Last evening when I was speaking on this proposal to amend the Constitution most of my remarks were addressed to the question of the necessity for this referendum, to the question of the origin of the demand for this referendum, to a lesser extent what its consequences will be and I raised the question of what it told us about ourselves at this time. I commented on the conduct of the campaign on the amendment and how it contrasted very definitely with the tenor of the debate that began in this House last evening. I want to say a little more about that now because I feel that, unfortunately, there has crept into the debate outside the House an atmosphere that is singularly unhelpful to the public in making up their minds as to whether we need an amendment like this.
It is not unusual to have the views of those who genuinely believe that this amendment is not necessary twisted and misinterpreted. I have commented on this amendment and on the organisation that proposed it outside this House. Perhaps it was one of my more colourful descriptions. I described them as a weird collection of different groups, fanatics, right wing people and gynaecologists who were relatively removed within the ranks of gynaecology in some respects from practice. In the Evening Herald of 29 April 1983 I found to my horror my name mentioned in a piece attributed to Joseph Power, the religious affairs correspondent, under the title “Bishop Slams Weird Jibe at Nurses”. The tenor of this piece suggested that Dr. Comiskey speaking to some group suggested that I had described nurses as weird. This is typical of the type of treatment this issue has received. What I said explicitly in my statement was that a disparate group of people, some of them were Mná na hÉireann, the responsible society and so on, many organisations some of them religious, some professional, medical and so on, had come together under a flag of convenience. It was the alliance of such groups that I described quite clearly as weird. But for the purposes of Dr. Comiskey's unfortunate statement I am represented incorrectly and damagingly as saying that nurses are weird. This is where I might differ from many people. Without drawing any specific derivation from a single denomination, I define political, public and social morality as it is understood in jurisprudence, always to include social and economic morality and the right to one's good name as much as it does towards a somewhat sick obsession about sexual morality. I counterpose that version of morality to the narrow version of morality which has, unfortunately, prevailed in this State, which has lent itself too often in our history, unfortunately, to fanaticism, to the creation of vast burdens of guilt, towards a judgmental attitude which I will develop in a moment and so on. It is certainly relevant in relation to what I said last evening that the people who hold different opinions in this society are as entitled to their opinion, as are entitled to their good name, as is anybody else in our society.
This is something that is not accepted by the people who are in the pro-life lobby. On that point I want to make a correction for the sake of the record because if I speak at great length today on this matter it is because I have found myself speaking on it in different parts of the country and it became a very emotive issue when I was standing for election to Dáil Éireann last year. For that reason I propose to straighten out a few matters that I consider would be of assistance to the public to have straightened out. I carefully kept details of all the statements I made during the campaign but there is one inaccuracy of mine that I remember and I would like publicly to correct it now. In a list of the different organisations who affiliated early on to the pro-life amendment campaign: inadvertently I included, for example, Viatores Christi on one occasion on a radio programme. I have written to Viatores Christi saying that I deeply regret including them because I am perfectly satisfied that it was an error on my part. I correct that error publicly again because it is important that we accept the moral responsibility for what we say during the debate on this amendment. I stand over every word I have said from the beginning right through this morning and until I finish speaking.
Much of what I said last evening made the case for tolerance. I would like to raise one question this morning which I think is quite important and that is that that tolerance stands as a political value in straight opposition to fanaticism. There are some people who would want this debate to go quickly through the House but there are many who want to have it discussed with some care in view of its very serious implications. Last night I quoted Senator W.B. Yeats and this morning I want to make reference to another statement of his contained in a long letter which included the notes of the speeches he would have given if the Seanad had been allowed to discuss divorce. His speech was printed on pages eight to ten of the Irish Statesman of March 14, 1925. He said:
I do not think that my words will influence a single vote here nor am I thinking of this House. I am thinking only of a quarrel which I perceive is about to commence. Fanaticism having won this victory, and I see nothing that can prevent it unless it be proved to have over-stepped the law, will make other attempts upon the liberty of minorities. I want those minorities to resist and their resistance may do an overwhelming service to this country. They may become the centre of its creative intellect and the pivot of its unity.
The importance of W. B. Yeats's statement in 1925 was not only in its case for the minority. Behind it was a deeper suggestion that is extremely important, and that is, that the manner in which you treat your minorities is the mark of your democracy. It is a poor version of democracy in which the majority is defined — a point made by Senator O'Leary last evening — in simply statistical terms, that because you have a statistical majority you therefore can ignore the deep feelings of different minorities which lie within your society. The treatment of minorities is the mark of democracy. It is how the majority treats its minorities, how it negotiates opinion and the arriving at an opinion, how it will seek to avoid hubris and how it will seek to avoid arrogance. That has been the historic mark of civilisations where you have many minorities and majorities that have been sustained over a period of time. It relates to a neglected aspect of this debate so far and I want to make some newer points than those made already so as to avoid repetition. A point that has been neglected is one of the fundamentals in jurisprudence, that is, the balance between the right of conscience and the intervention of the State.
