Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 14 Feb 1985

Vol. 355 No. 12

Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill, 1985: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

As the explanatory memorandum circulated to Deputies makes clear, the purpose of this Bill is to make two very limited amendments to the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979. The amendments are nevertheless significant and constitute the minimum necessary to provide an acceptable frame work for the provision of a comprehensive family planning service for all those who require such service.

By way of introduction to an account of the intended effects of this measure, I wish to remind all Deputies that this Government entered into office on the basis of a programme which included "a review of the operation of the present family planning legislation with a view to providing full family planning advice and facilities in all cases, where needed". On coming to office I initiated a detailed review of the operation of the 1979 Act which had been brought into operation on 1 November 1980. That Act provided that contraceptives might be sold only in accordance with ministerial regulations, by chemists selling them in their shops to persons who had obtained a prescription or authorisation from a doctor. That prescription or authorisation was to be issued where the doctor considered that the contraceptives were sought bona fide, for family planning purposes or for adequate medical reasons and in appropriate circumstances. As the House will recall — if I may disgress from my script — there was no definition whatsoever of the term "bona fide" in the famous solution of that 1979 Act.

The review of the operation of the Act conducted by my Department showed that under licences issued by successive Fianna Fáil and Coalition Ministers for Health, including myself, approximately 30 million condoms have in fact been imported into this country in the period since November 1980. The review also indicated that they are being sold in just over one quarter of chemist shops and in family planning clinics of which there are few. In fact there are approximately 14 locations in terms of family planning clinics, nine of which are in the greater Dublin area. There were significant areas of the country where there were no outlets selling contraceptives. This meant that the ability of couples to avail themselves of a full range of family planning services — as is their right — was severely curtailed in many instances through lack of sources of supply or uncertainty as to their availability in specific pharmacies.

The Act envisaged that the primary source for information and advice on family planning matters would be the general practitioner and, for a variety of reasons, this is the ideal context within which family planning services should be provided. However, it is clear that not all doctors are willing or are in a position to provide a full family planning service to their patients. This extends in some cases to a refusal to provide authorisations for non-medical contraceptives under the Act.

It is also clear that a further significant number of doctors have little or no training in family planning and are able to provide, at best, a limited service. The uneven distribution of family planning services is reflected in the significant number of patients who travel long distances to attend the family planning clinics which received consent to operate under the Act. Visitors from other counties account for from 15 per cent to 45 per cent. Arising from this review the Government were therefore convinced that certain changes in the legislation would be necessary to provide a responsible and acceptable degree of access to family planning services and contraceptives in particular.

I was also aware of considerable dissatisfaction within the medical profession at the provisions of the existing legislation requiring doctors to issue prescriptions for non-medical contraceptives. In this they were cast in a role which had nothing to do with their medical training or skill. They were cast in the role of moral arbiters, whose authority could be invoked, or rather abused, to overcome the problems stemming from the avoidance of a direct and honest approach in the existing legislation.

In July 1983 I received representations from the Irish Medical Association that the present Act be amended as a matter of urgency. At their annual general meeting on 9 November 1983 the Medical Union passed two motions demanding that the Government revise the Family Planning Act and make family planning available to those who need it through their general practitioners and that the Government introduce a comprehensive Family Planning Bill without delay. Indeed reservations on this point had been cogently expressed by Deputy O'Connell, who in the debate on the 1979 Act said, and I quote from col. 373 of the Official Report of 28 February 1979:

The role and the function of doctors are at stake. Doctors are not human dispensing machines for condoms and must not be regarded as such. If this Bill is passed, it will make them so.

I fully share this view of Deputy O'Connell, who was Labour Party spokesman on Health on that occasion and who voted against the 1979 Act. The Deputy went on to state concerning persons required to visit their general practitioner — I quote from col. 374 of the Official Report of 28 February 1979:

They will come from the youngest and healthiest sector of our community. We are needlessly turning them into patients, turning them into dependants. This is what will be achieved by this Bill. It is a total contradiction of the admirable stance of the Department of Health and the Health Education Bureau in the matter of individual responsibility for health.

In considering the question of amendments to this Act the Government have had regard to a number of general issues which have a bearing on the availability of contraceptives. There has been a significant increase in extra-marital sexual activity resulting in an increase in illegitimate births, from the point in 1971 where they constituted 2.7 per cent of all births to the point where they accounted for more than 6.8 per cent in 1983. Furthermore, there has been a two-fold increase between 1962 and 1981 in the proportion of marriages in a calendar year to which a birth is registered in the same year, suggesting a corresponding increase in premarital conceptions. The sources of this data can be made available to Members from my Department during the course of this debate.

The changes in sexual mores responsible for such changes are many and complex. But I, as Minister for Health, must be guided by grave health considerations, including the avoidance of unwanted pregnancies which, as we all know, may result in great tragedy. A study of 200 unmarried mothers who delivered their babies in St. James's Hospital Dublin, in 1980 found that, while 64 per cent were having sex on a regular basis, only 18 per cent regularly used any form of contraceptive. It is not the use of contraception and the influence of sex education which has brought about this situation but rather, I submit, the virtual absence of both.

Hear, hear.

For those who have an unwanted pregnancy the option of seeking an abortion in Britain is all too real. In 1983 abortions were performed on 3,700 women who gave an Irish address; many other Irish women I am sure gave other addresses. We know that to be true even from a casual investigation. The figures available for the first half of 1984 suggest that the number is still rising substantially. I can give the figures for the first two quarters of 1984 and, ironically, after the referendum debate the number of abortions increased.

The great majority of these women are single and those most likely to have an abortion are aged between 20 and 30 years and resident in the greater Dublin area. A confidential study conducted by the Medico-Social Research Board in 1983, the data of which is available to Deputies, has shown that the great majority of single girls having an abortion had not used any form of contraception. Surely this is stark evidence of the need for the amendments proposed in this Bill and for the need for education towards responsible sexual behaviour.

In approaching the question of amending the present legislation the Members of this House must be aware that we are living in a society where extra-marital sexual activity, though perhaps less common than in some other European countries, is still significant. There are many reasons for this and we can evaluate it on moral and social grounds — but, as legislators, we cannot ignore the consequences. In the course of the divisive amendment debate in 1983 I expressed the view that one test of the sincerity of those who supported the amendment would be in future the provision of adequate access to family planning services for those who require it. Of course, I recognise that this is only a partial response and that education in mature relationships is, at least, of parallel importance. It is nonetheless relevant and I urge Deputies who join with me and the Government in their abhorrence of abortion to remember that the abortion option is increasingly chosen by those who become pregnant outside marriage.

Following mature consideration of all of the relevant factors the Government have decided to bring forward the Bill which is now before the House. The substantive amendments are contained in section 2. In order to increase the availability of contraceptives, especially in areas where chemists choose not to stock them, I am adding a strictly limited number of other groups who will also be entitled to sell contraceptives. First, general practioners will in future be entitled, if they so desire, to sell contraceptives at the place where they ordinarily carry out their professional duties. Second, employees of health boards, acting as designated employees of such, will be enabled to sell contraceptives at a health institution which would include such places as hospitals and health centres. Third, persons who have received my consent — and the consent of former Ministers — to provide a family planning service under section 3(3) of the 1979 Act will in future be entitled to sell contraceptives at the place at which they are providing the service. Fourth, I have made provision for designated employees of certain hospitals to sell contraceptives at these hospitals. It is obviously desirable that maternity hospitals, where advice on family planning is given on a routine basis to those who seek it, should be in a position to make available at the hospital contraceptives which may be required by patients. This is simpler and much more practical than requiring patients to obtain advice in one place and supplies elsewhere. Similar arguments apply to permitting the sale of non-medical contraceptives in hospitals treating patients with sexually transmitted diseases.

I believe that the extended list of permitted sales outlets will go as far as is reasonably necessary to remedy the obvious inadequacies in present availability while maintaining a firm degree of statutory control on the possible outlets which most people would wish to see. With this measure, it will be possible to exert and implement responsible control over the situation rather than the current ambiguities under the 1979 Act. The Fianna Fáil spokesman on Health said that this Bill "will lead to the widespread indiscriminate sale of non-medical contraceptives".

"Distribution" was the word I used.

We can correct the record, as I have the Deputy's statement in my bag.

I have corrected the Minister now. I would not cast reflections on the people who will be selling contraceptives.

Deputy O'Hanlon will have an opportunity of making his contribution later on.

I will have little difficulty in tracking down the Deputy's statement and I will correct the record, if necessary, at the end of my speech. However, I am reasonably certain that that is the Deputy's statement which, ironically, he put out without having a parliamentary party meeting. I suppose he consulted his leader.

We do not know what will come out of the Minister's bag.

Clearly, the limited number of types of outlets for the sale of contraceptives, all of them involving highly responsible individuals and institutions, is a very far cry indeed from the picture painted by Deputy Rory O'Hanlon.

The second major change contained in section 2 is that any of the designated persons may sell contraceptive sheaths or spermicides to a person over 18 years without their having to produce a doctor's prescription for them. This is eminently reasonable since it has never been practicable or desirable to require medical practitioners to prescribe the use of devices of this nature to adults and I see no good reason for retaining such a requirement. It is an affront to the ordinary citizen and it is offensive to patients and to doctors. I have noted the statement by the Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation on Monday last that he believed that doctors generally would welcome this Bill. It is not unreasonable that we should adopt in this Bill 18 years as the legal minimum age to permit persons to buy these items in their own right. Eighteen has been accepted as the age at which it is appropriate for them, for example, among other roles, to elect the Members of this House. To retain the prescription requirement for non-medical contraceptives for adults would be legislative hypocrisy.

Prescriptions will, of course, continue to be required for the supply of all other forms of contraceptives, because medical advice, assistance and monitoring is required in their use. In that context, a substantial portion of the 1974 Act is retained and it is appropriate to do so.

Section 3 of the Bill provides for the short title, citation and its being construed as one with the other Health Acts. This section also provides that the Act shall come into force on such day as the Minister may by order appoint. It would be my intention to make such an order within a reasonable period of the Bill becoming law.

Deputies will have noted that the Bill has been seen as raising the spectre of serious, detrimental moral change in our society. I cannot accept such views. I would use the same terms to such people as the then Minister for Health and the present Leader of the Opposition used when introducing the existing legislation in 1979:

I would suggest to those who criticise the provisions of this Bill that they should, in doing so, have regard to the present factual position in relation to the availability of contraceptives. [Volume 312, column 322, 28 February 1979.]

