, in keeping with the rapidly falling standards in this House. That is clearly evident from this morning's performance here. Not alone outside the House are standards rapidly declining, but I have great fears in regard to the continuance into the 1980s of parliamentary democracy as we know it today and have known it in the past. It is no harm to ask oneself if the Government, and indeed the House, have taken leave of their senses to be dealing with a Bill which makes provision for the prescribing of contraceptives, and occupying the valuable time of Parliament debating it at a time when prevailing economic conditions are at such a low level.

If I had intervened on the Order of Business this morning I would have asked the Taoiseach if he regards this Bill as the most important and desirable legislation the Government could present to us for debate. Would not any Government who had a reasonable grasp of the situation have set their priorities a little higher? It must be very clear to every Deputy that the standards of general conduct, of respect for authority and for the person, for the dignity of human lives, are declining rapidly.

In these circumstances one would be pardoned for saying that it is the duty of legislators to legislate for an improvement of our rapidly falling standards. There has not been any widespread demand for legislation of this kind but it has been the subject of agitation by certain liberal-minded people, certain liberal-minded journalists in the Press, on radio and television, all anxious to help to establish a completely materialistic State without any regard for the need to maintain some reasonable degree of moral standards.

When wildcat, crazy, daft journalists put their pens to paper it is to advocate a society in which marriage would be pushed into the background, in which abortion is not to be decried, in which countries are described where economic progress and abortion are portrayed side by side. These liberal-minded journalists think it is part of their modern obligation to pen articles which are evilly designed, an attack on family life and on the family as we have known it.

It is generally recognised—indeed it is part of our Constitution—that the family is the fundamental unit of society, and if we safeguard the family we will have proper organisation, education, discipline, good citizenship and reasonable moral standing. If the family is safeguarded in these respects we will have a healthier community; and a community, like a constituency, for instance, is comprised of families. So also a nation is comprised of families. It has become obvious during this debate that there are public representatives who see nothing wrong in families being fragmented, in couples living together and producing a family but not marrying. I cannot reconcile that kind of thinking with Christian beliefs. Perhaps it reflects modern thinking but it is a type of thinking which represents a serious attack on the family. Therefore there is a grave responsibility on all of us here to safeguard and protect the family unit and not to put it at risk in terms of any legislation we may introduce.

When we refer to the family we think of a unit comprised of a father, a mother and the children that have resulted from the parents union through marriage.

There are safeguards in our Constitution for the protection of the family but the type of legislation proposed here is not in keeping with those safeguards. The Bill must be regarded as being dangerous, ill-conceived and evilly disposed. I am not convinced that the Minister is satisfied that there is a general demand for a Bill of this kind, a Bill in which there is an emphasis on the materialistic, which provides for the making available of contraceptives in certain circumstances. We would all agree that parents have a right in regard to deciding on the number of children they wish to have but there are the natural methods of family planning to assist them in this regard. Instruction in these methods is available as also is direction in regard to any question of theology arising therefrom.

In his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI said that the words of the Church would not reflect the thought and loving care of the Church, who is the mother and teacher of all nations, if they did not sustain couples in the proper regulation of the number of their children at a time when living conditions are hard and press heavily on families and nations. Yet, these same men and women, the Pope said, must endeavour to observe and honour the law of God concerning marriage. The giving of human life, which is a great mystery, might be regarded also as the greatest gift that God can bestow and no one has the right to alter the Divine Law in regard to the giving of human life. The question at issue is not whether the use of artificial contraception is right or wrong morally, because that matter has been decided. Therefore, I fail to understand how men elected to responsible office in public life cannot understand clearly that we are here to legislate for the good of the majority, not for a selected few or for a pressure group.

We are not here to legislate for the provision of contraceptives. The duty placed upon our shoulders by those who voted for us is very clear. We are not here to legislate for pressure groups but for the good of the majority. I doubt whether the Minister for Health can safely say that this Bill, which authorises medical practitioners to issue licences or permits for contraceptives to their patients, married or single, is for the good of the majority.

Is the Minister for Health satisfied with the provision whereby medical practitioners may legally issue licences for contraceptives to patients who may be single, married, under age or over age? As a Catholic member of Parliament, representing a constituency in which the majority profess the same faith, the Minister must be aware that the teaching of the Catholic Church is that artificial contraception is morally wrong and that those who prescribe contraceptives under the protection of the Bill must know that changing the law cannot make the use of contraceptives morally right. What is wrong remains wrong, regardless of what the State says.

How can the Minister for Health feel happy with this Bill when he knows that he is proposing legislation for something that is morally wrong? What is Parliament coming to? In utilising the time of this House for an immoral purpose the Members have lost their senses. The Church, with its experience of 2,000 years, tells us that artificial contraception is morally wrong.

I should like to place on the record an extract from a pastoral letter of the Bishops of Poland dealing with the Christian family and the gift of life, published on 29 January 1979 in the English edition of L'Osservatore Romano:

The document goes on to recall how in the encyclical, "Humanae Vitae" Pope Paul VI called on everyone to defend the holiness of marriage: "This holiness has been violated in more than one family by contraceptive practices. All this absolutely must be avoided today. God does not want you to plan your families in an irresponsible way. The Church of Christ calls you to responsible procreation. You must not be embarrassed by the gift of the life, but you must know how to guide it in harmony with the will of the Supreme Father. But you cannot do this by violating God's rights and besmirching human dignity. The Holy Spirit, from whom all truth comes, has let us know the mystery of the transmission of life in order that every married couple may decide to hand down life in conformity with God's law".

With regard to responsible procreation, the bishops point out that specialist centres for consultation on family life now exist in many areas and that they should and must be consulted. Today no one can hide behind ignorance to justify bad behaviour. That applies to every nation.

I should like to address a few words to the officials of the Department of Health who may have assisted in the drawing up of this Bill while being completely unconscious of what is at stake. I remind them of the statement in the pastoral letter that no one can hide behind ignorance to justify bad behaviour. The last person who could be accused of hiding behind ignorance is the Minister for Health. Legislation of this kind is contrary to the natural law, the Divine Law and the teachings of the church to which the majority in this country belong. The pastoral letter further states:

For this reason we remind you that to have recourse to contraceptives is a serious sin that offends God, destroys the life of grace, prevents access to the sacraments and, even more painfully, wounds the love of the couple.

What greater authority can one quote? What authority have the Department of Health to offer in defence of this attack on human life through the provision of contraceptives?

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy. Deputy Bruton wishes to speak for a moment.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I wish to raise on the adjournment the failure of the Minister for Health to lodge in accordance with section 29 of the Health Act, 1970 abstracts of accounts for the health boards for any year since 1975.

I will ask the Ceann Comhairle to communicate with the Deputy.

The Deputy was quite right to interrupt the House for that very important earthshaking matter.

The Minister for Health and those responsible for the introduction of this Bill may not have grasped the seriousness of the sentence I have just quoted. Some Deputies spoke yesterday and applauded themselves on their eloquence, saying it was wrong to bring children into the world if the parents could not provide for them. The State has a duty to provide for all its citizens. My experience of large families in rural Ireland is that generally they are very happy and the members of a family help one another. Is it the duty of the State through measures of this kind to prevent the great gift of life and to prevent a citizen from being born? Is it not the duty of the State to provide proper housing in order to assist many couples to have large families, if they so desire, and to provide for the proper education and upbringing of children? What is the reason for this great campaign against the dignity of human life?

Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of his visit to Santo Domingo, delivered an address which was published in L'Osservatore Romano on 5 February 1979. The following is an extract:

To construct this more just world means, among other things, making every effort in order that there will be no children without sufficient food, without education, without instruction; that there will be no young people without a suitable preparation; that, in order to live and develop in a worthy way, there will be no peasants without land; there will be no workers ill-treated or deprived of their rights; that there will be no systems that permit the exploitation of man by man or by the State; that there will be no corruption; that there will be no persons living in superabundance, while others through no fault of their own lack everything; that there will not be so many families badly formed, broken, disunited, receiving insufficient care; that there will be no injustice and inequality in the administration of Justice; that there will be no one without the protection of the law, and that law will protect all alike, that force will not prevail over truth and law, but truth and law over force; and that economic or political problems will never prevail over human matters.

This clearly indicates that there is an obligation on all Governments to provide fully for large families if parents decide to have large families. I have heard it said that because of housing conditions, because of the low rate of children's allowances, because of educational handicaps, there must be a restriction on human lives. They are not excuses because the responsibility rests on the Government to ensure that there are proper housing conditions, proper school facilities, proper educational facilities, for large families. It is also the duty of the State to provide work for young people when they have completed their education so that they, in turn, may live in accordance with the full principles of Christian decency.

Contraceptives and abortion are now being advocated and, whatever the Minister may say, there is a close connection between both, because certain contraceptives can be prescribed which can lead to abortion, which is murder. In dealing with a Bill of this kind we are treading on very dangerous ground. The State should not degrade human life or deprive it of the dignity to which it is entitled. It is the duty of the State to provide fully from all its resources to safeguard the dignity of human life and protect it. There are ample provisions in our Constitution for the defence of marriage and the family over and above everything else. Therefore, there is no reason why we should have a Bill of this kind.

