We have had a long discussion on this amendment to the Schedule and this is symptomatic of what has been a very long debate. What we have seen over recent months has been a prolonged search for a satisfactory wording which would give a guarantee in some form or another against the introduction of abortion in this country against the wishes of the population.
We should consider the alternative forms of wording — in the Schedule and in the amendment — and then ask ourselves how much progress have we made as a result of this long discussion? We do not have very much progress to show. If we ask ourselves where we are now, compared to where we were three months ago, I do not think we will see much difference. What has this debate demonstrated? I feel it has demonstrated one thing above all, and that is the folly of using an adversary mode of debate on constitutional matters or on moral matters. Since we have been dealing in this question with something which is both a constitutional question and a moral question, I feel we have in this case a double folly. This is the lesson we should learn as we reach the impasse that we face in regard to the heart of this Bill, which is the Schedule that we are now discussing. We should learn the lesson that in regard to moral matters, above all to moral matters, affecting the Constitution, the only path that will result in an improvement in our constitutional position without other indirect effects whose disadvantages would far outweigh the advantage of some constitutional improvement, is that we will have to follow the road of seeking all-party agreement. We have been guilty of double folly in the manner in which we have tackled this and I hope that this folly is not repeated in regard to other matters.
This House is entitled on Committee Stage to seek an improvement in the wording of the Schedule. The scope for such improvement is wide indeed. All of us who have followed this long debate have read various suggestions sent to us as to how the particular wording could be improved. If these wordings commended themselves to the Seanad and the Seanad thought there was a reasonable chance of the wordings commending themselves to the Dáil, then our duty would be clear. But there is one amendment that is just not worth our while discussing and that is the one that was categorically rejected in the other House. Unless we believe in fairy godmothers, we could not hope for a reversal of that particular vote. The one amendment which we have had before us on Committee Stage is an amendment that is really not worth our while discussing, it is not worth our while sending it back to the Dáil. That is the reason why the members of the Fine Gael group — in spite of this amendment being flapped in front of their faces as the Fine Gael wording — are not to be tempted into doing something which would be pointless, namely, returning to the Dáil the form of words which Dáil Éireann has rejected by 87 votes to 65. That has been our position throughout this debate on the amendment and it remains our position at the end.