During recent weeks when considering the implications of this Family Planning Bill many people have approached me, both by letter and in person. Some were critical of my point of view and some were appreciative of it. I must say that nobody has written to me in any abusive manner whatsoever. What I have had to say and what I have written has been received, even by those who would be critical of it, in as constructive a manner as one could have hoped for. That, unfortunately, has not been the experience of others but I can only speak for myself. I have been asked continually why are we discussing such a matter as family planning when both parts of this island have so many more serious matters to discuss and to consider at this very crucial time. Indeed, we must address ourselves urgently to the weak economy in the South and the subsidised economy in the North. We must work for an Ireland where there will be a viable economy for all, not dependent on outside sources of capital to sustain it.
We have not a problem, we have a tragedy which requires peacemaking and all our energy diverted into peacemaking. It would be quite wrong of me to stand here today, as a representative of what I have referred to often as the Irish minority tradition, and not say how deeply I have felt about the killings of the last two weeks, and I mean all the killings. I hope the House will excuse me if I make my point by having a very short silence before I continue.
We have a conflict in this country, not only of identity and of loyalty, but also of ethics. It is in this area that we must ask ourselves how significant the family planning Bill is. I suggest that looked at from a Southern perspective it may not be as significant as people might or should feel it is. In many ways it is a challenge to the Southern people to ask themselves whether they really want an Ireland that is able to embrace a diversity of traditions, not just Protestant, Catholic and other non-practising or non-Christian traditions, but the many sub-traditions which go with each of these denominations. When one sees the tension, the challenge, the conflict and the criticism which have been provoked by the passage of this relatively modest Bill through the Dáil and subsequently, one must ask whether there is the imagination — let alone the will—in the Republic to bring about unification with those who feel most threatened by it. Whether or not the Northern Protestant community, the loyalist community, want or believe in contraception — there are some who do not — nevertheless they see it as a right and a matter of choice. In looking at the overall perspective, in looking to the future, in trying to liberate a more independent attitude of mind towards coping with the problems that exist as we grope for new direction in the future, I feel that this is an important Bill. I share Senator McGuinness's appreciation that it has thus far passed through the Dáil and I hope it will pass through the Seanad.
In his speech to the Dáil the Minister outlined that it was attempting to make two fairly small amendments. I presume he meant by that that the medical profession would no longer be responsible for the dispensing of contraception in its entirety and, secondly, he was intending to extend the outlets for the purchase of contraceptives. He indicated that the aim was to produce a comprehensive family planning service. In common with many people he feels that there is a right in today's world to such a service. He highlighted the fact that the service which exists was located very much around Dublin and that a minority — about 25 per cent — of the chemists of Ireland were providing the service, as had been intended in the original Bill of 1979. As a medical professional a matter in that Act which I found somewhat difficult, perhaps almost offensive, was the bona fide element in it. We were being asked as a profession to prescribe family planning on certain bona fides, emphasising the need for family planning, and the need for medical care "where appropriate". I do not think our profession, which is concerned primarily with the curing of disease and marginally with its prevention, has had sufficient training to make value judgments as it was inevitable it would have to make on the bona fides of all people asking for family planning as outlined in the previous Bill. Therefore, I feel, in common with professional organisations, that that amendment is very welcome for professional reasons.
It is important to appreciate what a person perceives when he or she goes to a doctor. We tend to think of our health service and our health centre, which is a disease service served by disease centres because the profession is primarily concerned with disease. A healthy person going to such a doctor in his practice or going to such a centre, is going as though something is wrong with him, obtaining the label, so to speak, of disease. With the consumer society more and more people have been labelled diseased. In this area where we all need to develop a much more healthy attitude the last thing we want is to see it as a matter of going to the doctor to decide whether one should or should not have contraception other than specifically in those areas where the matter of disease is concerned.
Questions about morality have been raised and it is fair to point out that in this part of the country where there has not officially been contraception illegitimacy has risen from 2.7 per cent in 1971 to 6.8 per cent in 1983. In Northern Ireland in 1982 illegitimacy was 6.45 per cent and in the Republic 5.54 per cent per thousand live births. In 1983 3,700 abortions were carried out on Irish women in England and I understand that even since the passing of the constitutional amendment the abortion rate has not decreased as some had hoped, and as I hoped, regardless of whether it was passed.
Another interesting matter which has been highlighted in the debate in the Dáil is the fact that at the beginning of this century some 30 per cent of Irish men and 25 per cent of Irish women married over the age of 35 and by 1979 the groom in less than 7 per cent of such marriages was over that age. I add in parenthesis that I was 36 when I married. The point is that during that time and in recent years in spite of the lower age of marriage the number of children born to married couples has greatly diminished, which implies that contraception of some form or another is very much on the increase.