This Bill will, in addition to providing a more appropriate framework for family planning services, make the legal status of their sale more in accordance with existing realities. This will not be welcome to those who seek to avoid reality by wishing away social problems or conflicts of social values.

In matters of legislation we have been all too guilty of the national characteristic of tolerating gross discrepancies between our public utterances and our private behaviour and in being satisfied with appearances even if the reality is quite different.

In passing this Bill we will be doing a little to restore the credibility of the parliamentary process in the eyes of our young people. The Irish Report of the European Value Systems Study prepared by Professor Michael Fogarty shows that in 1981, 56 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 expressed not very much or no confidence in the Dail. As Mr. Dick Walsh said in The Irish Times today, “Do we want to make a holy show of ourselves again?”

The Fianna Fáil spokesman on Health said that "there is no demand for change in the present legislation". There is strong evidence that in passing this Bill we will in fact be acting in accordance with the wishes of a sizeable majority of Irish adults. In the course of a wide-ranging, scientific research project commissioned by the Health Education Bureau last year as part of their ongoing monitoring of public knowledge and attitudes on health matters, views on family planning were sought from a fully representative random sample of almost 700 adults aged 18 to 50 years. The results of the survey, which have yet to be published, form a very useful basis for development of family planning services but in particular they show that 50 per cent were dissatisfied with existing legislation due to restrictions in the availability of contraceptives; 64 per cent felt that condoms should be available without a doctor's prescription while doctors, health board clinics and family planning clinics were seen as acceptable outlets for contraceptives, in addition to chemists' shops; 89 per cent supported the establishment of family planning clinics by health boards; while 20 per cent felt that contraceptives should be available without any minimum age limit, only 14 per cent suggested that an age limit of more than 18 years should be set; fully 68 per cent considered that contraceptives should be available to single people. This is clear evidence of a demand for the measures contained in this Bill.

It is not.

This survey was commissioned by the bureau from Irish Marketing Surveys as part of their own programme of activity and without any direction by me or my Department. The results have become available to my Department very recently but they demonstrate that the measures contained in this Bill are in harmony with a significant public demand. Furthermore, the results of the MRB public opinion survey published in The Irish Times on Tuesday last, 12 February provide corroborative evidence of the demand for change, in particular among the 18-24 age group, 66 per cent of whom were in favour of contraceptives being available to all.

I have been accused by some Government and Opposition Deputies and by some members of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy of encouraging the provision of contraceptives for unmarried persons aged 18 and over. In this regard I wish firstly to state that in common with all my fellow legislators I yield to no one in my desire to uphold the true moral values of a caring society. I am as concerned as any parent or any bishop that my children should grow up in our country with a deep respect for the common good, for public order and personal regard for all human life. I say that despite the particularly insidious form of moral blackmail attempted in recent weeks on so many Deputies in this House, on their wives, their families and on my family. I will not stand for it. I assert that, as far as I am concerned as a duly elected Member of this House of 16 years standing and as a member of a Government duly appointed under the Constitution, I will not bend my knee to that kind of blackmail.


Hear, hear.

Furthermore I believe that our social legislation should abhor any taint of hypocrisy. Above all, we in this male dominated House must show particular concern about the impact of our laws on all women. It is not just about condoms and male adults. In particular it relates to women. I would remind the House of, for example, the exceptionally sensitive and courageous views of Deputy Eileen Lemass in 1979 when we debated that Act. I quote my colleague and former Minister for Health, Deputy Eileen Desmond, speaking on the 1979 Act at column 1299 of the Official Report dated 5 April 1979:

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 [1979] Bill and much of the debate has been mindless and brutal towards women and their problems.

The Bill before the House will not, of course, in any way affect the moral evaluation which individuals and churches may have of contraceptives and their use. I am not advocating any form of contraception. My party whip, who is a member of a different denomination, said to me that if I were to come into the House and oblige people to avail of contraceptives he would not support me. I accept the legitimacy of his view.

Deputy Haughey can comfort himself with his secret minutes of his secret meetings with the Irish Hierarchy. I prefer a more objective way.

On a point of order, the Minister made some reference to my holding secret meetings with the Hierarchy and having secret minutes.

Will the Minister elaborate?

In relation to the 1979 Act.

I want to state that I have never had secret meetings with any member of the Hierarchy.

I will not disturb the Deputy unduly. I do not propose to dispense with the secrecy enshrined in those minutes but if he wishes they can be published.

Any meetings I had with any religious denominations in connection with the 1979 Act were public, known to the press and are on record in the Department of Health.

The Deputy will have an opportunity to contribute later.

They are on record in the Department on the basis that they would not be published.

You are an objectionable little man.

There are many things——

Deputy Haughey opened the meeting by assuring the bishops that the proceedings would be treated with confidence. I respect that confidence.

You are some Minister.


If the Minister has to resort to those tactics he proves the worthlessness of his case.

If the Deputy wishes to have his memory refreshed——

The Minister should be allowed to continue without interruption.

The Minister is a very objectionable little man.

It is unfortunate when one exposes hypocrisy.

Order, please. The Minister to continue.

Some have predicted dire consequences in terms of sexual behaviour, sexually transmitted disease, marital breakdown and other social evils, as a result of this measure. In view of the limited scope of this measure such predictions strain credulity. Such assertions take no account of the fact that significant changes in behaviour have already occurred and the resultant problems which are now with us should find a response in our legislation. Sexual behaviour is subject to a variety of complex, deep-rooted and long term factors in relation to which the modest measure before the House pales into insignificance. These factors are best represented by the dramatic long term shifts in the marriage rate, the age of marriage and fertility within marriage in this country in recent decades. So for example, of those born at the beginning of this century 30 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women never married, in sharp contrast to current patterns. In 1945 almost 35 per cent of grooms were 35 years or older but by 1979 less than 7 per cent were from this age group. Taking into account changes in age there was a decline of 37 per cent in the number of children born to married women between 1961 and 1981. An examination of those trends and the impact they had on family life, sexual practices and so on would be more worthy of consideration than an obsessive and unhealthy preoccupation with sex.

What of the situation as it affects our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland where long experience of the legal availability of contraceptives has not produced evidence of the kind of moral or social decline predicted for the Republic? Considerable data is available dealing with comparisons with the North of Ireland despite the differences in the legal position regarding the sale of contraceptives. There is little difference between the Republic and the North in terms of experience of abortion or illegitimacy expressed as rates per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44 years. By 1981 the abortion rate in the Republic was slightly higher than that in the North. I will make copies of this data available to Members of the House if they wish.

As regards abortion, the number performed in England and Wales on residents of Northern Ireland in 1982 was 1,510 or the rate per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44 years was 4.61 per cent. The number of women from the Republic who had an abortion was 3,603. That is a rate of 5.10 per cent for a comparable group of women. For comparison purposes, the illegitimacy rate in the North per 1,000 was 6.45 per cent in 1982 and in 1981 in the Republic it was 5.54 per cent. As we know, it increased in 1983 to 6.8 per cent. Therefore, there is no certainty that the availability of contraceptives in the Republic will necessarily cause a cataclysmic prospect of enormous change as has been predicted. The mere availability of contraceptives does not necessarily result in their use.

The task before us as legislators is clear. It is not to decide on the morality of contraception. As the Irish bishops said in their public statement on 15 March 1978 — a full copy is available for any Deputy who wishes to have it — on the then proposed family planning legislation, with particular reference to the sale and distribution of contraceptives:

There are more things which the Catholic Church holds to be morally wrong but which it has never suggested should be prohibited by the State.

Finally, I wish to make the point that the Bill which I bring before the House is the result of many months of responsible and detailed consideration by the Government. We are endeavouring to meet the inescapable requirements of the ordinary citizens of this country who have to live their lives in difficult economic circumstances, meeting their personal responsibilities and family commitments, whether financial, social or moral. Their interests and concerns are reflected in part by the Government in this Bill. I speak for the parents of families who cannot for medical and financial reasons contemplate an addition to their families. I know of instances where young women have had to travel 40 or 50 miles for family planning purposes. Husbands have spoken to me of the humiliation of having to go to a doctor for a prescription or an authorisation for a packet of non-medical contraceptives. They have to pay him for that and then have to travel many miles to the nearest chemist where they may be refused the contraceptives. If they obtain the contraceptives they have to pay a prescription charge and for the item itself and VAT on top of all that. Thanks to our Minister that has now been somewhat amended — that has nothing to do with the Bill.

That must be an in-joke.

I consider the situation is in urgent need of amendment. I also believe that couples who live in stable relationships and who for one reason or another do not or cannot marry — we are all aware of the divorce situation here and the question of annulments - must be facilitated. There are also those who are not of the Catholic persuasion — to use a somewhat offensive phrase — and their rights must be fully respected.

In support of this Bill the parties in Government are reflecting their regular contact with the people they represent. We know their problems and we are not prepared to continue to see inflicted on them unnecessary constraints that will result in hardship and misery. There are those in this House who will oppose this measure. We know there are many in the Opposition party, particularly women Deputies, who have made their views quite clear, who support this measure and who share our views on it. However, as usual it has become a matter of scoring party political points.

We owe it to the people of this country — and, I suggest, to ourselves — at this time to accept the reality of the amendments proposed in the Bill. Despite my digressions during the course of my speech which I have no wish to develop, I hope that the discussion on this Bill will be marked by a tolerance, charity and understanding that, unfortunately, has not marked the debate so far. I hope the House will support the Bill. I am confident that despite any difficulties we may encounter we will succeed in enacting the Bill and that the matter will be put to rest in a responsible and constructive way in the lifetime of this Government. I hope the Opposition and ourselves can join together on a more constructive and fruitful course of action in our endeavours to deal with other social legislation that will come before this House. I hope that legislation will receive a better reception and will be enacted with even greater speed. I thank the House for bearing with me in my presentation of the Bill.

There is great enthusiasm on the part of the people over there.

Wake up and have a little courage for once.

First, I wish to deal with a matter on which I interrupted the Minister in his speech. He said:

The Fianna Fáil spokesman on Health has said that this Bill will lead to the widespread indiscriminate sale of non-medical contraceptives.

That was an incorrect quote. He also said:

Clearly, the limited number of types of outlets for the sale of contraceptives, all of them involving highly responsible individuals and institutions, is a very far cry indeed from the picture painted by Deputy Dr. Rory O'Hanlon.

I have a copy of the statement to which the Minister referred. The relevant paragraph states:

We in Fianna Fáil have consistently said that we are opposed to the indiscriminate distribution of contraceptives.

That is much different from what the Minister said.

May I present the Deputy with a copy of what he circulated to the political correspondents?

I have a copy of it.

May I read out what it said?