What case did the organisations who have been advocating the distribution and use of contraceptives make to the Minister? Did they make the case that they wanted to cut down on the size of their families because of economic conditions, because of the cost of education, because they had not got proper housing? That is no excuse for degrading human life and degrading the real and proper purpose for which the sacrament of marriage was instituted.

In dealing with this legislation there is a question which we must all put to ourselves and answer. I do not want to set myself up as a preacher, because I would be the least worthy and perhaps the least qualified to preach about what is right and what is wrong. As an elected representative, as a Catholic legislator, I have a duty to express my view on damaging, dangerous and evil legislation of this kind.

The real question facing us as legislators is: what effect would the availability of contraceptives, even on prescription, have on the quality of life in our society? That is the question I would put to myself as a legislator, and I am the only one who can answer it to my own satisfaction. Other Members of the House must be guided by their consciences on a matter of conscience. No man could drive me into a division lobby to vote for or against what I believe to be morally wrong and to be condemned openly, and publicly, and frequently, by the Church of which I profess to be a very poor member.

On an issue of this kind there is a grave responsibility on a public representative. If he knows he is voting for legislation which is morally wrong, he is doing a great injustice to himself, he is deceiving Parliament, and he is doing a grave disservice and injustice to the community he represents. If that question were put to me I would have to say that a Bill of this kind will certainly not improve the quality of life in this country but will help to degrade it further.

The legislators here have to decide on balance whether such a Bill will do more harm than good by damaging the character of the society for which each of us as an elected representative is responsible. There is a good deal of very strong evidence that all states which accepted the practice of contraception began by making contraceptives available to a select few people and after a time agitation succeeded in having them made readily available to the public. We have seen that where the sale of contraceptives has been legalised there are more broken marriages, stronger calls for divorce laws and a higher rate of birth of children outside wedlock. Next, the pressure groups who won through on the question of contraceptives, having scored what they considered to be a very important victory, then proceeded to agitate for abortion. In many cases they have succeeded in getting it.

In all cases where legislation of this kind was passed, great restrictions were imposed at first which after a while were relaxed because of the pressure of groups backed by financial assistance from interests engaged in the manufacture and distribution of contraceptives. There is very great financial interest in this trade outside our country. People engaged in the manufacture of contraceptive devices are prepared to spend generously and to keep agitation going in order to increase demand. Vast sums of money are readily available from certain quarters for purposes which disrupt the harmony of our society and destroy the observance of the Divine Law in relation to birth. These financial resources are available as part of a scheme to achieve if at all possible a completely materialistic state and what can be described as a godless community. In such an environment man would be afraid of neither God nor man. That is why this Bill, while it may seem harmless and the Minister may sound innocent, is a dangerous Bill and in complete conflict with the views of the vast majority of the people of this country. We legislate for the common good of the majority and the vast majority of people in this country accept the teaching of the Church of which they are members. A Bill of this kind is wrong, degrading, an attack on the dignity of human life and contrary to the teachings of the Church.

I come now to section 4 (2) of the Bill, which provides that a practitioner may issue a prescription or authorisation to any person regardless of age or sex or whether married or not. Is the Minister satisfied that any professional man should have this responsibility placed upon his shoulders? I am convinced that every God-fearing Catholic doctor in this country will wash his hands completely of this matter. For the unbeliever this is nothing wrong; all things are pure. Perhaps all things are somewhat purer for those who profess different religious beliefs from the majority in this country. Here I want to reiterate that we are not legislating for a small minority but rather for the good of the majority. Are we to sacrifice the good of the majority in this country in order to succumb to the materialistic whims and godless demands of a few being well paid for their agitation, be they journalists, business interests, media contacts or whoever?

Section 3 specifies that a practitioner may issue a prescription or authorisation to any person. He is not concerned with the age of the applicant or with marital status. How do the Government stand over this? How does the Minister stand over it? Would the Minister be clear and happy in conscience if a general practitioner of weak religious standing, or none, proceeded to prescribe contraceptives to single persons without regard to age? Surely any Government must say that that is wrong, not alone morally wrong but wrong in every respect. I hope the medical profession will recognise the responsibility placed on them by the granting of these licences and that every single doctor in Ireland who believes in the teachings of the Catholic Church will have nothing to do with the authorisation of prescriptions of this kind because he is not required to satisfy himself that the applicant is married or, if married, that he or she has the consent of the other partner of the marriage.

Here is where I see the great weakness, that this is an attack on marriage as well as on human life and its creation. It is this to which I was referring last evening—the protection of the family as we know it. The recognised family is the married couple who have taken each other, not for weeks, months, or years, but for life until death parts them. The journalists and those with the free pens are very ready in their articles to write and declare, as we heard a Deputy say here yesterday, that life is very short and that we should all enjoy it—get all we can out of life. Even though one may be married, if one does not agree with one's husband or wife one can go and set up home with somebody else and have all the children one can. If that is to be the quality of our life in the future in this country, I am glad that the greater part of my life is behind me.

All that is required of the medical doctor is that he should be satisfied that the applicant for the contraceptive is seeking it bona fide for family planning purposes and that he or she is seeking it in appropriate circumstances. What are “appropriate circumstances”? That is a very vague, meaningless phrase. It could mean that an applicant is seeking a contraceptive from the medical doctor at the place where that medical doctor is accustomed to meeting his patients during specified hours. It does not make sense to me. But there is a grave responsibility here, one which should not be taken lightly by Members of this House.

I am not at all happy that there is great necessity for a Bill of this kind. Many references have been made to the McGee case, contending that as a result of the Supreme Court decision in that case legislation is necessary. I put it to this House that the job of the Supreme Court and its respective judges is to interpret the law and that their declared judgments, as in the McGee case, should not and must not constitute the means of opening up flood gates for the provision of contraceptives. If the decision in the McGee case was being considered as it should be, not alone by the present Government but by previous Governments also, then, having read the judgment in that case, it should have been recognised that there was a clear case for a referendum. Rightly or wrongly, why should the decision of three or four men have created an influence on Government to introduce a Bill of this kind, or any other Bill, making contraceptives available to married, single or any other person in the community? The best and clearest way of putting that decision to the test was to put it to the supreme court of supreme courts, the people. I venture to say that if we had a referendum on this matter, coupled with the provisions in the Constitution safeguarding the family and protecting marriage, there would be little doubt about the outcome. Why is it that after the judges of the Supreme Court expressed an opinion on a case brought by one party, legislators use that opinion as a lever or cause for introducing a Bill of this kind? It is very wrong.

A medical doctor is not obliged to inquire whether an applicant for contraceptives is married or not. There is no definition in the Bill of marriage, married, family or of family planning which would require the existence of certificates, prescriptions or authorisation for contraceptives. That is why I believe it is not alone farcical but evil. Section 16 enables the Minister to make regulations in relation to any matter referred to in the Bill. He may require a health board to make a family planning service available or authorise any person to make such a service available prescribing conditions for its operation. He may prescribe conditions for the sale of contraceptives. That is a dangerous power to give any Minister. We are being asked to permit the Minister to make regulations prescribing conditions for the sale of contraceptives, the fee to be paid for a licence to import contraceptives and to permit him to make a regulation prescribing the conditions and fee to be paid for the granting of a licence to manufacture contraceptives. He may make regulations in regard to the control, advertising and supply of contraceptives. That is a dangerous power to give any Minister.

I am not saying the Minister for Health will abuse those powers but once the Bill is passed it is possible that at a future date regulations introduced under this section will seriously abuse our situation. It will not be possible then to do anything about such regulations because the Minister for Health will not have to seek the permission of the House to introduce them. There is no demand by the majority of people for such regulations. It is also my information that the Bill is not in accordance with the Constitution. Article 41 recognises the family "as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society".

What does the Bill do to protect the family? Any doctor can prescribe contraceptives for any member of the family without notifying the parents, in the case of people under age. Therefore, the natural primary and fundamental unit group of society is being seriously and tragically undermined. Article 41 also recognises the family as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law. On reading that Article one can readily see that the Bill is not in accordance with the pledge, undertaking and guarantee contained in the Constitution for the family. We then see that the State will guard with special care the institution of marriage because the family is founded on marriage. This is where the wild cat, liberal journalists and the participants of the media seem to display a great deal of ignorance when dealing with the guarantees that are set out in the Constitution. Article 41 of the Constitution sets out to protect the institution of marriage.

Is the Minister for Health quite happy that all the provisions of this evilly disposed Bill of nonsense are not an effort to undermine, to show disregard for instead of to protect, the institution of marriage? Has the Divine Law, the natural law, the right of life and the right to give life paled into insignificance, without consideration by responsible people at the head of affairs? A Bill like this is not in the interests of the society in which we live. It is very important in a debate like this that the words used by Mr. Justice Walsh of the Supreme Court in the McGee case are noted seriously by the Minister. Mr. Justice Walsh said:

The right of a married couple to decide on how many children, if any, they will have is a matter outside the reach of positive law where the means employed to implement such decisions do not impinge on the common good or endanger human life.

