I was making the case last week for proceeding in the immediate future with the pro-life amendment, giving the people the opportunity to voice their opinion on this matter. I outlined the need for constitutional change in this area and also the need for positive wording such as that used in the other sections of the Constitution. I pointed out the undeniable right of the population to express their point of view by way of referendum on this very important subject. I further dealt with the dangers of changes coming about in the current position in relation to abortion, either through legislative processes or through a judicial ruling from the Supreme Court by a majority decision. I concluded then by stating the need to reinforce existing law as outlined in the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861.
The amendment proposed by this Bill would mean that abortion could not be made legal either through legislation or by a judicial decision of the Supreme Court. Such an amendment is most desirable. We are all aware that abortion is prohibited under the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, but we also know that this can be changed at any time by the Oireachtas and by any Government who would choose to have a majority in favour of such a change. If it were changed by the courts, this would take place without any consultation. At least a proposed change in legislation would be debated in this House. We are all aware that three of the five Supreme Court judges can overturn existing law if they take a certain view as to its interpretation.
It is well to bear in mind the pertinent example of the United States where abortion became legal through a decision of their Supreme Court in 1973. The whole question of legalising abortion in America started off on the question of marital privacy and led some time afterwards to the concept of procreative privacy. We must recognise that marital privacy has also been accepted in Ireland and there is no reason to expect that things would be any different here after a certain passage of time. That is one of the fundamental reasons for the initiation of the pro-life amendment campaign. To delay now would be to make uncertain the protection of the right to life and it is for that simple reason that I take the stand I do.
The referendum to bring about an amendment to the Constitution will not stop abortions. Many people have been trying to confuse the issue by suggesting that it might do so but there is no doubt that this will not be the case. We must be realistic and admit that it is not likely to happen. The onus of responsibility will certainly be on the Government and the powers that be to provide support for those with unwanted pregnancies. Subsequent to the inclusion of this amendment in the Constitution, there would be a strong onus of responsibility on the State to do everything humanly and legislatively possible to provide the necessary support for those who are unfortunate enough to see abortion as the solution to their problem.
We will have to take great notice of the influence being exercised by certain agencies in relation to what is regarded as the abortion trail from this country to Britain. I have no doubt that the abortion referral agencies — apparently operating without any interference in this country, despite the fact that I believe they are operating outside the law — are creating a demand for abortion. They are doing nothing to provide the kind of support or the kind of alternatives that might help to find a solution to this problem. Many of the abortion referral clinics in their attitude towards abortion, and in the attitude they are selling to their clients, would have people believe that it is fashionable and acceptable in modern times to have abortion made freely available and that referring people to clinics outside the State is the proper and most fashionable thing to do at this time.
I regard the campaign being pursued by those people as a policy of stealth. It is certainly an erosion of the traditional standards and concepts we have come to accept as part of the normal situation here. It is a clever tactic and it is very easy to see the reason for their vociferous reaction to this Bill. When the pro-life amendment becomes part of our Constitution it literally slams the door before their strategy of gradualism, which I referred to on the last occasion we discussed the Bill. That strategy is as evident in our society as it ever has been in promoting a particular concept. In this instance it is the acceptability of abortion. By easing it along and instilling it in the minds of those who come to seek their aid, these agencies and clinics are bringing about a situation where they would like to feel that abortion is acceptable. But they know that if this amendment becomes part of the Constitution it denies them, as is stated in their anti-amendment literature, the opportunity of pressing on with their campaign to have legalised abortion here.
We speak of human life. As far as I am concerned, human life exists from the time of conception or, as one likes to call it, from the time of fertilisation. I believe it to be a scientific proven fact. The fundamental right of human life is the right to life itself. I do not believe the fundamental right to life is the preserve of any particular denomination or religious group in our society. It is mischievous to suggest that only the Roman Catholic Church support the amendment to the Constitution we are now discussing. It is well known that the usual tactic in other latitudes — some of them close to home — is to use the anti-Catholicism trick as a subtle but very productive tactic of liberalism. The attempt to label Roman Catholicism as the last bastion of conservatism against social progress is not new. It has been used over the centuries, and with great effect in one particular democracy, the USA. If you can get the anti-Catholic label attached to something then it is a great help towards promoting liberalism in any particular social change one might like to introduce.