Sleight of hand.

Deputy O'Hanlon, without interruption.

The Minister doctored it.

I know exactly what I said and the reason I said it.

It is on the official notepaper of the Deputy's party.

Deputy O'Hanlon should be allowed to continue without interruption.

On a point of order, it was imputed that I had wrongly quoted the Deputy in my speech. That is a serious matter.

It is not a point of order.

I will give the Deputy a copy — even the original if he prefers.

I have the original copy. I am quite satisfied about what I said and the reason I said it. I would not state that the Bill will lead to the indiscriminate sale of non-medical contraceptives but I believe it will lead to the indiscriminate distribution of contraceptives. That was in the official statement I released after the Bill was circulated. By saying it would lead to the indiscriminate sale of contraceptives that would cast a reflection on the integrity of the people who will be responsible for the sale and I would not do that. Neither would I cast a reflection on the integrity or the motives of anybody and that includes Members of this House. There was reference made to the leader of our party that when he was Minister he met the bishops and that it was a secret and confidential meeting. I should like to ask the Minister how many groups did the then Minister for Health meet before he introduced the legislation. There were 18 groups in all and I have no doubt all the meetings were confidential. The minutes were not released to the public. It is unthinkable that they would come in here and cast that sort of reflection on a former Minister or on any Minister of the House. I hope that the next Government will be capable of meeting groups in confidence and not going out and disclosing publicly what is told to them in confidence. I hope that is the norm for any Minister in Government be he on that side or this side of the House.

Would the Minister withdraw the words "secret meeting"? It was a public meeting. Everybody in the country knew that I was meeting not just the bishops but the representatives of every religious denomination in the country.

On the basis that his views would not be made known.


Deputy O'Hanlon without interruption. We cannot have two speeches in the House.

The Minister used the words "secret meeting". I reject that word. All the meetings I had with religious denominations——

The Deputy will have an opportunity of getting up and making a speech.

We are opposing this legislation from the Minister. Having listened to him, I am convinced that there is no reason why we should weaken in any way in our opposition to the measure. I believe that the instances we have referred to were used to deflect attention from the very poor case which the Minister has put up in forwarding this legislation. There is no great demand for the legislation. My experience, and I am sure that of the Minister, is that people are concerned about jobs, high taxation and low disposable income. The Minister in his speech referred to the youth and said that 56 per cent of them had no confidence in Dáil Éireann. I quote:

56 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 expressed not very much or no confidence in the Dáil.

I am satisfied that they will have less confidence in the Dáil after this measure. Last week here in the House we were discussing something of fundamental importance, the budget and the implications for the economy. Young people are concerned, let the Minister and the Government be in no doubt, about jobs. They want jobs for themselves. Their parents want jobs. The Minister said further on in his speech, and I quote:

I speak of, for example, the parents of families who cannot for medical and financial reasons contemplate an addition to their families;

I appreciate that, but is the Minister speaking for the parents who are concerned about the young people? Were the Government concerned about jobs for those young people when they introduced this measure with such haste this week? Is the Minister concerned about the parents who are very worried about the implication of this legislation for their children?

The political reason why the Bill was introduced into the House is to deflect attention from the very serious problems that exist, and it was introduced with haste because of a serious ideological difference between the Minister and his party and the Fine Gael partners in Government. Yesterday morning in this House I referred to the fact that the Taoiseach had stated that this was minimal legislation and that the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Cork on Saturday had stated very clearly:

The proposed amendment will make one change in the 1979 Health (Family Planning) Act. That Act legalised the importation and sale of contraceptives but required a doctor's prescription for non-medical contraceptives. The new Bill will remove this anomalous requirement.

That is the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs that there will be one change in the 1979 Act. The Minister came in here this morning and told us that the purpose of the Bill is to make two very limited amendments to the 1979 Act. He said, and I quote:

The amendments are nevertheless significant....

Yesterday I complimented the Minister on not going out to the public and telling them that this was not a major departure from the 1979 Act after the Taoiseach had said that it was a minimal change.

I would like to see an objective and constructive debate on this. We all as Members of this House must be sensitive to the variety of views which are held sincerely by the people. I have no doubt that the majority of the people are opposed to this measure for very genuine reasons. I have already stated that parents are concerned about their children. I have had an amount of correspondence on the subject. One card that I received and which I will read to the House sums up the consensus of that correspondence. I quote:

I wish to express my hope that you will put forward a very strong case against the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill in the Dáil as I consider it to be against the common good and am convinced that the majority of citizens do not desire it.

The Minister has referred to various polls as one of the reasons why he is introducing this legislation. We can all look at polls as a guideline, but the real reason for introducing legislation is, first of all, that we are staisfied as legislators that the people want it. I consider that the Members of this House in their constituencies know the views of their constituents and that the majority view is against a change in the legislation. Even in the polls the majority are against a change in the legislation. The Minister referred to the recent MRBI poll which indicated that 41 per cent thought that non-medical contraceptives should be available to everybody, 41 per cent thought that they should be available only to married couples and 15 per cent thought they should be available to nobody. That is 56 per cent, a majority, against any change in the legislation. The Minister did not even use the polls, but if he had used the MRBI poll he would have seen that the majority of the people were against this legislation.

We are the republican party, representing all opinions. We have no particular sectional interest. We are a mature political party. The Front Bench had an informal meeting on the day before the legislation was circulated after the contents had been made known, and we decided to oppose this legislation because we saw no real demand for it and because we are concerned that it will lead to the indiscriminate distribution of contraceptives. The statement to which I have referred was put out on the Thursday when the legislation was circulated, and our Front Bench recommended to our Parliamentary Party that we should oppose the Bill. The majority of the Parliamentary Party decided on that course and decided by a majority that we should have a Whip.

The 1979 Act was brought in by the Minister for Health. It is significant that the previous attempt to bring in the measure in 1974 was by the Minister for Justice. This legislation before us now is an amendment to the Health (Family Planning) Act and for that reason it is being introduced by the Minister for Health. If it were being brought in as new legislation on its own and not as an amendment to existing legislation, I have no doubt that the Minister for Justice would bring it in because it has very little to do with health. It is more a control on the sale of contraceptives than any contribution to health. The 1979 Act, which was introduced to this House by the leader of our party, Deputy Haughey, when he was Minister for Health, made a valuable contribution to health promotion. As the House is aware there was no legislation then controlling the importation of contraceptives. That was following the Supreme Court judgement of 1972 which, in the McGee case, found section 17 of the 1835 Criminal Justice Act to be repugnant to the Constitution.

At that time in 1979 the Leader of our Party as Minister for Health met with the representatives of 18 organisations and discussed with them the provisions that might appropriately be included in a family planning Bill. The 1979 Act represented the consensus of views of all those organisations. The Minister for Health has not told us whom he met with on this occasion or if he met with anyone to discuss the provisions he is proposing. If any group were of the opinion that the Minister would not respect the confidentiality of discussions with him, I can understand that they would be reluctant to meet him. I make the point because some aspects of the legislation are very much in a conflict with the views of interested parties.

The 1979 Act was an act to make provision for family planning services with a view to ensuring that contraceptives would be available only for the purpose of bona fide family planning and/or adequate medical reasons and to regulate and control the sale, importation, manufacture and display of contraceptives as well as to provide for certain other matters. There is some misunderstanding about some aspects of that Act particularly in relation to the prescribing by doctors of non-medical contraceptives. The Minister mentioned this morning that doctors find they are being asked to do a job for which they are not qualified. The 1979 Act placed family planning firmly in the context in which, as the then Minister for Health said, it should be placed, that is, in the context of family medical care provided by the general practitioner. The then Minister went on to say that he considered this to be a wise and sensible way of ensuring that the making available of contraceptives would be for family purposes and would be accompanied by advice regarding the merits or the hazards of the different forms of contraception. That view was supported fully by the medical organisations, by the health boards and by the chemists as well as by the various groups with whom the Minister met.

It is important to point out that within the terms of the existing legislation it is not necessary for a person to visit his family doctor repeatedly in order to obtain prescriptions for non-medical contraceptives. The ideal is that a couple or either of them would visit their family doctor and obtain advice on the various methods of contraception available and then, in the light of that advice, would reach a decision on which method suited them best. It is important that the side effects of the various methods and the failure rates would be made known to any couple seeking advice in regard to contraception. If the decision was that non-medical contraceptives would suit the couple best, the doctor would give them an authorisation which would be valid for their lifetime so that there would be no question of having to make further visits for repeat prescriptions. Those who are operating the Act are well aware of that. We in Fianna Fáil are committed fully to the provision of a comprehensive family planning service but a service that is placed in the area of family care. Family planning should be considered in the context of health care generally. It is not merely about dispensing condoms. It is something more fundamental than that.

The Bill before us is a short one but short Bills can relate to dangerous legislation. Section 2 deals with increasing the number of outlets, in addition to chemists and family doctors, will now include health boards, family planning services, maternity hospitals and hospitals which deal with sexually transmitted diseases. Has the Minister had consultations with these various bodies? For instance, has he consulted with the health boards? Is he aware that in January the Midland Health Board discussed the issue of family planning and decided they did not wish for what is being presented in this Bill. Only one person at the meeting in question spoke in favour of more liberal legislation. Everybody else there spoke against the Bill. Subsequently a copy of the resolution was forwarded to the Minister. Some of the people on that board were appointed by the Minister. In 1979 the then Minister for Health consulted the health boards. He said here on 28 February of that year that the health boards were unanimously of the opinion that the provision of such advice and information was an appropriate function of the boards but that the majority of the boards did not consider it appropriate for them to be the providers of contraceptives. I believe that remains the view of the health boards and that is why I am asking whether the Minister consulted with them in regard to this legislation. Also, another very good reason for not having had the Bill in the House this week would be to give the health boards who will have a fundamental role to play in this area an opportunity to discuss the Bill and make their views known. If we were serious about providing proper and good legislation, we would have given time to the appropriate bodies such as the health boards, to discuss the legislation. I say this especially having regard to the views expressed in 1979 and to the views expressed a month ago by the Midland Health Board. If this had been done we would be in a better position to debate section 2.

The medical organisation have never been very happy about the family planning clinics. The late Dr. Michael Smith from Kanturk, a former president of the IMO and a Labour candidate in the last general election, expressed the view that it was not in the best interest of people that family planning services should be isolated from an integrated medical service. That would represent the consensus view of the medical organisation. It is in keeping with the resolution passed in November 1983 and to which the Minister referred this morning.