That is a very important statement made by a very distinguished and much respected judge of the Supreme Court. We all know that there are certain contraceptives which will bring about an abortion. Mr. Justice Griffin says in relation to the question of abortion that an entirely different situation may arise altogether.

The best course for the Minister to take in regard to this matter is to put this Bill into cold storage in the Custom House because it is morally wrong. If it is morally wrong it can never be right. It lacks definition and it fails to comply with the provisions of various Articles of the Constitution. It also enables contraceptives to be available for use outside marriage. Has the Minister commented on that aspect of the Bill?

The Chair suggests that we are having a fair amount of repetition which is not in order.

I am very sorry if that is the case.

The Chair does not want to stop the Deputy but repetition is not in order.

Perhaps I referred to that aspect of it before.

The Deputy has repeated himself on quite a few items.

It has not been my intention to make a long speech despite the fact that some scribe in today's Irish Independent wrote that Deputy Flanagan was going to make a very long speech on the contraceptive Bill. I do not know where he got that information because I never said it. If I am making a long speech it is on the need for a Press council so that men in public life can be safeguarded from scribes who are forecasting what Deputies will or will not do.

The Chair has no power to prevent a Deputy making a long speech so long as he does not repeat himself.

I am grateful for your co-operation which has always been very readily given. Your long experience and your high degree of common sense in debate has been an inspiration to all of us. I would like to conclude by saying that this is a bad Bill and a dangerous one. It should not have been introduced because it is an attack on the family and it shows a lack of interest by the State in protecting the family. When it is passed it will be challenged in the Supreme Court. If the Minister wants to dispose of this contraceptive matter once and for all, he should have a referendum and leave an issue of this kind to the good sense and intelligence of the vast majority of the people who know what quality of life they require.

If this Bill is passed it will have evil and disastrous consequences. I hope the House will reject the Bill as unworkable. It is not in accordance with the wishes of the majority of people, it is contrary to Christian teaching and is particularly offensive to those of us who believe fully in the teaching of the Catholic Church in relation to contraception. The Bill should be defeated. It will have serious consequences for the country, perhaps not in the immediate future but in the years to come. If it is passed the legislation will be abused.

I beg the Minister to reconsider this matter. Unless he has some reason that he has not told the House or anyone else for bringing in such a Bill, I ask him, even at this late stage, to withdraw it. He has heard the views of many Members of this House. This Bill should not be seen or heard of again because it is unwelcome to the vast majority of people.

I was pleased I was in the House to hear Deputy Flanagan speak. Nobody can deny that he expressed a point of view that is sincerely held by many people. It is not particular to Deputy Flanagan or his party; it was echoed in the speech of Deputy Kit Ahern made from the other side of the House. It is a point of view that all of us recognise as one that looks at modern Ireland and finds it extremely difficult to come to terms with.

In his speech Deputy Flanagan spoke about social change in Ireland. He said that if social change was going to proceed in a particular direction he was glad he had seen the better part of his years and would not have to live with it. It is obvious that the Deputy is of a generation other than mine. He is a parent, perhaps he is even a grandparent. I should like to say to Deputy Flanagan and to the parents and grandparents of the country, sincerely and with all regard and love, that we hold this country in no less regard, that we cherish as much as they do the tradition that is ours and that we want and intend to live here. However, as each generation comes into its own it must make decisions for itself and its children. In the decision that we would like to make legally, and which cannot be done in many instances because of the situation, we are not rejecting the heritage we received from our parents.

The young people of the country did not change Mother Ireland. The young people who are availing of family planning clinics, whether they are single or married, did not go out to change Mother Ireland, but they live in an Ireland that is changed totally from the country in which Deputy Flanagan grew up. Because of that change, the Ireland in which I, a young parent, live is totally different from that in which the Deputy brought up his family.

At the turn of the century about 20 per cent of the population lived in urban areas and 80 per cent lived in country towns and on the farms in rural Ireland. By the end of the century, by the year 2000—which is closer to us than 1950—80 per cent of the population will live in urban areas and only 20 per cent will live in rural areas. The rural areas will no longer be the dimly-lit hamlets of the 19th century. This will be as a result of television, radio and the proper amenities that people should have access to irrespective of where they live. The Ireland in which I will reach Deputy Fitzpatrick's age, in the year 2000, will be changed totally from the Ireland of Deputy Flanagan and Deputy Kit Ahern and the others who have expressed sincerely held views. The Ireland in which they grew up has changed and is changing. If the economic and social structure of a country is changed in the way it has been done on our behalf, automatically and inevitably you change the structure within which moral values and attitudes are perceived and interpreted. If there is a conflict between the attitude of Deputy Flanagan and my attitude, it is in the perception of those moral attitudes.

Deputy Flanagan is opposed to the Bill because he thinks it will go too far. I am opposed to it because I think it does not go far enough. That stretches us across the entire spectrum. Deputy Flanagan has given us his reasons, properly presented and well quoted, to support his case. I am not in a position, and I do not want to take up the time of the House, to make such a detailed case. My colleague, Deputy Horgan, has done so already. However, I wish to deal with a number of basic points now rather than go into detail on how the various sections may work.

The question whether the House has the right to legislate for these matters has been called into question today and has frequently been called into question by various authorities throughout the country. I support the viewpoint of Justice Walsh in the famous McGee decision. I am not a lawyer but I hold the view that there are certain sections of this Bill which, if tested in the courts, will be found to fall short of the summing-up by Justice Walsh in that decision. I do not think the Bill will stand the test of a Supreme Court action and I have a feeling that the Minister is of the same opinion.

This is a Bill which in the opinion of one family planning action group would have the following effects, and I quote from a pamphlet sponsored by the Ballinteer Group of the Contraception Action Programme:

It is to be regretted that the Minister for Health, Mr. Haughey, did not take account of the strength of this demand from an average Irish suburb when formulating his Family Planning Bill. If the proposed Bill becomes law it will have disastrous consequences for present services and militate against the development of any new services. Listed below are only some of the implications:

(1) It removes from family planning clinics the power to provide the comprehensive service which has been available for the last few years. They will not be able to provide supplies as they have been doing; clinic visitors will have to go to a chemist for contraceptive supplies.

(2) It will make contraception very expensive, since doctor's fees and chemists' prescription charges will be added to the full retail price. This will hit the poorer sections of the population hardest.

(3) The 13,000 women getting contraceptives under the GMS on medical cards will no longer be able to do so. Mr. Haughey has said no artificial contraceptives will be supplied.

(4) The Minister has promised grants for research only for the purposes of "natural" family planning.

(5) It is an infringement of personal privacy, since a person has to discuss his/her private affairs with the doctor even if no medical aspect is involved. Also the prescription must state it is a family planning prescription—thus revealing the person's private affairs to the chemist also—where is the right of marital privacy now!

(6) It gives the Minister many arbitrary powers, since he may change the regulations and conditions of licences at any time. Why are these draconian powers necessary?

This is a bad Bill. Like most compromises, it does not satisfy anybody. It does not satisfy Deputy Flanagan, it does not satisfy me. It does not satisfy Deputy Kit Ahern and it does not satisfy Deputy Lemass, if one can reasonably interpret the loyal party statements these Fianna Fáil Deputies made in the House. Irrespective of what international commentators may take out of this—it has never bothered me very much what international commentators think of this country——

Hear, hear.

——particularly those across the water; we can trade nonsense for nonsense if they want to get into that business, monarchy for absurdity, and so on——

Well said.

Each of us is responsible for our own society, and we here take responsibility for our society, warts and all, and as in every society there are warts here. Any argument to the effect that this debate somehow diminishes the dignity of our image overseas is not one that I readily recognise or agree with. However, this debate, which effectively has gone on since 1970, has devalued our own perception of ourselves, our own opinion of ourselves, and in years to come our children will read this debate with horror and, perhaps, amusement when they think that in 1979, eight or nine years after the initial debate had begun, we were still talking in these terms, still forced into a timid compromise proposal coming from a respected and powerful Minister for Health having behind him 83 Deputies, an unprecedented democratic mandate to bring about legal change here. If any Deputy today were to go to the files and read the debate on the Mother and Child Scheme—I refer particularly to young Deputies—they will find it to be like reading something out of Oliver Twist: it is like looking at some dark Victorian tale to which it is impossible to relate.

I am surprised that Deputy Haughey has come to the House with this Bill. There is more out of it than in it. To quote the Ballinteer Group, the arbitrary powers seem to me to be substantial, and the Committee Stage will reveal the possible extent of them. I am looking at the Bill as the product of a party who got an unprecedented mandate, a party who said in every area: "Give us strong Government and we will give you the decisions. Coalition Governments can rarely work. They are divided among themselves; they cannot implement courageous decisions because of the necessity to accommodate different viewpoints within two parties".