I listened with great interest to the contribution of Senator Jack Fitzsimons particularly because he had insights and a viewpoint and came from a tradition quite different from my own. In the Ireland of today we will go nowhere unless we can listen to the point of view of the other man who holds a perspective that is different for all sorts of reasons, historical, sociological, location, religious, schooling and so on. The sincerity with which the Senator spoke, spoke for itself and the contrast between his experience in early life and mine is so vast that sometimes I feel it ill behoves me to comment on what he said because his has been a life of struggle and mine has been a life of comparative ease. Therefore, I must listen to him and try to understand his feeling as well as his logic. He made the point that we cannot cope with matters as big as this entirely by logic; we must realise that instinct, feeling — conscience, if you like — is a very important and significant dimension to this debate.
I felt the Senator gave the authentic viewpoint of many people in rural Ireland. He stated that this legislation would be a radical departure from accepted standards and that standards have dropped in countries where contraception was employed. I suggest that these standards have already dropped in the terms to which he was referring and that a much bigger thing is going on in the world which is in part related to the new technology, in part related to 200 years of rational thinking, in part related to the increased speed of communication when people travel at the speed of sound and ideas at the speed of light, in part related to the much greater expectations kindled by the media penetrating everyone's home today, and the contrast between that and the reality wherever people live. There is a great deal of frustration and there is an almost outraged reaction to this frustration which has led to a departure — and I agree with the Senator here — from many of the standards which saw humankind through previous centuries. However, we should not forget that just as there is hypocrisy now there was much hypocrisy also in the past and perhaps we are fortunate that we can discuss these matters so much more openly and freely today and we can hold a different point of view. We can listen to the other person's point of view and we can try to accommodate it within the limited perspectives of our own.
The Senator also mentioned that sexual morality would collapse. He suggested it was like a tug-of-war, that up to this moment it had gone backwards and forwards and suddenly if contraceptives became readily available in Ireland sexual morality would collapse. I hope to deal with this later in as sensitive a manner as Senator Fitzsimons did in his address. We may at the end still differ but I think we would share the similar concerns. He said that it is not a defeat for the Church and I agree entirely with him on that. I hope never to see a debate such as this motivated by the need to defeat the Church.
In any healthy society we want a healthy and free tension between the wise men, the elders, those who hold authority for the moral law and also those who hold authority for legislating for the people as their elected representatives. However, perhaps it would be a good thing, if the Church were not exclusively consulted, were not consulted in the traditional fashion for once in the way in which it has normally been done. That does not mean that the Church should not be listened to. In my view the Church will never be in a strong position until it is clearly seen to be separate and the legislators are seen clearly to be separate from it. That may be a Protestant point of view, nevertheless there is a need for guidance, counselling, metaphysics, a need for the spiritual dimension in living, and we miss this at our peril if we ignore it. The Church, with centuries of thinking behind it, has a vital role to play in this whole need which man has and not only the Christian Churches or the Christian religion but also the global religions and the global holy men.
Senator Fitzsimons, very touchingly, referred to the opportunity he had received in life through the teaching role of the Christian Brothers and he generously paid them a tribute by saying that he would not be here today if it had not been for what he had received from them. He went on to say that he felt, therefore, obliged to listen to those who had given him guidance and opportunity when he was young. My difficulty with that is that as a person who was extremely unlikely to attend a Christian Brothers' school and whose children are certainly not likely to attend Christian Brothers' schools I must ask, if one extended that argument to its logical conclusion, whether we would not end up by denying those who did not belong to the particular religion of which the Christian Brothers are a part, certain rights of representation if they are to be represented by Catholic representatives? That, of course, begs the question which I will allude to in my summing up, of whether, pursuing that line of thought, a strident minority might not have to say, "Enough is enough, we will settle for secession or we will settle for consociation, the right to have two electoral roles, the right to have separate legislation." Anyone working towards a new Ireland does not want to work for that sort of Ireland, and I hope it will not become necessary.
He mentioned that birth control was not a safeguard for women, it was a licence for men. I would submit to him that there are negative and positive aspects to birth control, and I hope to refer to these later. In my choice in life, having made the choice, one can use it for constructive or destructive purposes. That is where understanding, awareness, counselling, communication and some help to know the possibilities of playing with fire come into the debate. I cannot accept that birth control cannot be a safeguard to women or that it must be a licence to men, and in fairness to Senator Fitzsimons I do not suppose he was stating it quite as stridently as that. Regarding artificial contraception one must ask the rather impossible question, would we prevent joyriding by prescribing cars? This may not be a very good comparison, but nevertheless there is some point in it.