The Bill provides for the removal of the need for a doctor's prescription for non-medical contraceptives. I do not think the medical profession would be very perturbed about the provision but as I have pointed out it is not necessary for a couple to continue to visit their doctor for repeat prescriptions. But it is to be recommended that people using contraceptives would initially be given expert advice as to the various types of contraceptives, the various side effects and the failure rate which is a very important aspect in the context of the new legislation.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has not changed the provision in the 1979 Act for support for natural methods of family planning. Many people here use these methods and find them very satisfactory. It is only right that we should continue to support the promotion of natural methods of family planning.

The Bill provides for the sale of non-medical contraceptives to those over 18 years of age. This is a major departure from the principles of the 1979 Act which was, as I said earlier, to make contraceptives available only for the purpose bona fide of family planning. This has not very much to do with health. This decision of the Government is causing most concern throughout the country. As we, the Minister and the Government know and the people certainly know, it means that contraceptives will be freely available to any teenager. It is not possible to enforce the age limit. There is nothing to stop a young girl of 15 or 16 years of age from going into a chemist's shop wearing high heeled shoes and asking for contraceptives. How is the chemist to know her age? Equally there is nothing to stop a group from going off for a weekend on holiday and one over 18 years of age buying contraceptives. The Minister must know that this provision in the Bill will lead to freely available contraceptives for any teenager. This is the section in the Bill which is causing most concern, particularly concern to parents.

If this legislation is passed, we in this House will be endorsing a pattern of behaviour which no responsible adult would condone. The Minister made it very clear this morning that he would not condone this pattern of behaviour. No church in this State would condone it. There is no churchman who would stand up and suggest that sexual intercourse between teenagers should become the norm in our society. We are very sensitive to the problems and pressures of youth today and to the type of lifestyle which is portrayed to them on television, for example, and the effect this has on impressionable young people. However, the answer is, both in the home and in the school, to educate young people for relationships. It is not the indiscriminate distribution of contraceptives.

Some people will argue that contraceptives are being used anyway and that the law is being broken, but that is not a legitimate argument for changing the law. There are many instances where the law is being broken. One which springs to mind immediately is the misuse of heroin. Nobody in this House in their sane senses would suggest that we should legalise the sale of heroin, even though people could argue that it would lead to a cleaner supply of heroin for addicts and would cut down on very serious crime which goes along with heroin addiction. Some of the most brutal robberies and burglaries in this city are caused because young people want to get £100 or £150 a day to buy their supply of heroin. None of us would be in favour of legislating for the sale of heroin.

It is interesting that when we are liberalising our legislation, most European countries and the United States are moving back to more traditional values. For example, the United States Government have withdrawn finance from the International Planned Parenthood Federation because of their support of abortion. There is a move away from abortion in the United States.

In the United Kingdom a case was brought recently by a parent because the Department of Health there had circularised doctors that they could give contraceptives to teenagers under 16 years of age without their parents' knowledge. The parent brought a case against the DHSS and the courts upheld the rights of that parent to have information if her daughter was under 16. These are moves back towards the traditional values.

One anomaly in the legislation as presented to us is that a couple aged 17 years who are married will have to have a doctor's prescription in order to obtain their non-medical contraceptives, whereas girls or boys aged 18 or over will be entitled to get these without a prescription, even though they are single. The Minister made reference to there being a need for contraceptives because of the rate of abortion and illegitimacy, but the reality is that in all countries with liberal contraceptive laws — for instance the United Kingdom with the most liberal contraceptives laws in the world — they have very high rates of illegitimacy and abortion. I quote some figures. The abortion rate in the United Kingdom in 1968 — the first year of operation of the Act — was 2.5 per cent; in 1974 it was 15.9 per cent and it now is 19.6 per cent.

In Denmark, with very liberal contraceptive laws, the abortion rate in 1981 was 42.9 per cent. The liberal contraceptive laws of these countries have not helped the situation. Our concern is that we could be seen to be endorsing something that is not in the interests of young people. Perhaps they might get the impression that by using contraceptives, there is no great risk that they will be unable to prevent a pregnancy. Some genuinely believe that freely available contraceptives will reduce the number of illegitimate births and abortions, but this is not so. The failure rate with non-medical contraceptives, with condoms, is 7 per cent. In some surveys where these have been used by teenagers, the failure rate is as high as 50 per cent. This is something about which we must be concerned. Certainly, we will have confidence in the youth of this country that even if the legislation were passed they would not all rush out to buy contraceptives because they happen to be available.

The medical organisation did a survey on the outlets for the availability of contraceptive family planning advice and the sale of contraceptives. What is interesting, which did not come through in what the Minister said this morning, is:

Our survey shows that there are in every county in Ireland doctors with special training in the provision of barrier methods of contraception. It also shows that with few exceptions all doctors who responded to the survey who do not have special training or expertise in these methods are willing to acquire it.

There is, through the family doctors, a service available in every county. They also make the point:

There is no need for health boards to set up family planning clinics. Indeed, to attempt their provision in isolation from general health and advice is to miss health education and examination opportunities and is probably bad medicine.

With the provision of training facilities and incentives to avail of them family doctors can meet all the family planning needs of their patients. That is very important in the context of general health It would be a pity to miss the opportunity for health education and for screening, for example, cervical smears, checking for breast lumps and so on which can all be covered on a visit to the family doctor. The geographical spread of GPs enables them to provide more points of access to family planning services than does any other agency. The final paragraph says that from their study and their survey they were satisfied that Irish family doctors given training in these areas where needed were willing and capable of meeting all the needs of a comprehensive family planning service in this country.

They are not willing.

That is exactly what was said in 1979 when the Family Planning Act was introduced.

In relation to Church-State relations we have been told that only the Catholic Church are against this legislation. In 1979 the leaders of our party met all the churches and they were in agreement with what the then Minister introduced. The Church of Ireland, the main Protestant denomination in the Republic, for example, favoured prescription only and that it would be available for husband and wife. There is no official statement on record since 1979 suggesting dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Reference was made to Northern Ireland by the Minister. Concern has been expressed by some people that 12 and 13 year old children there use contraceptives because they are available. I am sure that is true even if only a small number use them. I resent the suggestion that failure to pass this Bill will make partition more permanent. Liberal legislation, such as liberal contraceptive laws, divorce and abortion will not bring about unity here. It is an insult to the intelligence and the integrity of Unionists for anybody to suggest that. In 1974 when similar legislation, the Sale of Contraceptives Bill, was being debated in this House a number of Members of the then Government made comments which are very relevant to the debate we are having today. The then Minister for Justice, Deputy Paddy Cooney who introduced the Bill to the House, said at column 28 of Volume 274:

It is the aim of any criminal law to prohibit undesired conduct and that law is not futile even if it does no more than mark society's values in a particular area. I have no doubt that the vast majority in the State are in favour of a law restricting sales of contraceptives to married couples.

Then he goes on at column 289:

Those who oppose the Bill because it is too illiberal do so mainly on the ground that it seeks to restrict sales of contraceptives to married couples. They seek to argue that it is impractical to do so and any attempt to do so will bring the law into disrepute. I have already dealt with this argument when speaking of this restriction on sales to married persons only and the enforcing of it. They also argue however, that there is a right, a natural right in favour of single people to have access to contraceptives. I do not accept that there is any such right because that implies a right to fornicate and in my opinion there is no such natural right. I am well satisfied that the principle of restricting contraceptives to married persons is the proper one.

Deputy John Kelly was the Chief Whip at the time. I was not a Member of the House but obviously there was some concern that Deputy Oliver Flanagan might be expelled from the party, and Deputy John Kelly, Chief Whip, at Volume 274, column 329 said:

If we were to put Deputy Flanagan out of the Fine Gael Party, because he does not propose to follow the Government's line on the Bill, that would be an act equivalent to shooting a conscientious objector.

Deputy FitzGerald, the present Taoiseach, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, in Volume 274, column 1058 said in relation to a free vote:

Their argument that we should not have allowed a free vote is disgraceful. It turns democracy on its head.

Would you like a free vote now?

Deputy Flaherty, please.

Deputy FitzGerald continued:

We have allowed our people to vote in accordance with their consciences. It seems to me to be a minimum right of a Deputy in a matter which preeminently involves moral issues.


That is the clearly expressed view of Deputy FitzGerald when he was the Minister for Foreign Affairs.


He is now Taoiseach and Leader of the Fine Gael Party.

Do you agree or disagree with it?

I do not know whether it is his view now, I am only quoting what his view was.


Deputy Desmond, now Minister for Health, said on 11 July 1974 in Volume 274, column 1985:

I do not, and it would be quite wrong for any Deputy to suggest that we should particularise in relation to the precise and best form of contraception for any given family. I have sufficient confidence in the medical expertise of Irish doctors who provide such medical assistance to accept their views on what is the best form of contraception for married couples or particular persons who wish to avail of contraceptives.

Has the Minister moved from that position?

Deputy Eddie Collins, on 16 July 1974, Volume 274, column 1229 said:

I should like to place on record that I would oppose any move to allow contraceptives to be freely available to single people. I do not think it would be morally right, I do not think it would be right in the broader Christian sense.

The Minister gave us absolutely no reason this morning to change our opinion about this Bill. It is a bad Bill and it is not in the interests of the Irish people. There is not a great demand for it and it is being introduced for the wrong reason, in order to deflect attention from the more serious problems with which people are concerned, particularly the creation of jobs. We also believe that it will lead to the indiscriminate distribution of contraceptives.

I am glad that so far the tone of this debate has been somewhat dignified.

Will it last another five minutes?

If the Deputy did not interrupt she might make a generous contribution towards a little dignity. An issue of this kind calls for dignity, understanding and a clear expression of opinion. This is too serious a matter to cause laughter; it is too serious to be taken lightly. It would be wrong to pass a Bill of this kind in great haste. There are many aspects of the Bill and many consequences. It is necessary that there should be cool, calm understanding and a charitable exchange of views. If we cannot use Parliament protectively and efficiently to deal with serious matters concerning our people and the potential consequences for good or bad of those matters, then Parliament ceases to be constructive.

I love Parliament. For many years here I have been speaking for the rights and privileges of Deputies from all sides on all issues, because I am a believer in parliamentary democracy, in the right of individual Deputies to free expression of opinion in Parliament. So long as we can speak here freely and honestly and courageously there will not be any danger to the rights of our people outside. That is why I love to see the fullest use being made of Parliament. It is our right and our privilege here calmly to discuss, without fear and with courage, matters of serious consequence. If we are to be handcuffed, blindfolded and gagged, Parliament will cease to be of value to our people. No matter which side of the House Deputies sit in, on occasions like this it is vital that there should be no handcuffs, no blindfolding and no gagging, because this is too serious a matter.