Here we have a party who can afford comfortably to lose eight of their Deputies who might conscientiously object to this Bill and still have the political capacity to put through a piece of legislation. Instead of getting a Bill that would work—most people now conceive this Bill would not—we have a timid compromise, a powerless performance from a Minister whose aspirations to be powerful appear to be well known. There is nothing wrong with an aspiration to democratic power in order to implement social changes: every one of us in the House either publicly or privately experiences aspirations of that kind.

When they get the power, when they have the 84 seats, they produce this rubbish. What is the good of their 84 seats? Are they as powerless in this area as in others? Is the mandate given to them in June 1977 invalid, and are the 84 seats an embarrassment because they cannot hide behind that screen?

I could not help thinking on my way here today, as I passed some of those yellow school buses, that if Donogh O'Malley were alive today and if he were Minister for Health would we be debating this nonsense? Would we be here talking about bona fide family planning and all the other compromise phrases and bits and pieces to accommodate this group and that group? Donogh O'Malley once had responsibility for the Department of Health in a Fianna Fáil Government, a Fianna Fáil who had very few seats but a lot of courage. Today with all the seats the courage seems to have evaporated. Would be courage that then seemed to a teenager at the time to be there have produced the kind of Bill that ends up not satisfying anybody? Would they have after two years ended up producing a flimsy 17-section Bill? It is a Bill that will probably have the fate either of being decimated or rendered irrelevant in the Supreme Court on the basis of some of the compromise conditional clauses that have been included in it at the behest of powerful lobbies.

Deputy Flanagan referred to the concern of the Roman Catholic Church in this matter and, as is his right, he articulated openly and honestly the view of that body. He talked about our responsibility as legislators to enact laws that do not enshrine provisions that are wrong morally. The Deputy re-echoed the point of view that was put to me in a letter by way of legitimate and open democratic lobby. This was a letter, dated 25 December—the feast of the Nativity of our Lord—from a John Francis Corbett, CSSR, in which he sought to lobby my support in objecting to the Bill. In the course of his letter he said that as the 21st Dáil faces this decision, many Irish people are at the crossroads in their moral lives, that whether future generations of Irishmen and women continue to try to live in a manner worthy of their human dignity and Christian calling depended on my personal decision. I reject that view. There is no compulsion on anyone who considers drunkenness to be wrong morally or alcoholism to be the worst disease this country has ever known, to partake of alcoholic drink. We do not close all the public houses and say that because they are wrong morally they must not be allowed to remain open. But we attempt to regulate a licence in respect of the sale and distribution of alcoholic drink. There are people in this State, particularly those of the Protestant faith who consider gambling to be wrong morally but they are not compelled to place bets and neither do we close the bookmakers' shops.

The Supreme Court has held that a couple have the right to use a form of family planning that meets their needs so long as there is no question of endangering life or in effect of interfering with the common good. The court held that couples using such forms of family planning in the privacy of their homes were outside the domain of Parliament and of the State and that the State should not try to prevent that responsible exercise of adult freedom. I support that view. The State has no function in the bedrooms of this nation.

Despite the Minister's diplomatic and skilful attempts, I believe that this legislation will fall by the wayside because in the final analysis it will be found not to meet the criteria in regard to freedom as enunciated by the Supreme Court. I have had representations from people who wish the family planning clinics to continue in existence and who fear, having regard to the Minister's Second Stage speech, that those clinics will be closed or interfered with to the extent that they may be forced to reduce the level of services they provide. If these services are reduced the demand for them cannot be satisfied. I see any legislation having that sort of effect as being an unjust interference with the democratic right of individuals, interference by the State in contravention of the spirit of the Supreme Court decision.

What can we do about this Bill? What do Fianna Fáil propose to do about it? In the final analysis the decision is a political one. The previous Government attempted to introduce a Bill to deal with this area. They recognised that any such legislation would pose serious, genuine and, as we have heard this morning, sincerely-held moral views in respect of matters of conscience for the people concerned. The same logic that we have had today supporting the right of people to have access to all forms of contraceptives supports also the conscientious objection of any person to such measures with the proviso that while there is the right of the individual to express his view he should not regard himself as having the right to force his moral view on the rest of the people particularly if the exercise of family planning falls within the definition of Justice Walsh's Supreme Court decision.

On the occasion of the attempt by the Coalition to enact legislation in this area, both parties on the Government side recognised that a free vote would be one way of accommodating the sincerelyheld views of what was a minority who could not support the measure. In opposition Fianna Fáil stated clearly that for their part there would not be a free vote, that they were a political party and, as such, did not agree with allowing a free vote. They said it was the responsibility of the Government of the day to rule and to put their measures through the House, that any recourse to a free vote was a cynical attempt to overcome the problem of those people on the Government side who did not support the measure. Coupled with that position on the part of Fianna Fáil was the reality that within their party there were people, possibly in the same proportion as applied to the Coalition, who held exactly the same views.

We heard from the then Senator Lenihan during a debate on the Labour Party proposal in the other House that when Fianna Fáil were returned to office they would introduce legislation to rid our society of all these problems. He said there was no need for the all-party approach as suggested then by Labour, that in office Fianna Fáil would be decisive. The then Senator enunciated all of this in the cocksure and confident way that only he is capable of either in this House or in the other. But in 1977 Deputy Lenihan's party were returned to office not only with a majority but with a landslide.

The first question I asked the Minister was: when would Fianna Fáil implement their frequently enunciated pledge to do something positive about family planning. He said that, unlike the Coalition, he would grasp the nettle. Some people believed him, and not all of them were Fianna Fáil supporters. Some of us felt that the nettle would not sting too much with a majority of 20 seats. Some of us thought that this "party of reality" would grasp most of the nettle if not all of it. In replies to questions over a period of time the Minister said that he was having consultations. In his Second Stage speech he referred to having consultations with 18 different groups and said that he had undoubtedly covered the full spectrum of opinion on this matter.

With all his skill, which is recognised by both sides of the House, and varied legislative and departmental experience, he now asks us, nine years after this matter became relevant in Irish politics, to agree to this Bill; to say to those who put us in here that we, as a democratic assembly, have made progress; to say to the million under the age of 25 and to the thousands of young people who wonder what is going on in this House as they pass the gates, that we are democrats; to say that we understand your problems, we relate to Mother Ireland and to young Ireland; to say to them all that we have had the experience and the debates; that the Minister has met 18 groups and knows the full spectrum of opinion; that he is Minister for Health and that his party have 84 seats and that he, as promised, will do something positive about contraception.

After all this the Minister has produced a Bill which is contradictory—it is like an iceberg in that it has more below the surface than can actually be seen above. Is it any wonder that our thousands of young people find Irish politics irrelevant? They find political parties who attempt to woo them boring, dull, old-fashioned and far removed from the realities of life as they experience it. In the opinion of our million young persons this Bill is nonsense, and I regret having to say that to the Minister because this issue should be beyond party politics. We are bored to hell talking about this measure and the country has stopped listening to us.

The Deputy should let it go.

I dislike having to come in here during this debate.

On one hand the Deputy says it is boring and on the other hand he makes a long speech.

I should love to be talking in support of a Bill that met the reasonable claims of the majority of the organisations with whom the Minister had discussions.

Amend this one.

When a former leader of the Labour Party asked Seán Lemass what he would do in the circumstances, Seán Lemass said: "It is the duty of the Government to govern and the duty of the Opposition to oppose." The Minister may have heard me quoting the late Seán Lemass on other occasions. It is tragic that this issue has become boring for the majority of people outside this House. The making of laws in a democratic society cannot be a boring exercise. The formulating of legislation in a world where only 25 states out of 150 members of the UN can be described as democracies cannot be boring. However, I find it sad that after eight years of debating this issue and attempting to find agreement we are still hung up on the same division. The approach applied by one Government was rejected because the concept of the free vote was not admitted. This new approach from a party with a majority of 20 seats is equally powerless. The majority of young people who come in here on school visits must wonder what we are talking about. The measures proposed in this Bill do not recognise the realities of Ireland outside the security gates of Kildare Street and Merrion Square.

The Committee Stage of this debate will give us the time to consider the apparent contradictions in the Bill. It will enable us to explore and tease out the meanings of certain phrases. There is so much unspecified and unclear that it will take a long Committee Stage to find out what the Bill enables the Minister to do.

What wearies me and bores the nation is the reality that, when the Bill obtains its majority from the 84 Fianna Fáil Deputies, obtains its majority in the Seanad and is subsequently signed by An tUachtarán, it will be a short while before it is effectively suspended because it will be tested in the Supreme Court. The democratic process will end up in the entire exercise being found to be at variance with our Constitution. The reason that tragedy is facing all of us is that the party who many thought had the political courage to grasp the nettle have failed. The reason that scenario is accepted by a number of people is that 84 seats do not make a party any more powerful than 71 or 73 seats.

Earlier, when the Minister was not in the House, I said that if Donogh O'Malley were Minister for Health we would have a different Bill. I would have hoped that with such a majority and with the political experience of the present Minister this legislature could close this debate and make a workable law which relates to the Ireland in which I live and in which my children will grow up.