I brought here today a three years record of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, in relation to the sexually transmitted diseases, and I will mention the most recent one for the year ending 31 December 1984. Much has been made of the fact that if we introduce contraception we will bring about an increase in venereal disease. Do not let us forget that venereal disease was rampant long before artificial contraception became available. Let us remember that it is readily accepted that condom contraception for any individual sexual act will reduce the incidence for that individual in that act of sexually transmitted disease. Senators may be appalled at these figures but they are the truth, and that is what we should be trying to deal with. Furthermore, let us acknowledge straight away that in Northern Ireland there is a much better collection of data in this area. There are three well known clinics, one in the Royal Victoria Hospital for the eastern area, one in Coleraine for the northern area and one in Altnagelvin for the western area. It would be unfair to say if the figures here are better or worse than these, that it is necessarily a reflection between equal collection of data. There were in the year 1984 in total 7,658 cases of sexually transmitted disease in Northern Ireland, of which 866 were caused by a condition known as candidiasis, an infection very common among married people. When we refer to that figure of 7,658 we are not talking entirely about casual sex nor are we talking entirely about sex outside of marriage.
Of the serious sexual conditions only one case of syphilis was a primary case. There were 28 cases altogether but some of these were not presented until many years after the initial infection. There were 350 odd cases of gonorrhoea and 2,805 cases of non-specific genital infection which is probably the commonest cause of sexually transmitted disease at present.
Over the years there has been an increase and the figures would represent an incidence of about 1 to 1.5 per cent of the population drainage. That is where we start. There is an argument which says that contraception will prevent those diseases being transmitted. There is another argument that provision of contraception brings temptation more readily to fruition, therefore there will be more permissive sexual activity and therefore the incidence of disease will increase. I have already referred to the fact that permissive sexual activity is certainly not simplistically related to the presence or absence of contraception.
An interesting article in relation to the Act which is in existence appeared inThe Sunday Tribune, in 1982. I would like to record for the Seanad some of the points that were raised: One, only 15 per cent of Irish chemists at that stage were stocking contraceptives. I understand that has risen to some 25 per cent now. Two, 80 per cent of contraceptives used were illegally supplied. The law was not properly policed in this instance. Three, at least three major clinics were operating without licence required under the Act. Four, none of the health boards had provided their own family planning clinic at that stage as envisaged under the Act. Five, vast areas of the country, as we have heard this morning, have no adequate family planning service. The Sunday Tribune contacted organisations and health bodies involved in the provision of family planning services, health boards, private clinics, the Irish Nurses Organisation, the IMA, and the Irish Pharmaceutical Unit and main distributors of imported contraceptives. It was generally stated that the Act was not working and the laws were being ignored and the whole thing was inoperable.
This, perhaps, is not surprising when we read in John Healy's column on a recent Monday that 30 million condoms have been imported since the original Act came into operation. In 1981 150,000 people had attended the private family planning clinics based in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick, plus many more who had come North, as can be verified by anybody working in this area. In the Act such clinics could provide advice but they were not entitled to supply or sell artificial contraceptives. As Senators all know, only pharmacists could do that and only on a doctor's prescription, yet all the comprehensive clinics in those towns referred to in the article provided a full comprehensive service. Two clinics were working without the licence required of them. One clinic applied for a licence, did not receive it and was still working when the article was written in 1982. Fewer than 200 of the 1,200 pharmacists stocked contraceptives at that time although this number has now increased. The head of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, Mr. Charlie Roche in 1982 was quoted as saying:
The Department of Health are well aware of the breaches but they obviously want to take no responsibility for this particular piece of legislation. [The 1979 Act]
The Act makes a mockery of the legislative process because the Department of Health are turning a blind eye to the breaches. This Act will probably just fade away, because nobody is prepared to abide by it and the Department does not seem to care whether they do or not.
Dr. Rynne, the well known family planning physician, was quoted as saying:
No more than 10 per cent of the country's doctors were operating the Act effectively. Information, instruction, advice and consultation on methods of family planning that do not require contraceptives was demanded of health boards. Even such natural family planning facilities are apparently very thin on the ground.
In the survey carried out by Irish Market Surveys Limited, a document was prepared for the Health Education Bureau entitled "Public Attitudes Towards Family Planning" dated March 1984. Page 27, paragraph 5 states:
Satisfaction with the Present Laws relating to the Sale of Contraceptives.
Over twice as many Irish adults are dissatisfied with the present legal situation regarding the sale of contraceptives as are satisfied with thestatus quo. Just over one-quarter of the total adult population have no firm view on the current legal situation.
Page 31 states:
Perceived Government Role in the Provision of Family Planning Clinics.
There is overwhelming approval of the idea of the Government setting up family planning clinics amongst the 18-50 year old population represented in the survey. Fully nine out of every ten respondents were in favour of the notion of the Government setting up specific family planning clinics as part of Health Board Clinics throughout the country. Only 4 per cent opposed the idea while a residual 7 per cent had no clear opinion one way or the other.
It should be clear to anyone that the legislation as it exists was not a legislation which was being enforced. It is extremely doubtful if it could be enforced. It was not legislating for reality as perceived by the vast majority of the childbearing population.