This Bill has been debated on radio and television and in the press for some time and it is only right that Members of the Dáil should have the fullest possible opportunity in the discharge of their duties to the nation to comment, to criticise and to appraise. I suggest that, first and foremost, this Bill has been given a nickname. It is called the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill, 1985. It brings me back to a meeting outside this House on a Sunday afternoon when the Coalition Government were at an early stage of conception. The question of a review of family planning was listed as one of the conditions that would bring Labour and Fine Gael together. Those present — I was one of them — were told that there was to be a review of family planning. I, for one, understood very clearly that a review of family planning would only concern natural family planning and that the fullest possible advice to parents, who have a right to plan their families, would be made available. No Church has denied that right: we have their stamp of approval to methods of natural family planning.

The review of family planning which was to be undertaken as a result of the marriage of Fine Gael and Labour, I understood, was to involve the provision of money for training in natural methods of family planning in centres throughout the country where parents would get advice from medical and other trained personnel in accordance with Christian teaching and supervision. That was my clear understanding on that Sunday afternoon. Not once was it suggested at that meeting, or on any Fine Gael platform during any election campaign, that if we were elected we would provide single youth freely throughout the country with contraceptives. That was never put before the people, never approved by any political party. I repeat that nobody objects to, but rather encourages where necessary, the full use of proper moral teaching in natural methods of family planning. On the occasion of which I have spoken, that was clear and simple. I could find no objection then any more than I do today to the provision of a family planning scheme based on full Christian teaching, on the highest moral standards, with participation of trained medical personnel at advice centres throughout the country.

That is what I understood a review of family planning to be. Never once were we told there would be free availability of contraceptives to single teenagers. That is why I say that the proper title to this Bill should be "The Availability of Contraceptives Bill, 1985". This Bill has nothing whatever to do with family planning. I want my Fine Gael colleagues to realise that there is nothing in this Bill to deal with family planning. This Bill is to provide contraceptives for single teenagers.

A Bill that provides to give the stamp of approval — that is what we are being asked to do — to the provision without restriction of unlimited contraceptives for unmarried teenagers is disastrous and wrong. I have been consistent in the House on many issues. Although the advice I may give may not be listened to by younger Members, I must point out that I have had long experience of sitting out many long and tedious debates in the House. I want to give the benefit of that experience to Members on all sides. I was saddened to hear in a speech this morning reference being made to the fact that vast numbers of young people are losing respect and confidence in Dáil Éireann. It makes me sad when I look over the years I have spent here and think of the great men who have passed through the House on both sides, men who loved Ireland and its people, who lived its true traditional Christian ways of life. They are all gone either out of the House or to their eternal reward. They would be sad people — from the benches of Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil — if they had lived as God has blessed me to live this long to see the extraordinary transformation that is being brought about by Members of the House.

The good old Irish traditions which were cherished and loved by the fathers, mothers and grandparents of all Members — some may say that what was good enough for them is not good enough for us — are gone. They put first things first, the real essentials of life. Everything they stood for in the way of a good Irish Christian way of life is being damaged. We are taking perhaps not the first step but one of the early ones of throwing away the values that were cherished by those who carried us to the font of baptism when they were asked on our behalf if we would carry on the tradition of those who went before us, the tradition symbolic in the light of faith in the candles they held. Is that light to be blown out or are we going to carry on the tradition of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents? That is one of the reasons I am sad to have lived to see the day that those grand traditions are wiped aside by a group of small men who would be prepared to do anything to hold on to temporary power for a year or two. It makes me sad because life is very short. A life passes like a flash. Legislators have a grave responsibility because at the end of their life they will be judged more strictly and with greater caution than those who elected them. We have been elected for a purpose. Not alone must we represent our people in Parliament, but we must speak for them.

It is sad that we have reached the stage where we are wiping out those Christian values. I am sorry for Parliament that we have reached that stage, but I am more sorry for Ireland. Are there many who are really dedicated to our people, their future and their prospects? That should be the first concern of Parliament. It makes me sad that in International Youth Year Ireland should mark it by making contraceptives freely available instead of giving encouragement, hope and confidence to our young people. God save Ireland. I did not think I would ever see this happening. This legislation is being moved at a time when 250,000 of our people are unemployed. The time of Parliament is being taken up to provide contraceptives to teenagers and single people. With 250,000 not knowing where the next meal will come from, with farmers being put to the pin of their collars to exist and parents with large families not knowing where the next loaf is coming from, we devote time to dealing with this measure. Is it not any wonder what Bishop Buckley of Cork last week said "Oh, they are losing their sense of reality". Are many Members living in such a glass case that they are out of touch with reality? How many Members can produce correspondence from teenagers or single people seeking to have contraceptives made freely available?

I was encouraged this morning to meet two fine young fellows at the gates of Leinster House. I had never met them before. As they passed me one said "Are you Deputy Flanagan?" and when I said I was he said "We would like to congratulate you for having great courage". I thanked them and pointed out that I had expected them to say the opposite. Their response was "No, we admire your courage and, speaking as two students, we think the proposed legislation is disastrous and we thank you sincerely for your opposition to it". I shook hands with them, thanked them and let them pass on, but they made me feel that everything was not lost for young people. When I see in "European Youth" the best prize for our young people is contraceptives it makes me wonder where we are going in this country and who is leading us.

The party of which I am a member was based on the grand old Irish traditions. I can picture here this morning in this debate General MacEoin, the late W.T. Cosgrave with whom I had the honour to be a Member of this House; I can picture General Mulcahy, William Norton, the late Tim Murphy of West Cork and the late Jim Hickey of Cork city.

Where are we going, who is leading us and in what direction? How did this state of affairs come about that the grand traditions of a great national party, with its roots in rural Ireland, its love for people and Christian values, seems now to have fallen into very wrong hands? We now find ourselves, not as we were told recently at the cross-roads, but gone beyond them; we have taken a wrong turn and are going speedily on the road to destruction and disaster, and nobody seems to be standing up courageously and saying "halt, so far thou shalt go but no further".

On issues such as this, with grave moral implications, I honestly believe it is wrong for public representatives whose consciences must tell them that what they are voting for is wrong and is not for the common good of the people or the country. Such people are fooling themselves and nobody else. In a short space of years when they have left this House they will look back on the tragedy of having cast aside their consciences, having voted for reasons other than their beliefs when it came to the standards of behaviour and moral conduct.

I have never questioned, and never would at any time, the economic, financial or political structures of the party to which I belong, but, when it comes to issues such as divorce, abortion or contraception, there we must part, because contraception and divorce constitute the destruction of the family as the fundamental unit of society. I cannot leave my beliefs, upbringing, the Christian values of my home and of all belonging to me outside the gates of Leinster House. I must bring them with me and, with the grace of God, I shall bring them with me hereafter. Nobody will ever get me to sell the values so dear to all who have gone before me. Nobody will ever get me to sell the belief within me that contraception is wrong and no law in this country can render it right. I believe that the moral law supersedes all laws made in any parliament, that to fly in the face of the moral law is wrong and that those who vote in contradiction of the moral law are doing an injustice to the people and will remember it when they leave this House. They shall have to answer hereafter for their actions knowing, because of their Christian upbringing, the Christian faith they possess, that they threw it all aside. What will it have gained them at the end?

I am very happy about my stance on this Bill because I asked myself the question: which is the more important, that by voting against this Bill I should lose the party whip, or go into the division lobbies, knowing in conscience, in heart and through religious beliefs and upbringing I am doing wrong, that my very act is a contradiction of what I have always believed in and cherished? Men and women, never let it be said that you betrayed the faithful trust of your parents, grandparents and the grand old traditions of Ireland. The young people beyond this House today do not expect and do not want us to do that. This is being done in accordance with the plans of what has become known at International Parenthood, a wealthy world organisation President Reagan is now endeavouring to defeat in the USA. Let us remember that Sweden is coming back to consciousness and common sense in an effort to eliminate permissiveness, that the United Kingdom Supreme Court gave a judgment recently. Men, you will answer before God ultimately for your actions on this vote next week. No power, political or otherwise, can compel you to leave outside these gates your Christian traditions, values and beliefs. It is wrong. One may think that giving one's stamp of approval to the use of contraceptives to school-going students is right in accordance with the politicians leading one around and who feel that this is in the national interest. Can anybody persuade me that it is in the national interest to make contraceptives freely available to young teenagers? Can anybody defend in this House his or her right to put the State stamp of approval on what is wrong, on what can never be right, on what is wrong according to the moral law? No law anywhere can be effected without taking its pattern from the moral law, and the moment one deviates from that one is on a course to disaster and destruction.

A great deal has been said about the pronouncements made by the hierarchy to the laity. I would speak the same way, and vote the same way, even if a bishop never opened his mouth. This is a matter for the legislators, and our fundamental right is to legislate for the common good. I must ask myself if this Bill is for the common good. According to my conscience, my judgment, my religious beliefs and my upbringing, which I hope with the grace of God I never betray, I must tell myself that this Bill is not for the common good. Should I go into the division lobbies knowing in my heart that I was doing wrong I would be deceiving the people who elected me, because I was sent here to speak for my constituents. I am speaking for the people who cherish traditional Christian values, proper upbringing and, above all, the family as a fundamental unit of society.

This Bill is called the Family Planning Bill but it gives contraceptives to single teenagers. How could single teenagers be described as a family? Last year we had a debate about abortion and now we are dealing with contraceptives. The destruction of the family as the fundamental unit of society is well planned. As responsible Members of this House who love and cherish their families, who loved their parents an grandparents, are we now going to defend the family, or are we going to take another step towards the destruction of the family as the fundamental unit of society?

Many thousands of people all over the world believe that the family as the fundamental unit of society should be destroyed. When we read the names of those who vote for this Bill when it is passed — if it is passed — we will read of strange bedfellows. Our Constitution guarantees protection for the family as the fundamental unit of society, but I wonder if this contraceptive Bill, as I call it, should not be examined by the Supreme Court to see if this is not an intrusion on the family and if it is not failing to protect the family, because making contraceptives available to young members of a family, in my opinion, is failing to protect the family, the fundamental unit of society.

This Bill is a further effort to destroy the family as the fundamental unit of society. In a recent speech in my constituency I said that because of this attack on the family, coming from little men with big ambitions in places, steps should be taken in every town and parish to build up a strong, virile Family Solidarity movement to make it impossible for this small group of powerful people to wreck the family as we know it.