In this debate we seem to have lost sight of first principles. Let me state my own. I stand for the basic right to life and, and in particular, the protection of the innocent unborn. In regard to the ethics of the marriage bed, my outlook is to leave this to the responsible conscience of the couples involved. I feel in regard to conscience that the Christian response may differ in different places. Each person has within himself or herself the apparatus to make a decision. In drafting legislation and putting it through this House we should accept that on questions of conscience it is the person who must make the decision. From that point my main criticism of the Bill stands.

I suggest that in matters of private morality couples should be guided by their own conscience. The State has a duty and an obligation where questions of public order and public morality are involved. Applying these principles to contraceptives, I believe couples should be free to plan their families in the manner best suited to their personal needs, whether by natural methods or otherwise, and to order their sexual affairs as they see fit in accordance with their own principles and consciences. The State does have a role, but I believe the role of the State is to discourage promiscuity and to ensure, by regulating the sale of contraceptives in a sensible manner, that the sensibilities of the public are not offended. The role of the State is not to interfere with the conscientious decisions of couples. This is where the Minister has made the wrong decision in his approach to this problem.

Since the McGee judgment it has been obvious that amending legislation was needed. The present Bill is not the answer. The Minister, in introducing the Bill, said he sought an Irish solution to an Irish problem. In my opinion this Bill is tinged with hypocrisy and loaded with double-think and is no credit to this House or the party who produced it. The question of morality does arise and has been mentioned by many speakers. Does the Minister accept the basic premise that private morality is a matter for the individual and that the State should be involved only when questions of public order and public morality are involved?

The contrary view was put very strongly from those benches.

I accept that there are different views. I am honestly and sincerely presenting my view. I have some suspicion that the Minister's view, if he is prepared to state it, might be very much in accordance with my own. This is a Bill on which people should speak freely and honestly without the constraints of party politics.

Is the Deputy suggesting the State never has any function in regard to private morality?

The State has a function where public order and public morality are involved. In regard to private morality and decisions made by couples, I fail to see that the State should interfere with the conscientious decisions of those couples. This is one of my main criticisms of the Bill.

Does the Deputy admit that this is a fundamentally complicated area?

I accept that and I accept that the Church has a major role in this in so far as the individual is concerned.

Leave the Church out of it altogether.

The Church, in my view, has a role in affecting by its own teachings the views and decisions of the individuals and couples involved. It is not the function of the State to interfere with Church teachings or in any way to attempt to enforce them where matters of conscience are involved. The ultimate decision must be according to the conscience of the individuals and couples, guided by their own Church.

Does the Deputy agree that the State may have to restrain individuals doing things in many areas which are not against their private morality?

I accept that. A person may not have any morality. I accept that there is a fine difference between private morality and public morality. I am merely stating in general terms my own approach to this problem.

I am sorry for interrupting.

This Bill attempts to establish the doctors of the State as the moral arbiters of the nation. I strongly believe that doctors have a role to play in family planning, but not the one proposed by the Minister. Doctors should be involved where matters of health arise.

In many ways the debate on this Bill, and on the whole question of contraception, may have tended to overshadow the medical aspects. There are serious concerns about contraception from the medical point of view. There are concerns about the medical side-effects of the pill. I accept entirely that there are many aspects of family planning where doctors must be involved, but I do not think their involvement should be in the role of moral policemen. It does not seem fair to put doctors in that invidious position. It is not fair to individuals and to couples who, in some cases, will have to play a game of moral roulette and take the chance that their own family doctor has a similar moral outlook to their own.

The question of morality has been introduced into this debate. I accept that the State and the Minister have a role in regard to public morality. I would not wish to see the State developing what I would call a contraceptive slot machine type of approach. In many cases, public sensibilities are affected by the display of contraceptives and many other things in what people would regard as an unseemly way. I believe the State has a function in this area, whether by way of this Bill or by regulation, and I would accept the Minister's view if he felt that contraceptives should not be displayed publicly at airports and railway terminals and other public places. That is an area where public morality is involved.

While this debate is not on the question of public morality per se, it does arise because we are talking about a question of private conscience. I accept that sincere views are held and presented by Deputies on Humanae Vitae but it seems to me that there are conflicting opinions even among theologians in the Catholic Church on this question. I do not intend to dwell overlong on the point, but my attention was drawn to an article by Jack Dominian in the foreword to a recent book entitled “Fruitful and Responsible Love” by Pope John Paul II quoted in The Tablet of 10 February. I should like to quote one paragraph:

Is there a way of reconciling the views of those who oppose Humanae Vitae on the grounds that there is no essential connection between every act of coitus and new life and those who feel that what matters is the free flow of love between people? The latter claim that the existential significance of coitus is its supreme value and the biological must be subordinated to it. The adherents of Humanae Vitae may agree on the supreme value of love in personal encounter but not at the price of eliminating the biological connection with life. The point of reconciliation may be the agreement that the personal encounter of love between people as husband and wife is the supreme value. That while contraception may be used to achieve this in special circumstances each contraceptive should be judged on its merits in allowing a full physical and emotional encounter, the least desirable contraceptive being those that detract most seriously from the integrity of the personal encounter.

For those who have qualms of conscience on the question of contraception, those who have genuine worries on the point—and every individual who is a member of the Catholic Church is affected by the views expressed in Humanae Vitae—that paragraph has considerable significance.

That is the position in regard to private morality. There are sincerely held and conflicting views on it. Basically it must be a matter for the informed conscience of the individual in the long term. The problem about this Bill is that the position of the private conscience has been subordinated to the position of the family doctor. I do not believe that is the correct fundamental approach. I do not intend to go further into the question of private morality. I am satisfied it is a matter for the individual conscience of each person. What is important is whether the Minister accepts that viewpoint. If he does, this Bill can only be interpreted as smudging the issue by giving a moral role to doctors—doctors of medicine, not doctors of theology.

I want to outline shortly a few of my main objections to the Bill. I have touched on one of them, that is, the role of doctors. I fail to see how there can be any logic in giving family doctors a role in prescribing condoms. A family doctor generally has at least ten years training in general medicine from the academic, practical and hospital point of view. It is ridiculous in the extreme that this should be part of his function.

There are other worries as well. There is the question of anonymity. If married couples want to use condoms, having made a conscientious decision on that point, it is not fair to them if they have to go to a family doctor for the necessary prescription or authorisation. They know him socially in a small town, or village, or rural area, and this may give rise to considerable embarrassment on their part. There is also the question of having healthy people going to a doctor wasting their own time and wasting the doctor's time to perpetrate this sham.

The Minister is well aware of the views of the IMA and the IMU, the official medical bodies, on this Bill. As I understand it, they feel the Bill is unworkable. Maybe I have not got the fine interpretation of what their decisions were, but that is my understanding. I would not be at all surprised if they were to come to that conclusion. I do not see how the Bill is sensible or workable. I do not think it is fair to the couples involved or to the family doctors. If for no other reason a rethink is necessary on that point.

My next major worry about this Bill concerns the position of the family planning clinics. Many of these clinics are providing a major service to the public at the moment at minimum expense. There is a danger that these clinics may be put out of existence as a result of this legislation. This would be a great loss and I have a genuine worry that the very valuable service which they are now giving to the public would not be replaced.

It is all very well to say that the slack, as it were, would be taken up by the family doctors. For many reasons I do not believe that that will or could be the situation. Many family doctors are very busy dealing with medical problems. They have not time to give the necessary advice to people who come to them on this question of family planning. In many cases they have not the necessary expertise. Problems in regard to family planning require specialised training which in many cases these family doctors will not have had. I am concerned particularly about people in rural areas who may be left without this type of advice.

My other major concern on this is that I understand that the Bill will provide that family planning clinics, even if allowed by regulation, cannot sell or supply contraceptives. Even if these family planning clinics are allowed to continue, what will be the situation of somebody from a rural area who comes a long distance for consultation? Maybe that consultation will require the purchase of some contraceptive items. Many of these consultations occur in the evening in the family planning clinics that I know of. That person may have to return home and afterwards make a special visit to the chemist to purchase the items and then make a trip back to the family planning clinic. This unnecessary waste of time, trouble and expense should be avoided. I can envisage a situation where a woman will probably wish to have a fitting for a diaphragm or something of that nature. It seems ridiculous that the family planning clinics would not be able to supply the device. It would be an offence for them to sell it and it would be an offence for them to give it for nothing. That is quite a major worry.

I understand that people with medical cards, in many cases the people most in need of a family planning service, will not be able to have that service free. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but at the moment women with medical cards who feel that they need family planning advice cannot get such advice and supplies of contraceptives on the medical service. Upwards of 40 per cent of the people of the State are in the GMS. If we accept the point of view that many such people, particularly those with very large families and in difficult home circumstances generally, require family planning advice and a proper family planning service, surely it is wrong that these people be denied these services under the GMS. Of course, there may be a way out—again, an Irish way out, a typically Irish solution to an Irish problem. If the doctor is prepared to issue a prescription and to go through the pretence that the prescription is for medical purposes and not for family planning purposes, that would be a way round the problem. But, if this is so, why should we have this sham and pretence? That would seem to be the loophole—that the doctor is prepared to pretend that the pill is being prescribed as a cycle regulator and not otherwise. We should not be encouraging sham or pretence in any area. If we feel that this is the way out, we should approach the problem more honestly. If people genuinely require family planning advice and if we believe that this should be paid for under the GMS, let us say so and let us provide for it at this stage.