This brings me back to the question of the law and the Church, the law and the State. It has always seemed to me that the Churches duty in a country such as ours is to hold aloft the moral ideals towards which we should strive but for which none of us is strong enough to live by. We try to live by them but inevitably we fail. The Christian message is that, having failed, there is a means of reintegration of the person who has become fragmented through the process of failure, guilt, remorse and worse.
I maintain it is the duty of the State to legislate by taking into account our imperfections, by recognising the imperfections, by dealing with them in the most realistic and understanding way and at the same time to try to do it in such a way that it does not impose any obligation on any person to conflict with the moral law. The moral law and those who are concerned about the interpretation of moral law must give the signposts, the pointers to try to give society its hope and cohesion. The State law must recognise our limitations and must be able to legislate to cope with the reality. The reality must inevitably be a mix between the imperfection of life and the ideal towards which we strive.
We talk a lot about law and order these days. Sometimes we overlook the need to relate it to justice and equal opportunity. When we talk about justice and equal opportunity we are also talking about perceptions because perceptions differ depending upon where and how we live. Perceptions are related to locality, to the sectarian nature of our upbringing, to the social background, to community demands and loyalties. They are also related to our religious upbringing, our religious teaching, our perspectives of being an Irishman and of belonging to a community in Ireland. If we are going to insist on law and order we have to ask ourselves is this law policable and if it is not policable if by changing it will we violate seriously the feelings of people who do not want to see the law changed?
There is a difficulty in this Bill because among many of the Catholic people in Ireland the idea of artificial birth control is so abhorrent that they feel that their feelings could be trampled on in this respect. I must re-emphasise that there is nothing in this Bill which is obliging any man to deviate from a conscientiously held viewpoint. There is much about this Bill which is signalling to minorities in Ireland that Ireland can be a society in which diversity can flourish, in which different traditions can gain from each other and in which perhaps those who do not belong to the tradition that might be insistent on no family planning might even in time learn from it, andvice versa.
It is good that there should be tension between the law as it exists and the morality as it is pronounced, between order and freedom. In the final analysis are we not trying to create a society which blends the right to be with the need to belong? As one 20th century philosopher has put it, "The essence of man is the conflict between being a part of and apart from nature or the natural world." As soon as man said no for the first time then he broke from his natural instinctive environment and started to use reason. This is his dilemma. That tension is inevitable in the state of man. We as legislators must consider it and not imagine that man is in a natural state of bliss. Paradise has not yet been regained and there is a long way to go before it is.
I suggest that the criminal law cannot cover the moral law in a multifaceted society. We have to ask ourselves as we legislate, are we prepared to accommodate those with minority views or are we only endeavouring to tolerate them? If we are not prepared to accommodate, if we are not prepared to tolerate, what are we doing? Are we saying that they must be excluded? Are we saying they must be isolated and if you go down that road must they be imprisoned or even worse, as we have seen in this century, the end product of such zenophobic thinking.
Serious concern has been expressed that pushing through this Bill has been a negation of democracy because of the way in which it has come through relatively quickly and the Whips have been applied. Senator McGuinness made a point about the Whips and she does not make a distinction between sexual morality and morality in general. Nevertheless, I would say to her in response that I feel there is a serious point at issue here and that those who are concerned about having their social power hijacked from them by the ballot box and then used by the political party system have every right to feel concerned about party political parliamentary democracy as practised in these islands.
We have a long way to go yet before we practise the democracy of the founding fathers which was an invitation to take the people into partnership. That, of course, demands a new look at the whole dimension of community democracy and institutional democracy as well as parliamentary democracy. Perhaps the critics of this Bill have done us a service by highlighting some of the apparent contradictions when one discusses the philosophy of democracy and democratic representation which come about when one looks at the way in which party political democracy is exercised and used in these islands at present.
Senator McGuinness emphasised the point about youth, that youth can fight, youth can vote, youth are expected to take full citizenship at 18 years of age but youth are not thought to be trusted with the right to choose in relation to sexual matters. I feel that, just as old men need to be challenged, so youth need to have the counselling of the wisdom that comes through experience and living. Certainly I feel that we should ask ourselves are we, in fact, communicating with our youth, are we sharing with them our experience honestly? Are we helping them to find out what happens when you compromise the integrity of human relationships so that they can come to a more informed position, a more sensitively tuned intuition in relation to things that they can get involved in in their early years and rue for all sorts of reasons later on?
We should ask ourselves in this age when women have at long last insisted on their right to speak and their right to be heard whether, in fact, their position was not due to the centuries old idea that it was the man who provided the seed and it was only with the discovery of the ovum that suddenly one began to realise — it took generations to penetrate into the consciences of men — that the female was as necessary as the male to come together combining to create a new life, that they were equal partners but that they certainly had not had an equal voice in affairs. By "equal" I do not mean the same. It is the equality of difference I am referring to. The woman's viewpoint is not heard from the pulpit; it is not so easily heard from the pew; it is not heard in the political arena as stridently as men's, although that is gradually changing. I wonder if we have listened sufficiently in this debate to what our women have to say.