I want to praise the work of the Family Solidarity movement, which is in its infancy, and to express the hope that a lesson will be learned from this attack on the family. The provision of contraceptives for young people will lead to a terrible worry and strain on the mothers of large families, particularly those with young girls. This will be a new phase for them.

It has been my experience that our young boys and girls have a very high standard. I wonder if in our day we had been faced with the same temptations — drugs, alcohol, unemployment and despair — would we have been as good? Would we have been able to fight the advent of the programmes we see on television? Would we have been able to fight the drug problems as they have done? Instead of appreciating these young people when they speak out about drugs and television programmes and when so many of them give their time to voluntary organisations, the best we can do is to obstruct them and place greater temptation in their way by making it very easy to get alcohol. Alcohol with contraceptives, in my opinion, is not in the interests of young people.

This is not a good Bill for the many reasons I have given, but it is just one part of a much bigger programme. This is what my colleagues fail to see. The same people who were talking about the pro-life amendment support this contraceptives Bill. The same people are looking for divorce and for sex education in our schools. As I said, this is a well planned, strongly financed organisation to undermine the fundamental unit of Irish society, the family. We must consider what is best for the people, and the Minister has failed to convince me of the need for contraceptives.

The age limit cannot be implemented: there is also a limit in regard to the purchase of alcohol but smart alecks can always drive a coach and four through the tightest regulations. People under the age of 18, even those of 15 years of age, are drinking heavily. Where do they get it? There is no enforcement of the age limit because it is impracticable and impossible. To say that contraceptives will be available for those over 18 years of age is exactly the same as saying that there is free availability of contraceptives, because those over 18 years can purchase them and pass them on to 12 and 13 year olds. That is why parents are worried. If this Bill is passed it will be a sad day for them, because parents are charged with the responsibility of bringing up families. They are frightened, shocked and amazed.

It is not surprising that churchmen are pointing out the dangers of this Bill to the laity. They do not want to interfere in the legislative process but they are telling the people what we are doing in this House and what the results will mean so that nobody can say they were not warned of the moral dangers. That is the duty of those charged with guiding the laity. It is the duty of men and women in public life to listen to the truth and, when the truth is spoken, to act on it. If churchmen do not give guidance to public representatives and alert their consciences, where else can advice and guidance come from? International Parenthood? Will they advise us on what is morally right? It is comforting to know that we can hear the truth spoken without favour. No one can persuade me that it is right that this House should now make contraceptives readily available for unmarried teenagers, because contraception is wrong and contrary to the moral law.

Why should we support a measure which we know is contrary to the moral law? We must not close our ears to the pleas, advice and guidance which has been given to us many times in recent years. The Minister for Health said that he does not yield to any pressure. I yield to no pressure either. The Minister has a conscience, but only he knows how it is guided. I know where I seek the guidance for my conscience.

Strong words such as "pressure" and "blackmail" have been used. The last speaker referred to the statement made by Deputy John Kelly in regard to my beliefs when this matter came before the House previously. I would die rather than yield in my beliefs. Deputy Kelly asked if the conscientious objector should be shot, but I do not think that would be a very charitable way of dealing with him.

In the Irish Independent of 13 February 1985 it was reported that the Taoiseach compared Dr. Newman's utterances in 1976 to his reaction to this and other Bills. He seemed to suggest that the learned bishops had changed their minds. I am very happy in my beliefs, and my religious upbringing would make me oppose the free availability of contraceptives to single people. I would be guilty of a grave transgression if I did otherwise. I would have to answer for it hereafter to a more strict judge than I will ever face in this life. It is extraordinary how people can change — if Dr. Newman has changed. When speaking on 11 July 1974 about the Contraceptives Bill the Taoiseach said:

We have done our best to bring in a Bill.

Will the Deputy please give the reference?

It is on the Second Stage of the Contraceptives Bill, 1974:

We have done our best to bring in a Bill. We have allowed our people to vote in accordance with their consciences. It seems to me to be a minimum right of a Deputy in a matter which pre-eminently involves moral issues.

What happened to him? Why will he not give me the same right as he advocated in 1974? There must be some reason. I pay tribute to the former Taoiseach, Mr. Cosgrave, who saw to it that there was no restriction on conscience in relation to this matter. He believed that one should be allowed to follow one's conscience on all moral issues. That is what he believed when he voted on the issue, and I consistently voted with him on this.

This matter involves moral issues, and to drive people against their moral judgment is wrong. I do not care what anyone says about it. I am on record as praising the then Taoiseach for being so broad-minded and I expressed my thanks to him for allowing me the right to vote according to my conscience on a moral issue. Why am I now denied that right? Is it because there was a Labour Party deal? Has there been a sell-out of all our traditional values and principles? If there has, it has been a dear bargain. The value of traditional moral values cannot be priced. Do not mind the Johnny-comelately speakers who scoff, jeer and belittle moral and traditional Irish values. These are deep-rooted in the hearts of people.

I cannot understand why on the last occasion we had a right to follow our conscience but this time no man is allowed to go according to his conscience. It places a number of us — I can speak only for myself — in a terrible position politically. We must act according to our religious upbringing, beliefs and teachings and in accordance with our obedience to those who say that contraception is morally wrong and that it is morally wrong to make contraceptives available to young single people.

I am extremely sad about this Bill. It would have been great if we could all have come in here and spoken openly and freely. I can do that because I have been blessed with a certain amount of courage. I tell other politicians that courage pays in politics, but the quickest way out of this House is to indulge in cowardice. People love courage and bravery and admire people who stand on their principles. People admire those who show courage through their speech and vote in Parliament, but they hate people saying one thing and doing another.

I do not know what the attitude of city people would be on this but in rural Ireland people cannot understand that kind of attitude. Such people are not placed high up on the list when it comes to integrity. I could not bring myself to say one thing in Parliament and go against that by the way I would vote. From my experience as the longest serving Member in the House I tell those who have doubts about this matter that courage always pays, as do truthfulness and honesty. People appreciate that. Sometimes they can be temporarily inconvenienced but after a while the people see that they were right.

Everyone knows where I stand in relation to divorce, abortion, contraception and possibly sex education unless it is given in a proper manner. I am sorry that some way was not found to enable the conscientious objector to make his case without having a variety of political threats made against him. I pray to God that those who have been subjected to political threats on this issue will have the courage to overcome them and do what is right according to their conscience, upbringing and beliefs.

This matter was discussed fully by the Midland Health Board, which includes my constituency, and the free availability of contraceptives was rejected out of hand. Contributions to the discussion were made particularly by such eminent members of the health board as Surgeon McCormack of Portlaoise and Surgeon Joe Hughes of Tullamore and valuable advice was given by Dr. Jack Conway of Tullamore General Hospital. All of them are men of long and wide medical experience——

All of them have had skilful training during the years. They contributed to the health board's decision that the free availability of contraceptives would be wrong and not in the national interest. It goes to my heart to hear politicians here say we must have a permissive society if we are to bring in the North of Ireland with us. The attitude is that if they have contraceptives we must have them and if they have divorce we must also have divorce. What greater insult could we offer to the people of Northern Ireland than to link them with permissiveness? Everyone knows that the society in the North of Ireland where contraceptives are freely available leaves much to be desired. Are we going to destroy our society to be on a par with them because we want, as some politicians say, to help to bring in the North with us?

There are principles involved in the Northern Ireland issue but they are not based on contraceptives, divorce or on other permissive measures that politicians are trying to promote here. I feel sorry for the good-living Protestants of Northern Ireland who detest being associated with permissiveness. Some politicians here say we must change our laws in order to attract them in the North to fall into line with us. We cannot offer a greater insult to them.

Divorce, contraception and the possibility or the likelihood of abortion will never be issues in the problem of the North of Ireland. That is why I detest hearing politicans say we must change our laws here. They tell us that our teenagers and school-going children must have contraceptives simply because they say it will be one step towards helping the Northern situation. Did anyone ever hear anything more daft? What we should do is make an effort to raise the moral standards of young people in the North as well as in the South, without trying to pull them down in the South. We should teach them the value of the family and of human life and the danger of taking human life. The destruction of human life cannot contribute to peace and stability.

Is any Deputy seriously suggesting that if this Bill is passed and contraceptives are freely available to teenagers and school children we will be any nearer to solving the North of Ireland's problem? Some politicians answer yes, but I say never. It is very wrong to associate the good-living and honourable people in the North of Ireland, many of whom differ from us in religion, with permissiveness. Many such people condemn the free availability of contraceptives.

There are no more loyal family people than the Protestant people of Northern Ireland. They love and care for their families and I do not know why they should be used as a stepping stone to permissiveness. These people appreciate deeply their traditional values. That is why I ask if this House is going to sell out the real moral values of young boys and girls and the single people. It is dreadful to be associated with that kind of action. Do Deputies realise what they are doing by defying the moral law, flying in the face of God and ignoring the teachings that define contraception as wrong? Yet, in order to stay in Parliament for a longer time these people will sell out our youth. I say to Deputies on all sides do not sell out our young people. They are worth our support. Do not put temptation in their way. Not all of them may be strong willed. We have a duty to protect the family but we will not do that if we allow free availability of contraceptives. A serious obligation rests on individual Members of Parliament. Having considered fully every aspect of the moral dangers, they can, by their vote, drive our future generations of young people into moral chaos, to the threshold of moral disaster and abolish for all time traditional Christian values that have been cherished for generations.

I hope that what I have said in relation to Northern Ireland will be taken as a tribute to and a recognition of the strict regard for family life in many Presbyterian, Methodist and Church of Ireland homes in the North. May God keep them so, and may no Southern politician ever be allowed to get away with the statement that they need these things if they are to come in with us and that, unless we have them readily available, they will not throw in their lot with us. May God spare our people from the disastrous consequences of the free availability of contraceptives to all, contrary to the moral law.

There is no demand whatever for this Bill. Where does the demand come from? I have contested 13 or 14 general elections and never once had I a request for a Bill of this kind. Not even since the last general election was I asked to help to promote, establish, encourage or influence such a Bill. Our people have been too concerned with the serious economic and social problems of unemployment, high taxation and the serious flow of emigration of our young people from our shores. Many people in public life raise their hands and decide that we must forget job creation, that unemployment can never be solved, that there is nothing for our young people. Instead, we make available free contraceptives for our youth and we do so in this International Youth Year.

This Bill involves legislators, people young and old, and the Church — and that is why I say it is an unusual Bill. I say to those who have been critical of some of the statements made by the bishops — passing reference to this was made by the Minister this morning — that the Church has a very clear duty to proclaim the moral law and the official teaching of the Church on these issues and to address legislators and people alike; and when the Church points out what is right and wrong then it is a matter for the legislator as to whether he heeds the warning and the consequences to Irish society.