There are a few matters in the Bill generally which I would like to mention, and I will be brief. They lead me to the belief that an entire redrafting with a new approach is necessary. I am not sure whether there are reasons for the problems I see in the Bill; maybe there are. Perhaps it is part of the sham that I have referred to previously. As a lawyer I see the reference to a family planning service "defined" and "not defined". What is the reason for these expressions which are used many times in the Bill? It seems strange that a family planning service is one for the provision of "information, instruction, advice and consultation in the matter of family planning". That does not make sense. If there is a reason for it, I would like to hear that. If the reason is to provide more of the shame that we have about this problem, then we should have a more straightforward approach. Section 2 (b) of the Bill states that the Minister shall:

(b) provide a comprehensive natural family planning service, that is to say, a comprehensive service for the provision of information, instruction, advice and consultation in relation to methods of family planning that do not involve the use of contraceptives.

I am very interested to know why this provision is in the Bill. Secondly, how does the Minister propose to discharge this duty which he is placing on himself? I can envisage considerable difficulty, particularly in some rural areas and some underprivileged areas in the cities. There are bodies who provide information, advice and assistance on natural family planning methods, and more power to them. They are all making a contribution to society, but why is the Minister accepting a general duty himself and, furthermore, how is he going to discharge it? Is he going to say that the work being done by voluntary bodies in this area effectively discharges this duty which he is placing on his own shoulders? The Bill provides that health boards may be involved in providing a family planning service. Will such health boards be able to supply or sell contraceptives? It appears that they will not. I cannot see how anybody who is involved in a general advisory way and who is restricted in the sale and supply of contraceptives can effectively be helping in the provision of a family planning service. I am not in favour of an unrestricted sale of contraceptive devices, but in regard to the responsible people and bodies involved I feel this restriction is unnecessary.

The same section refers to the position of family planning clinics. I do not think the Minister has given his views on these. There is the provision that the Minister will not give his consent to the availability of a family planning service unless he is satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so and that the service is reasonably required to meet a particular need. This House and the general public should have the Minister's views on this point: does he accept that family planning clinics are at present providing a valuable service to the public? If so, we should know that. Otherwise we are being asked in this House to give power to the Minister without any idea of how he might exercise it.

I have dealt already with the position of doctors under the Bill. There are a couple of other aspects about which I wonder. For example, doctors are entitled to issue a prescription or authorisation for contraceptives if they are bona fide for family planning purposes. Is it envisaged that the doctor will give a prescription or authorisation on a one-off basis, or one that can be continued and used over a long period? I have some recollection that, in regard to prescriptions, there is some legal limitation on the number of times they can be repeated without referral back to the doctor. Is this the reason for the use of the word “authorisation”? Is the idea that a doctor will give one authorisation enabling the recipient to obtain repeat supplies again and again over a long period, say, a year, two years, three years without referral back to the doctor? The House is entitled to know exactly what is in mind in regard to this provision. If the position is as I have outlined, is it not a bit of a cod to be inserting a provision about a doctor being satisfied that the authorisation is required for bona fide family planning purposes? A doctor might form such an opinion now but how should he be obliged to judge that the same authorisation may be required for a supply that might not be obtained for another three years? Is it the situation that this authorisation can be used week in week out, month in month out, or year in year out? If so, does it not go back to the fundamental sham of this Bill that the doctor is supposed to come to this decision? It is important from the point of view of the doctor because if he is legally required to come to this opinion, in practical terms, how can a doctor give an honest and valid opinion on such a point in relation to a time five years hence? That is a further point I make in regard to the role of the doctors in this whole question.

I observe in the same section that a person cannot supply contraceptives other than by way of sale. What is the reason for this? If the doctor felt that some form of contraception needed to be supplied urgently, is it illegal for him to do so? Is a family planning clinic which did not sell contraceptives but wished to supply them committing an offence? It appears to me that it would be. Those are some of the queries that arise in my mind when I see that type of provision.

I observe also a provision in regard to the control of importation, permitting somebody to have contraceptives as part of their personal luggage provided that the quantity is not such as to indicate that they are not solely for the person's own use. That seems to be a very loose kind of situation. On whom is the onus of proof? Who is to say whether the quantity is too great or too small? Would people be entitled to bring in a supply which they could allege they needed for a year, five years or for the rest of their lives? Again, it seems to me to be a further unworkable provision.

There are severe restrictions in regard to the control of manufacture. While I feel there should be restrictions, I wonder what is the Minister's thinking on this point. Does he envisage that somebody will invest funds here in establishing a factory or an industry dealing with contraceptives?

The Deputy must have read my opening statement.

I did, but I cannot recollect his exact contribution on this point. My vague recollection is that the Minister did not envisage it happening in the near future but I cannot recollect exactly. Effectively the Minister is taking power to grant the licence, to insert additional conditions at any time, to revoke the licence. If the Minister does envisage that somebody might establish an industry—and it would be very difficult to see how any person would invest a lot of money in such an undertaking with such restrictive legislative conditions—I believe we should look honestly at the point, and if we feel that people in this country should not be involved in such an industry, then let us say so.

There is reference in the Bill to many regulations. It would have been of great assistance in discussing this Bill if such regulations had been drafted along with it. The Minister seems to have reserved a lot of power to be dealt with by regulation. Obviously our attitude to the Bill would be affected to a large degree by the manner in which the Minister proposed to exercise that power, the type of regulations he would propose to introduce.

Some sections of the Bill can be regarded only as window-dressing. Why does the Minister provide a special section in the Bill giving himself authority to make a grant to a person to finance, or assist in the financing of, research into methods of family planning that do not relate to the use of contraceptives? Am I correct in thinking that the Minister already has this power? Surely under his existing powers the Minister could make a grant from departmental funds or from the Medico-Social Research Board for this purpose? If that is the case why does the Minister provide a specific section? Unless there is an answer to this it appears very much as if the section is purely window-dressing. Incidentally, on that point of research, I referred earlier to the possible harmful side effects of the pill, a medical problem. If moneys are being made available for research, it would be very much in the interests of women that money would be spent on research into that kind of problem. I have no objection at all; indeed I feel it is very laudable that money be spent on research into natural family planning methods. As I understand it considerable research has been carried out by Professor Bonner and his team, but if we are genuinely interested in such research let us provide more money to investigate the medical aspects of the problem.

There is a reference to abortifacients in the Bill but, although definitions are provided for many matters, there is no definition of abortifacients even though, medically, there are conflicting views as to whether certain types of contraceptives are abortifacients or not. Are we evading the problem and providing window-dressing in the Bill? That appears to be the situation. I suggest that the proper approach is to make a fresh start. The Minister should withdraw the Bill and let a breath of fresh air and honest thinking be the basis for our joint approach. In regard to law reform generally, particularly in the area of family law, politics, in a party sense, are in many ways an impediment to progress. What we need is an all-party Oireachtas Committee to achieve a consensus on such reforms. Even at this late stage I suggest that the Minister adopt this approach, scrap this Bill and make a fresh start. I can assure him of a sincere commitment by this side of the House if he accepts that suggestion. We will play our part and make our input to such a committee.

The Bill as framed puts little faith in the maturity or commonsense of the Irish people. I do not agree with the provisions requiring individuals to make unnecessary visits to doctors thereby creating embarrassment and expense, as well as in many ways insulting the role of our doctors. It should be a matter for the couples, motivated by their own beliefs and conscience, as to how they plan their families and whether they utilise natural means or otherwise. There are many aspects of the Bill with which I do not agree. Having listened patiently to the many points of view of Members, the Minister faces a challenge and he can meet that challenge if he has a rethink on the Bill. I accept that that would be an unusual precedent for a Minister. In many ways the Minister is an unusual man and if he has the courage to withdraw the Bill he will get assistance from the parties to provide an acceptable alternative which would be based on commonsense and a genuine commitment to find a real solution to a problem in our society. If the Minister insists on proceeding with the Bill as drafted, I will have no alternative but to oppose it.

The Minister has described this as a Bill designed to deal in a responsible and acceptable manner with the problem which has been a matter of political debate for up to seven years. I agree that it has been a matter of political debate for seven years but I do not accept that the Bill deals with the matter in a responsible or acceptable way. It is not responsible because it fails to take account of the needs of the situation particularly the needs of those most affected. It could not be acceptable to anybody who has concern for human rights or for women as persons. The Minister spoke of the consultations he has had with 18 organisations who submitted their views to him and referred to the fact that the majority view of those organisations was reflected in the measures before the House. I should like to know how many of those organisations represented young women, how many represented unprivileged women, women living in overcrowded homes, in bad homes or women suffering the tensions of having to share those housing conditions with in-laws. Judging by the Bill I would not say they were represented.