To legislate against contraception in this day and age is not only to take a flight from reality. It is also to pretend that contraception is the major cause for what has been referred to as permissiveness or extra-marital sex, but one might equally legislate to make the sharing of cars after sundown a criminal offence. There are many areas of life in which the temporary bonding of two people, who are not bonded with enduring affection for each other, needs to be looked at again. In a country without divorce could we not consider compassionately what happens to the deserted wife, the woman who is relatively young and who comes to politicians in their clinics — I understand this is a matter which is increasingly prevalent at constituency level — and who presents to them the fact that she has a family, her man has left her, she wants to bond with another man, she does not want to have an illegitimate child and she seeks some form of contraceptive aid. All of these problems confront us. I feel that this Bill is at least making it more likely that we will be able to come to terms with them and come to understand them better because we will begin to talk about them more freely.
I share the concern of those with teenage children in today's Ireland. There is much confusion, much despair, much futility associated with our endeavour. Such does not exclude our educational process. Doubt about tomorrow has replaced the certainty of yesterday, leaving people very unsure today. No longer is there a secure constraining ethos which we disobey at our peril in the social sense. Today's penalties and today's restraints are much more subtle and in some sense much more devastating. We are reaping what we have sown. To play with fire is to risk being consumed by it. Youngsters today have been thrown back on themselves, the products of a generation of confused parents, the failure to distinguish between the integrity of a true existentialism and the falsehood of permissiveness in the sixties has left many without philosophy and some without sanity.
Are we who indulged in the excesses of the sixties in a position to moralise for our children in the eighties? I believe only if we are able to accept ourselves for what we are and share our experience with our children so that they may not suffer from what many of us have suffered. Those of us who have fought through the pain of the permissive experience and what it means and demands in terms of reintegration of the person in the family situation and in the community situation in relation to the need for redemption for guilt and remorse, which would otherwise be self-destructive, have a duty not to hide it from this generation because if there is nothing else that they abhor, they abhor hypocrisy. We need to look at what we mean by the permissive society and how we distinguish between permissiveness and existentialism.
Jean Paul Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir were transparently honest with themselves as existentialists, with each other and with the world. They set out to deceive no one. That was the key to their living and yet many were deceived by them. It takes enormous personal courage, determination and integrity to break with the morass of the society to which we belong and not suffer guilt and remorse. It is often too late for youth to appreciate this through recourse to deception and through an almost inevitable compromise in the integrity of human inter-relationship. This guilt and remorse ferments — I speak with feeling as a clinician who has seen it often — and later becomes anxiety and depression in the middle years. Anxiety and depression seek anxiolytics and tranquilisers and other therapy. It is important, therefore, to help our young people to understand the possibility of conflagration before they put a match to the kindling of their temptations. It is also important to let them know how to cope with the conflagration and how to know that the scorched earth can still grow roses again if we are prepared to plant them and to nurture them.
This is where I agree with Senator Fitzsimons because even those of us who want the Irish people to have family planning in a way which has been brought forth in this Bill, are aware that there are dangers as well as positives. Are we prepared to face the dangers, the implications, the negatives as well as the positives? If we are not then one must have some sympathy with Senator Fitzsimons' point of view. Are our holy men, our learned men, our wise men, our elders, we of a former generation who have had the experience of youth, prepared to share honestly? Have we the courage and openness to share honestly our experience so that they can then come to a more informed position in relation to their own future and their own choices?
We must share this experience, rather than just express our fears. We must share our insights rather than impose a set of rules so that our young generation in an ethnically, socially and nationally mobile world may establish for themselves a code which values truth and integrity, making and exercising choices that lead to emotional growth and development rather than emotional desiccation and unnatural restraint on the one hand or emotional distortion through compromise on the other.
I return to the lessons of the sixties and the early seventies by quoting from a letter which I wrote to one of my critics this week.
Perhaps I am naive in believing that it is only through teaching that is holistic in concept through communication that is core to core, central rather than polite and peripheral, where real person speaks to real person and, most of all, by accepting honestly our own failure in the past, combined with an attempt to give example in the present, that we may persuade our young people about the integrity of relationships in all aspects of morality but, in particular, in relation to sexual morality so that they may grow into loving relationships that will endure all the difficulties ultimately of marriage in the very highly complex contemporary world.
I meet these young people in the clinical situation and, perhaps because one has their confidence in that situation, they will open up to one. In relation to their need for penetrating and open communication concerning sexuality and sexual morality their upbringing has often been woefully lacking. We are terribly inhibited in Ireland. Our teachers are inhibited, our clergy are inhibited, our parents are inhibited in sharing with them the disasters of our own life because we want everybody to think that we have had none.