This Bill is solely the responsibility of Parliament. In the case of divorce we would need a referendum to remove the ban. A few moments ago I asked where we are going or where we are being led by a group of political fanatics who have no regard for the consequences of breaking the moral law in regard to contraception. I do not want to be misunderstood in relation to family planning, which does not arise in this Bill. Family planning is something else, and I have referred to that. I want to go to some pains to say that our duty as legislators is serious and grave. We are elected to the Dáil to represent people, but we must make up our own minds and use our own judgment on issues of this kind. Every TD has a right and duty to make up his or her own mind. I want to put on the record of the House, so that when we all are gone some young Deputies in the future will read it, that a TD's conscience is not the prisoner of those who voted for him, nor is it the prisoner of the party he belongs to. His conscience is his own. I made that very clear at my political party meeting.

In a true democracy this is vital. Too often, in the tragic history of Europe and the world, dictators have tried to take away the conscience of the people, with disastrous results. You cannot take people's conscience away from them. A conscience belongs to the individual. No Member of this House, male or female, can come in here through the revolving doors and say goodbye to his or her conscience. The conscience must come with the person. Above all, conscience is with a person at the hour of death when he will have to give an account of all his movements in this House. That is the time I fear in relation to what I say and do and the example I am giving to those who sent me here to speak for them. I must give good example. I must speak in the interest of the common good of all who sent me here. I must tell the nation what, according to my conscience I believe is the right road and what is the wrong road, and I am doing so in this debate. Quite a few Deputies will not be here after the next election, but I have enough confidence in my constituents to expect to be returned.

The Deputy will be here anyway.

No TD can leave his conscience outside the door. A TD cannot say he would like to go in a certain direction, in the direction in which his conscience led him, but that for other reasons he must take a different route. If we fail to act in accordance with our conscience we will one day face a strict judge who will say, "when you got the opportunity to uphold my teaching, you reneged and turned your back merely to enjoy a little extra time as a Deputy". For those who do not believe, that is their business, but I am a believer and I must act accordingly. If a TD is convinced that the common good of the nation will be damaged seriously by any law, whether that law relates to contraception, abortion, divorce or sex education, he should not vote for that law, and no political party has the right to deny freedom of conscience on moral teaching. One expects all political parties to respect a member's sincere conviction on matters of conscience.

I am the victim of circumstances in this matter because I am to be denied the expression of my moral conviction which is in line with the teaching of the Church of which I am a member and on which I will not renege. Nobody has the right to drive me into the division lobbies to vote for something I consider to be morally destructive to the people assembled here. One would be forgiven for thinking that those who are opposed to this Bill have no right to be heard, but that is not the case. One might get the impression that only those who are in favour of the Bill should be heard here, but there are tens of thousands in my constituency who deplore the availability of contraceptives for young people. I speak on their behalf. Somebody must speak for them. The Bill is wrong morally and politically.

No political party has the right to openly reject any member for that member's full defence of Article 41 of the Constitution. My colleagues are powerless to help me in what is happening. Nobody seems to be able to make the point strongly enough that Article 41 affords protection to the family. I am endeavouring to ensure that that protection is provided, but for that I must be rejected by my party. I am only trying to defend the family from attack. Why can other members of the party not see this issue as I see it, or is it the case that they merely need a little stimulation in order to show courage?

Article 41 is the most important article of the Constitution so far as I am concerned. No political party has the right to deny a member the proper use and judgment of his conscience and of the convictions into which he was born. There is talk about compelling the people of Northern Ireland to join with us, but would that mean that they would no longer be able to exercise their rights in accordance with their conscience? I often think about Article 41 and say to myself that it is an article which is easy to overlook. I regard it as the most important article of the Constitution in respect of life in rural Ireland and in our cities also, where there are great numbers of good people who love their families. It is not natural in a real democracy for a political party to deny a member the right to uphold the traditions into which he was born. One would be forgiven for getting the impression that the imposition of a party whip can alter conscience and judgment on issues of grave concern.

It would be too bad if that were the case. Democracy would not survive long if we were all to be driven into the lobbies and compelled to vote for what we knew was wrong and immoral. Some of the once great dictators in Europe, at one time on a pedestal but now forgotten, implemented whips of that kind, thereby denying the right of personal judgment and conscience and prohibiting the exercise of people's right to condemn wrong. It was that practice on the part of those dictators that brought them to disaster and destruction.

I want to put on record that no political party has the right to compel a Member to vote against the moral law of God, although it has often been tried. This may be the subject of smiles from Members who may not believe, but I believe. Is this real democracy? Are we on the threshold of some form of dangerous dictatorship when one cannot defend by his or her vote the law of God? There are very serious consequences resulting from a Bill of this kind.

I also want on record that Members of Parliament should be very slow to allow anybody to take away their right to support right and to condemn wrong, their right to use their conscience on moral issues. The day that Parliament allows that to happen is one day closer to the end of free democratic parliament as we know it. We have a right to use our conscience and a right to use our judgment.

In our Constitution the family is described as the natural, primary and fundamental unit of society. The day that is not fully recognised is one which will not serve any good. Our job as elected representatives in Parliament is to work for the common good. I ask all Deputies, even those who are going to vote for the Bill, are they genuinely satisfied that this is for the common good of our people? I do not know what kind of conscience one would need to answer in the affirmative, that this Bill is going to promote a healthier future for our teenagers and healthier and happier families, particularly in the case of young married couples who are about to set up the fundamental unit of society — the family.

The grave danger of this Bill is in recognition of contraception, which according to moral law is wrong. We now want to encourage what is contrary to the teaching of the Church. We now want to encourage young people to do what is wrong, to make available facilities to single teenagers to do what is contrary to moral law. This is a terrible responsibility which rests on Members of Parliament here. I wonder have Deputies taken a very serious view of the fundamentals associated with this legislation. We are giving the stamp of approval to contraception, which we all know is wrong. This is the first time that I have ever seen legislation of this kind coming before the House, allowing free availability of contraceptives. We cannot have that availability unless we recognise contraception, which is wrong and can never be right until the end of time. Have we all lost our senses and our sense of responsibility?

This is where I find fault with the political parties. We are not dealing with an ordinary, normal, political issue. Let no Deputy convince the other that we are dealing with an economic, or a financial, or a political issue — far from it. It is a moral issue. We must carefully consider the consequences of our action, whether private or public. I put very special emphasis on that. As a politician, I am bound in conscience to stop the rot from spreading, and it is spreading rapidly. There is no more than one voice speaking against it. I do not know if any other Deputy will speak in the same way.

I know from my experience that the quality of life in Ireland is rapidly going downhill. There is less consideration for others, there are worse problems than ever before with regard to misuse of drugs and alcohol. More serious is the value put on human life. How many will say that in the history of this country human life has ever been thought as little of, North and South, as at present? Could anyone think our quality of life could reach the stage where our old people living alone would be murdered and beaten up in their homes? That day is here with us. That is the quality of life here. At this disastrous quality of life, which is sliding rapidly down the hill of no return, somebody must say "Stop the rot from spreading". This Bill will accelerate the spreading of the rot. This is a serious and dangerous matter. That is why I am so perturbed and worried about it. I am depressed at the approach of politicians who cannot see anything wrong with what in written law is morally wrong.

What has become of educational standards? Our old people who lived in times of poverty had one thing of which to be proud. Although they were financially poor they were rich in spirit and in tradition. They were full of the joy of traditional moral values. Is it not Deputy Desmond's job as Minister for Health to encourage traditional moral standards? Despite all the prosperity since the sixties the people have not been happier.

This Bill will hurry the people down the slippery slope of moral decline. I as a legislator will have no hand act or part in speeding up the moral decline of the nation. We need men and women of courage to halt the rot which is setting in to our cultural traditional and moral values. The value of human life cannot be realised in economic terms. Life does not end at death. From the moment of conception a soul is created which will last through all eternity. That life comes from God. I wonder how many people who will vote on this Bill realise the seriousness and the value of human life. The gift of life is the greatest gift from God and the human mind cannot fully grasp the dimension of life from conception through eternity. We are being asked to gamble with the conception of human life in this ruthless, irresponsible Bill with the nickname of a Family Planning Bill. The Minister for Health and other Ministers appear to perceive this issue as a passing phase and they do not give serious thought to its consequences. If contraceptives are provided for teenagers it will lead to more abortions. Contraceptives do not guarantee against the creation of human life. Where as a result of the failure of a contraceptive a conception takes place the tendency will be to resort to abortions.

This is not an ordinary everyday political venture. This is tampering with the work of creation. This Bill is contrary to moral law. From my experience I have seen that, the more intelligent people are and the more degree qualifications they have, the greater is their lack of appreciation of the value of the moral law and of life from the moment of conception. How many people say that life ends once one is in the grave? How foolish can people be? How often have we heard that life changes but is not taken away? This Bill is contrary to all moral teachings and to the law of creation. It is an encouragement to permissiveness. This Bill will lead to abortions, which are murders as sure as we are here.

Do Deputies realise the serious consequences of the matter we are discussing? The Bishop of Cork was not far out when he said that men in public life are out of touch with reality. Could any words be more appropriate? We speak of tolerance and understanding and that we must act accordingly, but on a matter of such serious moral consequences we are accused of speaking with misunderstanding and intolerance.

Many Deputies here do not share my view of the seriousness of the dimensions of a Bill which would make contraceptives freely available to teenagers. Contraceptives will be given out like sweets out of a jar. Members of the House must take responsibility for that, because we cannot say the party whips made us do it. Many of us here are blessed with a certain amount of intelligence and we must use it here so that we will judge right or wrong. I feel very sorry for Deputies who will vote for what they know to be wrong. We must remember that they will have to live with their conscience long after they leave this House, and this will strike them most when they see the terrible consequences of their action next Tuesday or Wednesday. They will have a reflection of it until the end of their days, because they will have denied a law superior to all laws, that is, the moral law.

I hope the Minister will indicate how he feels this Bill will help the family. Perhaps he has an idea of the family different from mine. I regard the family as being based on marriage but the family the Minister is referring to in the Bill is the single unmarried teenager, who is being provided with facilities for family planning although he or she is not a family. Is that family planning? I asked that question elsewhere and a thunder came down on me, but there was no reply.

Is the single teenager to be described as a family? That was not the idea of the family in Article 41 of the Constitution. To me a family is the result of a union between man and woman after marriage. This Bill will provide school-going boys and girls with facilities freely to avail of contraceptives, and to me that is wrong in law and wrong morally, because it gives legal recognition to what the moral law tells us is wrong — contraception.