The Government availed of the opportunity of the McGee case decision by the Supreme Court to introduce what the Minister described as a full family planning service. The Minister told us that this is a Family Planning Bill in the proper sense of the words and that it genuinely merited such a title. He told us that appropriate family planning services would be made available to those who wished to decide in a responsible way on the size of their families. How could the Minister describe this vague, undefined piece of legislation—it could be described as a piece of hypocrisy—in such terms? No piece of legislation has aroused such controversy or got so much public attention as this one. Views are very different and keenly felt in this area.

That is to be expected in the Irish situation where there has been an almost total obsession with one commandment. The Minister should have introduced legislation that was workable and less ambiguous. He should have had more compassion and consideration for human dignity and the dignity of women. Many people have genuine agonies of conscience about the matter of contraception. We do not have any such agonies about drunken driving and the consequences of it, about children not having enough to eat or sufficient of the world's goods, about old people dying from lack of heat or food, or about the many forms of violence and the consequences that flow from that. Our Irish conscience has been conditioned to agonise most about sex and sex-related matters. Would that we felt so strongly about the other issues I have mentioned and that those who helped form our conscience did as good a job in those areas. Had they done so we would have a fairer and more equitable society here.

The Minister told us that this Bill was to meet the needs of those who do not have an objection to the use of artificial contraception. That is all we would have asked him to do because none of us is setting out to enforce the practice of contraception, artificial or otherwise, on anybody who does not wish to practise it. We are now saying that it is not the business of the State to decide on private morals. Most people on this side of the House who have spoken have made that point. The Irish Catholic bishops stated at the outset of the debate on this Bill that they had no intention of interfering in the legislative process in this area. When Article 44 of the Constitution was abolished by referendum the main spokesman for the Church at that time said that the special relationship between the Church and the State was not necessary to either the Church or the State. That was a correct judgment in a pluralist society like ours.

That broadmindedness should have been reflected in a Bill like this. The reality of the situation in this State is that family planning is widely practised either under the guise of medical treatment or otherwise, no matter how much some people would like to indulge in the charade of pretending otherwise. The majority of people to whom I have spoken on this issue, irrespective of what their personal practice or beliefs may be, feel that this is essentially a private matter and that it should be so treated in a Bill like this.

This Bill does not treat it as a private matter. Those who can afford to benefit from the provisions of the Bill and those who have access to the provisions of the Bill find in this Bill a cumbersome three-tier type of service. They find the service involving the knowledge and judgment of others besides the people concerned in the decision to use family planning contraception. We have the provision that a family planning service will be provided under the health boards whenever they can establish such a service. It is proposed that the family planning service will give instructions, information and advice but will not supply contraceptives of any kind.

The person requiring contraceptives must go to a doctor who, provided he has no conscientious objection, is supposed to decide, according to his clinical judgment, whether or not to prescribe contraceptives and if he does prescribe them what to prescribe, medical or otherwise. We then come to the pharmacists who may have the same difficulties and who will decide whether or not to dispense the prescriptions. This seems to me to be a very unnecessery fragmentation of the entire service.

With regard to the information service section 3 empowers the Minister to consent to the provision of a family planning service by bodies other than health boards or authorise existing bodies. I join with the people who have already spoken in appealing to the Minister to allow the continuation of family planning clinics which cater for an estimated 100,000 people. I endorse the plea made by other Deputies from this side of the House and by Deputy Eileen Lemass of the Minister's party to allow those clinics to be incorporated under the Bill. I am very glad that Deputy Lemass added her voice to this particular plea because I believe that a voice from the Minister's benches will have more influence on him than a voice from this side of the House.

Information is vital to any service. How efficient will the information be in this area? What provision will be made in relation to those who are expected to give this information, advice and instruction? How does the Minister feel he can have what he describes as a comprehensive service in operation?

This Bill has a provision that doctors play a role which it is impossible for them to discharge. It presupposes that Irish adults are not capable of making decisions for themselves and that they have no right to make decisions. It has very little regard to human rights. It is almost contemptuous of the rights of women and of their dignity as people. Many of the very deeply rooted prejudices which are to be found in our society are associated with the lack of sympathy with the position of women. This is one area where most women would have a perspective different from that of the Government. That is why I am very glad to find a backbencher from the Minister's party, a woman, speaking in support of the retention of the family planning clinics. Deputy Lemass must know the score and must feel in sympathy with the people concerned. I hope the Minister heeds her voice.

The doctors under this Bill are being asked to do the impossible. They may have to grapple with their consciences. They have to apply their own moral views in each case and must interfere sometimes in the non-medical aspects of their patients who must come to them under the terms of this Bill. They are operating in an area in which they admit they have no particular training. In an article in The Irish Times of 3 April Doctor David Nowlan said that so far only 100 of the total of approximately 1,200 GPs in Ireland have got what he describes as a diploma of the Joint Committee of the Royal College of Obstetrics, Gynaecologists and GPs as trained doctors in family planning. I do not know how the Minister proposes to equip the remaining 1,100 doctors or whatever proportion of them will be dealing with family planning to make this Bill capable of being operated in the very near future.

All the doctors involved in the GP service will be asked to provide what the Minister describes as a comprehensive service. They will be asked to decide for themselves what is bona fide family planning, which is not defined in the Bill. It is not defined in the explanatory memorandum or in the Minister's introductory speech. Those doctors are now being asked to provide family planning for adequate medical reasons, which might be all right from their point of view, but how are they to decide what are appropriate circumstances, as they are asked to do under this Bill? They are in an invidious position. Is the reference to bona fide family planning for adequate medical reasons and in appropriate circumstances merely to comply with the ruling in the McGee case?

Is there sufficient flexibility to take account of the possibility of another Supreme Court case which I think is bound to come? It appears to me the Bill does take that into account. I should like the Minister in his reply to state if the Bill is confined to the family based on marriage, as it appears to be. What about the position of people whose marriage has broken down, the person who is deserted, separated, the widow? Where do they come in? Must both partners present themselves in the doctor's surgery? A doctor in a city cannot be au fait with the background and family circumstances of all his patients. How can he decide he is not breaking the law when prescribing under the terms of this Bill? How can a doctor know a couple are married? He is the sole arbiter and he is liable to a severe fine if he acts in breach of the legislation. It is a crazy situation so far as doctors are concerned.

The Minister should spell out to the House what he means by these definitions. He told us that the Bill was introduced after very careful consideration. It should be possible to explain to Deputies what is meant by the terms and how the Minister envisages that doctors can operate under these terms. What about a married person who wishes to embark on an extra-marital relationship? There seems to be a naïve assumption that only unmarried people embark on a relationship that does not include marriage. Everybody knows that this is not so. I suspect perhaps that it may not be naïveté but another example of the sham and hypocrisy that surrounds this issue. Most people know that the average doctor does not wish to become involved and that he has no special competence in deciding on a matter of private concern.

We are still a very paternalistic society. We think that adults must have their minds made up for them and their morals decided for them on a matter like this. We decide that the personal decisions of women, the people who are most concerned, should be disregarded. This Bill and much of the debate has been mindless and brutal towards women and their problems. As a woman TD I must protest at the blatant disregard for women as persons which has been displayed in this Bill. Male lobbies have been vocal on this matter and have submitted their views, which they are entitled to do, but they have no right to dictate to the many harassed overburdened, often underweight, and sometimes battered, young mothers whom I meet during my constituency work. These young mothers are harassed by bills they cannot pay, by the strain of overcrowding, perhaps by living with in-laws in bad housing conditions, by the sheer impossibility of rearing large families and often by the presence of irresponsible, indifferent, drunken and even violent spouses. Nobody has the right to make up their minds for them. The young mothers who have had enough initiative to seek aid have been helped by the family planning clinics.

It is vital that the family planning clinics be retained for the most needy section. Everyone knows that many of these young mothers are on the pill which is being prescribed by sympathetic doctors, sometimes for medical reasons and often not without risk of side-effects. Many of these young people are on librium and valium. Compassion demands of the Minister that he do better for these young women. Many of them look 40 years or 45 years when they are under 30 years of age. They need help urgently and human rights make it imperative that we provide that help.

I have heard speakers say that many people are bored by the debate on family planning. I suspect that is so but the people in need cannot afford to be bored. The question affects them too deeply. It is not good enough to subject these people to the ritual of searching for welldisposed doctors and chemists. What about medical cardholders? Will their options be severely limited? It appears this will be the case and that is the most reprehensible aspect of the Bill. If the clinics are closed there will be a serious disimprovement in the situation of people who use them. Those who need the service most will benefit least from this Bill.

It is not too much to say that the rights of these women are being trampled on and what our spokesman on health said in his speech was correct. Deputy O'Connell rightly described the Bill as "quite purposeful brutality" towards women. That is not overstating the case. Once again, the poor and under-privileged must suffer and women will suffer most of all. Everybody knows that the wealthy and the better-endowed financially and educationally will not suffer. The needs of the wealthy have always been met. That has always been the case and the Minister and the Government know it. I am talking about the poor and underprivileged who will be the greatest sufferers.