We have to recognise the very considerable influence of the mass media. I have no doubt that the pro-abortionist lobby have been very assiduous in courting that favouritism from the media. That is why it is so important in something as fundamental as this that a proper balance is maintained as far as discussion is concerned. Our mass media have been very fair in their attitude to date in dealing with this matter. That has not been the case in other democracies. In America you virtually have to have the media on your side if you wish to promote any particular change in any walk of life whatsoever. That is not the position here and, hopefully, it will never be the case. The liberalism that is sometimes expressed in some of the promotions sold for public consumption does not necessarily reflect the attitude of a lot of the readers of those publications. I do not want to refer to the USA ad nauseam but there is no doubt that if you wish to have a particular point of view sucessfully sold and legislated for in America then you must have a very big propaganda machine to court the support of the mass media. It would be a pity if liberalism had that kind of support from the media here.
There has been quite a lot of talk about the desire to have a pluralist society here. A pluralist society must have a basic respect for life. This is a basic requirement for all communities. If the State seeks to gurantee the basic right of life, how can it offend pluralism? The two things cannot be separated. How can respect for the other rights be achieved if respect for human life is absent? The anti-amendment lobby are simply trying to impale the Taoiseach and his Government on the pluralist hook. That was very evident in one of their publications. I am referring again to a small pamphlet which has been circulated by the anti-amendment campaign operating from a post office box somewhere in the city. This document states:
We believe Dr. FitzGerald has no choice but to oppose this sectarian amendment.
It also states:
Dr. Fitzgerald and his party must vote against it in the light of his publicly declared concern to initiate Constitutional pre-conditions for a pluralist State for the whole of Ireland.
It states at the end of this particular paragraph:
His personal integrity and credibility must surely be in question.
I regard that kind of publication as being devious, to use a polite word, because it is attempting to suggest that the attitude of pluralism as expressed by the Taoiseach last year cannot be accommodated by allowing him to support an amendment to the Constitution in isolation. That is now stated publicly by the Taoiseach and it is what I refer to when I say that he is now on the pluralist hook. However, I do not think that the bar of the hook is encased in the Taoiseach to such extent that he has not the capacity to disengage himself from it by saying simply that the proposed amendment does not offend pluralism. Surely, the concept of a pluralist society is not offended by the guaranteeing of what we regard as a fundamental right — the right to life.
This brings me to the Taoiseach's role last year in all this business. It is important to put on record just a few instances of utterances from the Taoiseach concerning his position on the amendment as he saw it at that time. The first and most important letter from the Taoiseach that we must take careful note of is the one of 6 November 1982 when he wrote to the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign people and stated that it was as a result of a unanimous decision of Fine Gael that they were committed to introducing the amendment in Government and having it put to the people before 31 March. He went on to say that the referendum would not be delayed by any another consideration. That little snippet from the Taoiseach's letter is self-evident — that he was acting virtually on the instructions of a commitment that had been entered into on the basis of a unanimous decision of Fine Gael out of Government but which indicated clearly what their position would be in Government.
On the "Today Tonight" programme of 4 November last the Taoiseach said that before endorsing the wording of the Fianna Fáil proposal he had taken legal advice and that he thought the amendment was the best we could get. There is nothing ambiguous in that kind of wording. It states simply that the Taoiseach, before giving the commitment in writing of the unanimous decision of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party had taken legal advice on the wording that the Fianna Fáil Government had brought forward. The Taoiseach was still in a position to say then that the amendment was the best we could get and that Fine Gael were committing themselves totally to it. Therefore, we had not merely a promise but a solid commitment from the Taoiseach. Being the astute politician that he is in his own way, the Taoiseach does not make commitments lightly in any circumstance and certainly not in a matter of a constitutional amendment and in a matter of such enormous consequence. Consequently, we can assume that when the Taoiseach said he had taken legal advice, that advice was taken at the highest level.