I do not know in which direction we are going. I do not know what the Minister has in mind when he provides for 18 year olds this device to avail freely of contraceptives. He had the age at 16 years and he eased the minds of Fine Gael by raising it to 18 years. He had been insisting on 16 years and Fine Gael thought they were doing a great thing when they persuaded the Minister to go from 16 years to 18 years.

How will this be administered? From now on, must students of all ages be in possession of birth certificates? Will they have to present them at the clinics before the clinics part with the merchandise? It is a huge fraud. The Minister is putting in something blind so that Deputies will not see there will be a free-for-all. Of course there will be a free-for-all. The 18 years provision cannot be implemented, and its inclusion in the Bill is simply a device to get Deputies to vote for what is wrong. That is why I have been commenting so strongly on this. Is it not true to say that if a cinema is showing a film for adult viewing only, they cannot ask young people to produce birth certificates? Is it not true that 14 year olds and 15 year olds will not be stopped? The same will apply in regard to contraceptives. There is a law against under age drinking but if one visits any lounge bar one will see that a lot of under age drinking is taking place. Why is the law in regard to under age drinking not being enforced? It is not enforced because it would be impossible to do so.

It will also be impossible to enforce the provisions of this legislation. What is to stop an 18 year old getting contraceptives to be used by a 12 year old? It should be made clear that there will not be any restriction because it would be impossible to enforce one. This amounts to a free for all. It is a mistake to think that the legislation is other than a clear step down the road to further moral decay. Other parliaments have adopted similar legislation and the evidence is that it represented the first step down the road of moral decline and corruption of youth. The evidence is available for any Member who wishes to examine it. Those countries have experienced an alarming increase in the number of abortions and it has been found that contraceptives were used by people of tender age. If that occurs here what hope is there for the future?

The use of contraceptives has led to an increase in venereal disease and various forms of cancer. The Minister encourages us not to smoke in order to avoid cancer and take the precautionary step of having X-rays, but he is introducing legislation which will lead to a considerable growth in venereal disease and many forms of cancer. The position is serious. The proposals would bring Irish people far beyond the crossroads of decline and well on the road to moral disaster. If we go the way of the Minister our nation will take a rapid turn on the road to moral decline. That must not be allowed to happen. I am aware that parents are concerned for the welfare of young people and of the danger that threatens them.

In the course of his speech the Minister said:

It is also clear that a further significant number of doctors have little or no training in family-planning and are able to provide, at best, a limited service.

Have any moves been made by the Minister to establish well-equipped clinics to promote the natural methods of family planning? The Minister also stated:

Doctors will in future be entitled, if they so desire, to sell contraceptives at the place where they ordinarily carry out their professional duties.

I do not believe that doctors and officials who are deeply motivated by a desire to keep within the moral law will avail of the Minister's invitation to get involved in the sale of these commodities. What I fear most about this permissive legislation, as I feared about the attempts in the pro-life amendment campaign — which, thank God, were beaten so well and firmly by our people — is that it is part of a wider scheme. We can see that reflected in certain sections of the Nurses Bill in regard to ethics. I am afraid of what is happening. The Bill before us is part of the overall plan of a small but very powerful group of politicians who are being advised internationally to smash the family. In other words, their plan is to put the moral law into the shade and keep it there. That is one of the reasons I was so firm when dealing with the question of ethics in our hospitals.

I should like to refer to the Irish Report of the European Value Systems Study prepared by Professor Michael Fogarty, which was dealt with by the Minister. According to that report those aged between 18 and 24 expressed not very much or no confidence in the Dáil. What confidence will they express if the Bill is passed? We are marking International Youth Year by making contraceptives freely available to our youth. That is a terrible thought and a serious and grave insult to our young people. It is no wonder that they do not express any confidence in the Dáil. They look to the Dáil for something practical, for a headline and for leadership which they have not got. They are looking to the Dáil to strike a blow for jobs, work and security, for housing, for encouragement so that they can live in frugal comfort and set up their own families in accordance with the full terms of Christian decency. They want to live in Ireland and rear their families in Ireland. The best the Dáil can give them in the International Youth Year is free access to contraceptives.

Is it any wonder that the young people of Ireland are losing respect and admiration for Parliament if they can get nothing better than contraceptives in their hour of need for constructive work and stability? They want to bring up their own families in accordance with the traditions of Christian values which this Bill takes from them. It is no wonder that they have expressed in no uncertain way their disappointment with a Parliament which looks upon them in such a manner. Ireland deserves better. Our young people deserve better. Our nation needs more hope and a revival of the true Gaelic spirit inspired by the national ideals and backed up by true Christian values. That is what we need instead of bringing our young people down to the lowest possible level as the recipients of a flood of contraceptives.

We are all open to temptation from time to time. The pitfalls are there. Today this Parliament is debating a Bill which will create more pitfalls for our teenagers, the future mothers and fathers of Ireland. This Bill should be rejected. Many dangers face our young unemployed without the temptation of the free availability of contraceptives. Why should we tempt them further along the road to moral decline? We are doing that, and some Deputies are laughing and doing it with pleasure and delight. They are getting a great kick out of driving our young people down the road to moral decline.

We are told the people get the parliamentary representatives they deserve. There is an old saying that if you sow nettles you cannot expect roses to grow. Do we not expect better standards from men in public life? We should be providing praise, assistance, encouragement, physical development, sporting development and better living standards for our young people. All those are being replaced by the Minister for Health with the free availability of the temptation of contraceptives. Every man and woman who votes for this Bill may not answer for it today but, as sure as we are here, they will have to render an account for their actions. This is wrong and nobody can make it right. The passage of this Bill will not make it right.

Because of my love, respect and admiration for family life and the cultivation of Christian traditional standards, in conscience and in recognition of my own Church's teaching on contraceptives, which declares them wrong and immoral, I say this Bill is contrary to the moral law. It is a temptation to the youth of Ireland. It will wreck homes, cause further pregnancies, bring about abortions and lead down the road to moral decline. When the division is called I will vote against this Bill because I believe it is not for the common good of Ireland or its people.

Like other Members of the House I listened intently for the past two hours and 15 minutes to Deputy Flanagan expressing his views. Whatever one's personal views are, one could not help being impressed by the sincerity with which he expressed his deep and heartfelt views. This day will be recorded for posterity as the day when the Minister for Health, Deputy Desmond, and his cohorts in the regime, placed before this House a Bill which is contemptible and reprehensible to the vast majority of our population. There is no need for it.

In opposing this Bill I do not intend to engage in personal comments on a subject which I regard as being essentially very human, very sensitive and very personal. It relates to the inter-personal relationships between many of our people. This Bill must be debated seriously, responsibly and maturely. We must take cognisance of all the expertise and knowledge available to us on all sides of the House. I am a professional politician, proudly and sincerely representing my constituents and my party. As a medical doctor I have a professional expertise and knowledge of this subject which makes me completely au fait with the basic details of the problems being debated by us.

These are of major concern to all of us legislators. Far be it from me to suggest that I have a monopoly of knowledge in this sphere. On the other hand I would most humbly and respectfully suggest to the Members of this House and the country at large that my professional experience and knowledge as a medical doctor has placed me in the privileged position of being able to familiarise myself in greater detail than most people purely because of that occupational situation — with the detailed problems under discussion.

As a natural progression I would hope my contribution would be positive, logical and helpful, offering a convincing argument against the passage of this Bill. In a rational discussion of a subject so serious and fundamental as is this there is absolutely no place for over-emotive or hysterical comments. We are dealing with simple, basic, fundamental social and physical facts which are far-reaching and will have far-reaching effects, which impinge on and involve the basics of the social standards of our people but, in particular, our young people.

Deputy O.J. Flanagan said he felt he had a great responsibility, that we all in this House had a great responsibility, in expressing our views and with regard to how we vote on this Bill. I share that great sense of responsibility in presenting my viewpoint. It would be unjust, dishonest and professionally disingenuous of me were I to mislead anyone, and I mean anyone, in this House, or any party, regarding the implications of the provisions of this Bill. I respectfully contend that this Bill should be subjected to critical analysis in every sense. We must first ask ourselves: what is its purpose? Is there a need for it in the society in which we live at present? Then we must ask ourselves: is there a demand for this Bill, are the public clamouring for it? Then we must pose the question: if implemented what will its provisions achieve? Will it be for the common good? Will it lead to good, or create harm? We must then ask ourselves: will it constitute an improvement on the existing Act and, if not, why not? If it does not constitute such improvement then we must, in turn, ask ourselves: what are the inherent dangers in its implementation? Lastly we must ask ourselves; is it now a national priority that this Bill be debated and passed?

Those are points I shall discuss in greater detail at a later stage. I shall take the last question first, that is whether this Bill is or constitutes a priority as of now, whether it is a priority for the people and the country at present, whether it is of so much importance to our people that it must take precedence over certain other important economic events of the last few weeks. I honestly and sincerely believe there are much more important and serious events affecting the vast majority of our people, in particular our young people at present. These young people encounter serious problems in regard to the basic economic developments taking place and which far exceed in importance anything contained in this Bill. Deputy O.J. Flanagan believed that also. I believe, recognise and am convinced that there are greater priorities because I have taken the trouble to consult as many groups of people, in particular young people, as possible as to what they regard as being important. I have taken the trouble — as I am sure have many others in this House — to consult all shades of opinion as regards the necessity for this Bill at this time. I can tell the House that our young people are now concerned for themselves, their futures and at the lack of jobs, that they are concerned about the 250,000 people now unemployed, about the lack of hope and confidence obtaining. They are concerned about our lack of credibility as a nation, in an economic sense. They are concerned that the country is going down the economic drain. They are questioning whether they should remain or take the emigrant ship or plane. Those are the concerns of our young people at present. Our young people are not interested or concerned in the Minister's so-called Bill relating to a so-called improvement in family planning.

I honestly believe that its introduction at this time demonstrates an appalling lack of judgment on the part of this Minister and his Government. As Deputy O. J. Flanagan said — and I too am convinced of this — it demonstrates that they are out of touch with reality. I am convinced that they have absolutely twisted priorities in regard to the importance of the real issues obtaining in the country. I find it absolutely incomprehensible that a so-called Bill, supposed to effect an improvement in relation to family planning, should be taken in such an expeditious fashion, taking precedence over the budget debate. The timing of its presentation is appallingly bad, following on a budget which failed to convince anybody of its efficacy and value, which failed to face up to the realities of our economic problems, a budget which has fallen flat on its face, ricocheting back into the faces of the members of the Government.

Debate adjourned.