There are two sets of problems. There is the problem as it affects cities and urban areas and the problem as it affects villages and rural areas. This Bill does not cater for people in either area. The busy doctor in the city cannot know all the facts sufficiently well to make the judgment required by law. A short while ago Deputy O'Keeffe referred to the gross infringement of privacy. It will be impossible under this Bill for people to remain anonymous. A conscientious objection by a doctor or chemist is more likely to be met in a remote rural area and the woman will have no alternative. Even where there is no objection it will be very difficult to retain any degree of anonymity. This is very important from the point of view of privacy and also in view of the hang-ups that Irish people have in these matters.

It is not difficult to visualise the impossibility of operating an Act of this kind, either in urban or rural situations. It is not difficult to appreciate the total inadequacy of the Bill from the point of view of rural or urban communities. The Bill shows insensitivity to the needs of those without adequate means—it fails to provide for women in the lower income group. On the basis of the explanations we have got so far, the Bill will be unworkable. Unfortunately, in matters of law reform the Legislature very often has neither the care nor the goodwill to legislate properly and therefore Acts have been subjected to examination by the courts.

First of all, I wish to indicate my opposition to this Bill. I will then take up what Deputy Eileen Desmond said and suggest that the Bill is unworkable. Possibly it was intended that it would be unworkable. I acknowledge the Minister's dilemma. It is generally accepted that he is a man of concern and ingenuity but I think this Bill is too ingenious to be workable. As Deputy Eileen Desmond has said, it is likely to be the subject of a contest in the courts who will almost surely find it to be an invasion of privacy and therefore unconstitutional.

There are two sides to this debate. There are those who say that contraception is a right and therefore should be allowed, that a comprehensive service should be provided regardless of the consequences. To ignore those consequences would be to bury one's head in the sand. On the other side there is the lobby which does not want any change, which chooses to ignore the McGee case decision and opposes any kind of legislation in this field. That is also burying one's head in the sand, ignoring the fact that even before the McGee case contraceptives were widely available and being used without any control whatsoever. I understand it is still illegal to sell contraceptives but we all know they are being sold.

Those who oppose any legislation of this kind are undermining their own case. There was to be some form of legislation, and the debate here should be not about whether there should be legislation but of what kind the legislation should be. It is from that point of view that I should like to speak. I do not think the legislation before us is the type we require. There are different points of view on all sides, among our Deputies as among those on the Government side and in the Labour Party. However, the point of view which opposes any legislation in this field is unsustainable because it advocates that the present unsatisfactory situation should be allowed to continue.

Those who oppose any legislation should examine the position. If such people were in favour of legislation it would be of a restrictive nature, perhaps so restrictive as to be unconstitutional. I suggest that the Government made a mistake in deciding to impose the Whip on their Deputies in this regard. The previous Government allowed a free vote because this is a matter of conscience for many Deputies. Therefore I do not think the Minister or the Government should feel bound by their promise to impose the Whip on their Members. It would be a sad situation if Members were forced to vote against their consciences, no matter how wrong their conclusions might appear to be.

The Government's decision to have a Whip on this Bill will be setting an unfortunate precedent. Matters of conscience should always be the subject of a free vote. Unfortunately our practice in this respect has been much less liberal than elsewhere. In this, Fianna Fáil have been worse than Fine Gael and the Labour Party have been nearly as bad in insisting that all their members should subscribe to every legislative dot and comma. This is particularly bad when it comes to matters of conscience. A free vote should be permitted on this Bill even if it means the Bill will be defeated. That is not important. The last Government did not fall because the Bill was defeated.

Fine Gael's spokesman on these matters, Deputy Boland, has suggested the setting up of an all-party committee to draft a consensus Bill to deal with this long drawn-out issue. It would add greatly to the Minister's prestige if he were to accept that offer. That is the best way of taking this subject out of the party political arena where it has no place, being a matter of conscience. That is why Deputy Boland's suggestion should be accepted. In that way we could get a Bill that would be much more sensible, more meaningful and less controversial than that proposed. I am confident that the community generally would be grateful to us for approaching the subject in this way.

I stress the generosity of Deputy Boland's offer because the Bill that was introduced by the Coalition was defeated as a result of a Whip vote against it by the then Opposition. It is not the intention of Fine Gael to arrange a Whip vote against this measure. There should not be a Whip vote for it either. The idea of the Whip vote is a serious mistake. It stems from a poor practice that we have followed for a long time whereby every TD and councillor is expected to kow-tow to the party leadership in every respect. I accept that there must be discipline and coordination but this code should not apply strictly in every sense and certainly not on questions of conscience.

If the Minister were to agree to the suggestion of an all-party committee, any Member of the House who, in conscience, considered it necessary to oppose the legislation, would be free to do so and there would not be the danger of the Bill that would emerge being defeated thereby causing the subject to continue to be debated as has been the case for some years to the utter boredom of most people. The Minister is a man of intelligence and concern and I suspect that this Bill represents much less than the sort of measure he would have liked to introduce.

Having said that, I must make my own position clear. I, too, believe that the right to contraception is absolutely established, that if mature people wish to use contraceptives, that is their business and we must recognise that situation in legislation. Otherwise, we would have bad law. The right of mature people to decide on whether to use contraceptives is basic and should be recognised in law and that right being recognised, there must follow the right to access to contraceptives.

Therefore, contraceptives should not be available only in an illegal sort of way as obtains at present. On the other hand, we must not ignore the dilemma that, in a situation in which contraceptives are available to mature people, they will be available also to immature people who might wish to avail of them. That is a matter of concern to many people having regard to the serious social problems that could arise from such a situation, problems of which I am very much aware from my experience in attending at my clinics. I shall return to this aspect later, but it is a consideration that should not be ignored by that lobby which says simply that contraceptives should be available to all. It is not as simple a matter as that. The dilemma facing Parliament in drafting legislation to provide for the availability of contraceptives is to allow for the right of individuals to have access to contraceptives while at the same time framing the legislation in such a way as to minimise the possible adverse social consequences. It might not be fashionable to say that but it must be said.

I consider the provision whereby non-medical contraceptives must be prescribed by doctors to be outrageous and all the more so in view of the decision reached by the medical people and subsequently reinforced by them to refuse to operate this scheme. Contraception is not a medical question. Consequently, the title of the Bill is a misnomer because what is involved is not directly a health matter. I do not profess to know much about the law but I suspect strongly that the decision whereby non-medical contraceptives must be prescribed by a doctor is unconstitutional. Therefore, in order to avoid a repetition of the McGee case and also a repeat of the lengthy debate on this subject, I suggest to the Government that, if this Bill is passed, the President, before signing it, be asked by the Council of State to refer it to the Supreme Court for a decision as to constitutionality. That is the least the Government might do in an attempt to arrive at sensible, coherent and constitutional legislation.

Even if the Supreme Court were to decide that the Bill is constitutional, I still think it wrong that mature persons should have to ask doctors for non-medical contraceptives. Why has the Minister made such a forbidding provision? I believe that he wants to show an attempt to prohibit immature persons from using contraceptives. At best, that provision will only have a cosmetic effect. It will not change the present situation. It may, as Deputy Mrs. Desmond said, force the family planning clinics to close. The closing of the clinics would be undesirable for some and desirable for others. I believe that the clinics are doing a good job. This Bill will not reduce the widespread availabality and use of contraceptives.

Assuming that it is undesirable for contraceptives to be made available to immature persons, we must consider whether it is possible to legally control their sale. I do not believe that it is possible to control the use of contraceptives. Those who want to use contraceptives will get them if they are available. The fear of the anti-contraception lobby is that legislation will not control the availability and use of contraceptives by immature persons. There is a need to regularise the situation, even if only to make legal provision for the family planning clinics.

Deputy Lemass made some courageous and sincere points yesterday in relation to this matter. Deputy Mrs. Desmond made the point that many women in our society have had and continue to have unwanted pregnancies. There is no doubt that Deputies Lemass and Mrs. Desmond understand the problems of women. However, I share their concern because I have witnessed in my constituency the problems resulting from unwanted pregnancies. Abstention from sex in order to avoid pregnancy is also the cause of problems in many households in this city. The plight of many women, as highlighted by Deputies Lemass and Mrs. Desmond, should be our main concern.

Another aspect of this matter is the growth in population. The percentage of young persons in our population is the highest in Europe. The growth in the number of young persons in our society has created problems which will persist for 15 years or more. All these young persons will be seeking education, employment and housing. Even without an increase in our population, these problems will persist for a long time. It is sad but true that we cannot cope with our young population. Somebody said that the budget was a contraceptive budget in that it reduced children's allowances by reducing the tax allowances for children. The Government have obviously been trying to think of some way to reduce the incentive to have large families. If my judgment is correct we can expect in future budgets or minibudgets moves to reduce children's allowances.

That is not relevant to the Bill.

Debate adjourned.