Such failures seem to relate across the board. Even in this so-called enlightened age there is much unnecessary guilt. I emphasise that. We are a guilt-ridden society — much of it unnecessary — for the natural outcome of relatively harmless experimentation by youngsters who have no other way of knowing, because their elders are too frightened, too insecure, too restrained, too uninformed, too timid to share in trust with them or, perhaps, may I say it, too ashamed. How many of their mentors talk through the implications, for example of masturbation? Kinsey in the fifties stated that almost all boys aged 15 years had achieved orgasm with or without a partner in the selection that he took in North America. He went on to say masturbation was widely practised and homosexual experience by no means rare. A later English study confirmed his findings.
John Healy brought the unmentionable to our attention in his compassionate plea in Monday'sIrish Times on behalf of the prisoners and their partners, as he said, denied the sacrament of marriage, the guiltless as well as the guilty, “For the husband in his cell and the wife in her bedroom you turn to the wall to commit the old sad sin of loneliness, confess it and get on with it”. There are many lonely people in Ireland today.
Then there is the question of the relationship in which intercourse has accentuated the failure of completeness rather than inducing the feeling of union, fragmented relationship, unresolved negative feelings, instinct distorted by compromise, blunted integrity. In short, the feelings of guilt which I have mentioned suppressed and unredeemed are the seeds — let me emphasise this — of anxiety, depression and, worse, impotence and frigidity in later life. Where are the mentors, the elders, the holy men, the parents, even the leaders willing to share openly their insights with the young or do we feel, because we fear, the real person might be revealed when we take off the mask?
No law can deal with these matters and law as it exists, that masks reality, as it is experienced only adds comedy to the tragedy that is the emotional condition of Ireland today. The law as it stands seems to be nonsense. It cannot be policed and it pretends to legislate for a state of affairs quite different from that which is known to exist. The State should have laws which reflect reality in relation to the degree of restraint that it can apply based as closely as possible on a philosophy of its wise men.
The law that is now proposed may run the risk, and indeed is running the risk, of violating the feelings to which I have referred of those who believe that legislation can effectively protect us from ourselves. Even though this flies in the face of perceived reality it will not oblige anyone, however, to deviate one degree from conscientiously held principle in relation to sexual morality.
I must therefore say that honesty in teaching, communication, sharing an example are the best means of inculcating standards of integrity in relation to morality in general and sexual morality in particular. They must be developed in parallel with this Bill throughout Ireland. In this respect the Churches have a duty to all their followers to hold aloft the Christian ideal, just as we have an obligation to legislate as we think best, taking into account the multiplicity of people, the multiplicity of outlooks we now have in relation to the world in which we live.
The passing of this Bill will not accelerate the process of Irish unity — let us be quite clear about that — but failure to pass it will entrench perceptions of Southern society in Northern minds and reinforce partitionist attitudes as a result. As in so much else in life, the passing of the Bill can have bad as well as good effects, just as the failure to pass it could have good as well as bad effects. If we espouse the technological world, however, it is increasingly difficult to see how we can reject one aspect of it, particularly one aspect which is so compelling of it. There was a time, perhaps, before the advent of technology, when the world seemed under-populated and then Malthus came along and showed us that over-population would lead inevitably to poverty and to confusion and advocated the unmentionable, the idea of birth control. There was then an understandable advantage for any group throughout the world in refusing birth control. To advocate such a viewpoint today is only to accentuate the disastrous consequences of population in relation to the distribution of available resources.
There is much that is anti new life and anti-life that we might address ourselves to before we are too strident in opposing that which controls life force. Many of us who opposed the recent amendment of the Constitution remain utterly opposed to abortion. Even those of us who are trained to be able to do it, would not be able to countenance it in our own experience; nevertheless not all who are anti-abortion and claim to be pro-life or opposed to nuclear armaments or conscious of the natural world that we are destroying and earnest about the need to preserve rather than to destroy, conserve rather than to squander, develop rather than exploit are opposed to the death penalty. What, might we ask, do we feel about legalised killing? Restore the natural world, control the technological world, converthomo mechanicus back to homo sapiens and then see how the world resources in terms of a “share today, conserve for tomorrow” philosophy will stand up in relation to the politics of distribution, to the challenge of population. Only then will we be able realistically to turn the clock back and say that contraception should not be practised. If by then it seems we have settled, however, for transformation rather than apocalypse — which at times seems more likely — if by then humankind has absorbed a global ethic of life, preservation and life promotion, then in relation to our development and our survival, perhaps we shall say life force can be adequately controlled by restraint rather than contraception.