We might ask what legal advice did the Taoiseach seek at that time. It is hardly credible that Fine Gael as a party would not have sought the advice of their former legal adviser who is now their Attorney General and who had been their Attorney General also while they were in office on the previous occasion. I would find it hard to accept that Mr. Sunderland had no input into advising the Taoiseach on the wording of the amendment in November last particularly since the present Attorney General had been in office also when the matter was discussed by the previous Coalition. It would be normal to expect that the Leader of Fine Gael, after a considerable length of time, having got the wording that had been expected and that had been looked forward to by so many people, though obviously not by certain elements, would have made his arrangements well in advance to have the matter considered carefully by the best legal advice he could obtain. What better legal advice might the Taoiseach seek than the advice of a man to whom he had entrusted the responsibilities of Attorney General on a previous occasion and whom obviously he had in mind to put into office again in the event of a return to office of the Coalition? Because at that time in November, the Taoiseach was so able to give a quick response to the wording as outlined by Fianna Fáil, it seems to me that his arrangements were made in advance.
It is interesting to pose the question of how many Deputies in Fine Gael are happy with the wording proposed. It is believed by some of us that the vast majority of those Deputies would have been happy with it just as the Taoiseach was happy up to recently about it. Might it be the far-leftish wing of Fine Gael who disagree? These are people who would be anti the amendment anyway. The services of a journalistic commentator or observer are not required for the purpose of pointing out to me who would form that hard leftish wing of the Fine Gael Party. They can be quite vociferous on occasions. They are playing a very significant role in trying to scuttle this amendment, despite the best efforts of the Taoiseach, as he has so often stated. If Mr. Sutherland has stated that he had not an opportunity of looking at the wording at that time, I find it difficult, the words having been printed in the public press, to believe that he would not have been very anxious to communicate his observations to his leader. However, it certainly does not excuse one other person from his involvement at that time and I refer to the intervention of the Director of Public Prosecutions in this matter at this time. That would be regarded as unusual, to put it mildly. He is a very talented, exceptional and competent person in his job, but it must be remembered that he was appointed as an independent civil servant. Good civil servants, especially those who have reached the higher echelons of the establishment, are not often expected to make public comments, especially about highly sensitive political matters which are, in actual fact, going to be decided upon by the population as a whole. It was with some regret that I noted the involvement of the DPP on this occasion. As I understand it, he brings prosecutions under existing statutes and certainly does not prosecute under the provisions of the Constitution, per se. That would be somewhat outside the ambit of his writ. The timing of his intervention suggests that he was prompted to intervene to influence the matter in a certain direction, which would certainly be unfortunate. I would have put much more credence on his intervention had it taken place — I personally believe it should not have taken place at all — at another time, in another place.
The anti-amendment campaign, as it is working its way through the system, is no more and no less than — in fact, virtually the same as — the pro-abortion lobby. One can see that readily in the sponsoring bodies who include all the abortion-campaigning organisations as listed and registered in this country.
It is an interesting small, but nevertheless significant point, that the Pro-life Amendment Campaign headquarters are openly listed as 21, Merrion Square. There is no difficulty at all about its being readily recognised as coming from a particular location in this city. It is not quite so easy, however, to know where the anti-amendment campaign has its headquarters, or the location from which it is operating. The quickest way one could establish that is by reference to this document to which I have referred and which is on the record in which it has itself listed under post office box 1285 in this city. While one would have to have a knowledge of the location of the post office boxes — and I certainly have not — it is suggested that the headquarters of the anti-amendment campaign are located in an establishment where abortion referrals are the order of the day. That campaign is being orchestrated from the premises well known to the Minister and others as being foremost in promoting abortion as an acceptable and fashionable means of dealing with unwanted pregnancies here. Can the Minister and the Government not see the strategy being employed by the anti-amendment campaigners? They want to divide the Government and it seems that they have succeeded somewhat there. They want to divide the Fine Gael Party and it would also seem that they have been reasonably successful in that area of activity, as well. They have certainly divided the Labour Party. This is all in the hope of confusing the electorate so that that electorate might tire of the efforts in support of having this amendment inserted into the Constitution. Their dearest wishes would be realised if, with that now obvious division in the various parties making up the Government, they had this enabling legislation dropped altogether, if a situation could be devised whereby a certain modus operandi of voting on this and perhaps other legislation which might come before us in the near future could bring about a situation where the legislation could be shelved for the foreseeable future. While I note the Minister of State wagging his head negatively, in a few minutes — if he stays here that long — I will be pointing out to the Minister for the record what some of his senior Ministers, or at least one, has to say about that very matter.