Short of "Paradise Regained," however, it seems only sensible that contraception should be promoted rather than prevented in a world of, 6,000 million, going on 8,000 million people, many of whom are starving. If we are concerned that by legislating for contraception we are legislating for the road to ruin, what about France, which has one of the most cultivated, self-confident and resilient people in the world? Kevin Myers, perhaps, caught the spirit of these wonderful people in his "Irelandv. France Special” in last Saturday's Irish Times: I sat beside a Frenchman from Juan les Pins at the international rugby match and I showed him that article. He shook my hand, as Frenchmen do, and he said, “It is amazing; we get plenty of whiskey but we cannot but shock the Irish people with our view about matters of sex.” In Kevin Myers' article he did, in fact, highlight some of our contradictions, or at least make us look at ourselves and perhaps for a moment laugh at ourselves. France is a Catholic country and it is a true republic, one of the great republics of the world where Church and State are separate and both seem to have survived in spite of contraception.
I will conclude by alluding briefly to the implications with regard to the New Ireland Forum and its message. Whatever the path for Ireland in the future, whether it takes the path of one of the three options outlined in the Forum report, or considers the fourth option, the one which suggested that the people of the Republic should still be open to other ideas and other ways, it is important to prepare the way by indicating to those most threatened that there will be a place for them, that their viewpoints, their feelings can be accommodated and not by compromising the viewpoints and feelings of those who disagree with them, but by living with them and working with them and allowing the law to embrace any significant minority and to encourage those who are in a position to educate, to communicate and develop, to help young people deal with what the law cannot deal with.
It is time to legislate for reality and in so doing to face up to the implications of the importation of some 10 million condoms per annum, plus the equivalent in other forms of contraception — never mind the people who travel to Northern Ireland to get them. In doing so, lest we should overlook it, let us remember that this Bill does not interfere with conscientiously held beliefs. If by the age of 18, as I said recently, the conscience is not yet informed, then it is timely to ask ourselves if we have been as open, as honest, as communicative, as understanding, as sharing as we should have been. If, however, in spite of the contraceptive statistics and of the statistics of the opinion poll, Senators were to be pressured to respond in conscience to the demand of Catholic moral teaching, then we should ask them to say so.
Senator Fitzsimons has indicated to us clearly the position of the informed Catholic conscience. I have been sensitive to that. I read his speech, thought about it a lot and have endeavoured, perhaps falteringly, to try in some way to respond to it. In other words, we must ask ourselves, do we seek to underpin majority rule in the South as well as we have it in the North? You may not like the idea I am suggesting: there might be a Catholic Irish form of majority rule. But you do not have to look further than the predicament of the Northern minority to know what I mean. I would ask you, are you only prepared to tolerate rather than accommodate minorities, excluding from them rights which such minorities feel in conscience that they should have?
Will Senators vote in such a way as to lend support to the view that the Irish people, particularly those living here, would prefer to have a Catholic State? This should be said loud and clear, if it were true. Then we would have to cope with Partition from a different perspective. Some of us, however, would say, sadly, that we have heard all this before in the part of Ireland in which we live and we have lived to rue it — that majority rule, the Protestant, British form of it, was allowed to reign for so long, and apparently in perpetuity without the prospect of change, without the accommodation needed, without the tolerance of the minority that should have been given. But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Should majority rule prove to be all right for the South, then why not for the North? The main sufferer in such a scenario would, of course, be the Northern Catholic community.
Let us not forget that we live in a world of high technology. Western man has exploited the people of the earth to sustain its consumption of its resources. Hailed as an advance, his technology has brought with it the prospect of nuclear holocaust and ecological disaster. It has also allowed the conditions for population explosion. While people increasingly urge transformation as the alternative to apocalypse, we must face reality while we wait. We cannot in sense accept those aspects of our technology which have consumed resources and led to a multiplied population and then reject the possibility also offered of population control. In any case, short of planning, acordon condomaire around the ports and along the Border contraception is here to stay. There is no way that we can, King Canute style, roll back the prospect of contraception. The law should recognise this, not only that it is here but that Catholic people as well as Protestant people and dissenting people and others believe in conscience that it is right to have it. The question must therefore be posed: should non-Catholics be satisfied, by a system of representation that results in a representative feeling that it is his or her duty to respond to the teaching of the Catholic ethos and the Catholic Hierarchy?
The great thing that has happened in the debate in the Dáil is that the Deputies have stood up and have, with considerable courage, challenged what has been up to now the conventional response to the conventional wisdom of the leading Church in Ireland. That is a healthy sign. It means we are adopting a more independent attitude and approach and we are encouraging that healthy tension that should exist not of takeover by Church of State or State of Church but that the one should be in a symbiotic relationship with the other, co-partners seeking things from a different point of view not only here and now but in the cosmic relationship also. We were told that our politicians were strictly bound to take account of what the Bishops taught where that touched on faith and morals. I would ask what is intended by the phrase "take account" when preceded by the qualification "strictly bound". Does this suggest that politicians should follow because they are "strictly bound" or should lead because they have only to "take account"? At last we have seen an indication that the latter is at least of equal importance with the former. If the people in the Republic do not expect a lead in this respect, the people of the North, especially those who yearn for Irish unity, most certainly are looking for such a lead.
With regard to the psychological, social and pathological effects of contraceptive usage do the people of the Republic have grounds to support the inference that those who walk the streets of Belfast are any more morally depraved than those who walk the streets of Dublin? If one looks at the figures of illegitimacy, for sex outside of marriage, even if we were able to collect the figures for venereal disease — I have only been able to give the Northern ones — one wonders if there is that much difference between that part of Ireland and the rest of Ireland when one part has had contraception and the other part has not. That is not to say that there has not been a great disintegration in the fabric of Northern society. Of course there has been. There are many reasons for that, not least of which is the terrible struggle in which we are at present involved and which has taken such a toll of life and limb.
I would emphasise that in sexual morality as in all matters of morality we pay a high price for compromise in our relationships. In compromising we can play with fire. Many people are not so aware until much later when they suffer those feelings to which I alluded earlier. A broken relationship is all too often a break in trust. A half-hearted relationship is also an indication of lack of trust. A break in trust in the long run leads to broken people unless those people can come to terms with themselves and those they have let down through the process which I have already alluded to and which surely is the role of those who are trying to get across to us the message of forgiveness through the Christian process and the understanding of Christ's message.
Contraceptives may indeed make the sexual act easier to contemplate for many. Let us be clear, however, that it is the integrity of the act, not the contraceptives, that matters, whether it leads to emotional growth or emotional distortion with all the pathological effects that can have. One indisputable fact about contraception is that it would go a long way to preventing the entry into this world of an unwanted child. Another is the one that I have already emphasised that it will go some distance in preventing sexually transmitted disease for any particular isolated act. Another fact is that many sincere people hold the view that the sexual act is an expression of something infinitely precious which is not exclusively related in today's world — the world that we have created around us — to the need to procreate. In this complex and, at times, overwhelming state of affairs of our world today, the tender expression of love culminating in the sexual act is a most precious gift of God. Why should this be denied by fear of conception to those people with genuine feelings of concern for world overcrowding and starvation, let alone feelings of concern for family size in the midst of so much social fragmentation and instability? Let us face it, people are concerned to equip their children to cope with this increasingly complex and corruptive society of which we are all a part.
With regard to the increasing number of casual relationships, we might pause to ask if something has gone wrong with the tender care in the home and in the school and in the community, whether contraception has not become a means of coming to terms with an unsatisfactory social milieu and a less than satisfactory appreciation of the sanctity of human relationships. Alienation is the "in" word; powerlessness and isolation might be better ways of expressing it. The increasing number of casual, sexual relationships are symptomatic of loneliness and futility on the one hand, a yearning to relate however fleetingly in a manner that is a reflection of the materialism and the consumerism that has gone with it in a world which has been exploited by so many things, the world which we live in today. Sex like so many things has become a commodity.
I do not believe that we can seriously contemplate the reduction of sex outside of marriage unless we are also contemplating genuinely a changed society. It is in that context that I would ask Senators to consider family planning as something that we have got to legislate for at the same time as we take the opportunity to look at the albatross that we have created for ourselves, this confused society that does not know really where it is going. The two things go hand-in-hand. The enormous increase in the instance of venereal disease after the first World War had certainly nothing to do with contraception. Rather was it the product of those socially destructive forces that led people to have socially fragmented relationships. It was not insignificant that contraceptives were allocated to certain armies in the 1939-45 war to prevent infection, and the incidence of sexually transmitted disease was, I understand reduced in consequence. The social milieu in which sexually transmitted disease along with other social aberrations flourishes must be analysed in order to prevent it. Today we observe increasing marriage break-ups and nervous breakdowns. The instance of mental illness is high. Vandalism and violent crime are escalating; unemployment has reached a level unknown for generations. The gap between expectations and reality is vast and frustration mounts all round as a result. Loss of integrity and trust in sexual relationships is only a reflection of loss of integrity and trust in all our relationships and cannot be divorced from this, the loss of trust in human relationships in general. What, for example, is the moral teaching on usury which is mentioned in Psalm 15? It is condemned in the Bible. Yet, our society floats on it as people are persuaded to buy things they do not really need, with money they have not got, to enhance illusions that are false.
I submit that contraception is a fact of life. It is a fact of a technological age. It is a by-product of the philosophy of that age which has brought us to this point and until we come to grips with what we are doing to life, love and living, there is no other way than to accept that it is a reality and it is here to stay, to accept that having fought through the great issues of the day, many people in conscience believe in birth control while they are prepared to listen to the argument of those who do not, and to accept in the Irish context that the present legislation is to those who are outside this jurisdiction something which could be ridiculed easily as it does not cope with reality and that the proposed legislation is an attempt to come to grips with that reality in a very modest fashion. I will certainly be voting for and supporting the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill, 1985.