We have heard in the past year a great deal about the rights of the unborn. Many people, and I emphasise this, in the different organisations genuinely hold the belief that they are pursuing something very important to them ethically and morally. I accept that completely. Equally, many others are pursuing something that they think has the benefits of opportunism in a political sense, that it is a good issue to strike at what they see as the conservative mind of Ireland. But standing separate from that right and deserving equally of our consideration — this is the question of the right to life of the unborn — is the right to freedom of conscience. There stands behind the right to freedom of conscience a complicated, long and very thoughtful history as to what freedom of conscience in fact is. The evolution of this argument, for example, begins with the statement that objectively from facts one can state what is right or wrong. It moves from early suggestions in the 13th century towards the idea that we cannot be asked to accept as right or wrong something that contradicts reason.
For those people who are interested in making the argument within the recognised corpus of Catholic thought, it occurs in St. Thomas who suggests that people cannot be asked to believe something that contradicts reason. It goes on and is restated again and again by St. Alphonsus much later on and it is given expression by one theologian after another. Finally it finds its way into Papal statements to UNESCO. It finds its way, for example, into the statement of John XXIII in 1961 about “the ends of justice being liberty and peace for all the peoples of the earth without distinction of race or language”. He suggested that the different religious spirits and different values of people should be respected, equally, in relation to the United Nations definition of freedom of conscience.
I find it extraordinary that in this amendment which is opposed by all the denominations other than the Roman Catholic one, we can easily neglect this fundamental principle of the rights of those who in conscience believe something different and separate from the Roman Catholic position, that they are to be required by civil statement in our Constitution to hold a view that in conscience they reject. Senator Mary Robinson, in her valuable contribution yesterday evening, documented the case from the point of view of the minorities within this country. We had the statement, not from isolated individuals within the country, but representative statements by people who are as near to being the elected voice of their denominations as we will ever get, and they are all at one in saying that they do not want this amendment now. It is that opinion that we are choosing to neglect. It is that statement of conscience that we are trampling on and it ill-behoves people — Deputy Haughey, for example — to suggest that we are now involved in something above the parties, that we are pursuing a human rights ideal.
What sort of human rights ideal is it that tramples on the freedom of conscience, explicitly documented and sent to every Member of the Oireachtas? Let us on this day in May 1983 record that the people who do not vote to stop this amendment in its tracks are in fact accomplices in this trampling on freedom of conscience of minorities in this island.
This debate concerns many different issues. It touches on the larger issue of the relationship between Church and State. It is not an intellectual matter because again and again this question of freedom of conscience has been debated all over the world. I sat in both Seanad Éireann and in Dáil Éireann when we passed resolutions and answered questions about the denial of freedom of conscience to different groups all over the world. We are neglecting that freedom of conscience if we proceed along the path on which we have started. I will define that, because freedom of conscience needs to be given a clearer definition than I have given it. The freedom that I speak of is the freedom that people should be free and immune from coercion on the part of every human partner and they should not be forced to act against their moral convictions. I am using the term "moral" in the very widest sense.
Freedom of conscience is important in another sense. It is one of the fundamentals of the ability of the person to achieve his or her full potentiality. I would go farther and say that the body of opinion in jurisprudence now holds that freedom of conscience is possibly the greatest, the highest and most precious of all human rights. If we are to have a debate on this issue within the dimension of human rights I would like to be contradicted on that point.
That question has to be prosecuted in terms of the relationship between the majority and the minority. I listened carefully to what Senator O'Leary said last evening and I agree entirely with his description of The Moral Majority and their tactics in the United States. Unfortunately, so much of those tactics, and the money that props up that campaign in the United States, has found its way to Ireland. Even in a circuitous way the plagiarism of poor W. B. Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming", had to come from being lifted from an American magazine, as we heard yesterday. There is a side to that that to me is very important. The majority — to use his phrase again — if it uses bullying tactics can bring society to the point of absurdity. I will give an example of it from the United States. There are places in the United States now that have had referenda on whether the teaching of Darwin should be prohibited in the schools and Darwin has been driven from the syllabus. That kind of mentality that rejects science, open-mindedness, the influence of reason, knowledge, that asserts narrowness, bigotry and ignorance is what is in The Moral Majority's essential ideological thrust. Much of that has found its way into the campaign in favour of this amendment. There is an alternative. I struggled at times to see points that might have united people on different sides of this deeply divisive debate so far. Sometimes I thought there were people on each side who were motivated by the same concern, to have as broad as possible a definition of the protection of life.
I say to myself: If that kind of a consensus was to be forged why did these people not ask for a comprehensive review of the position of women and children in our society at this time? Why not make the case for the publication of a White Paper that will look at every discrimination against women, particularly women who are vulnerable, such as single mothers, that will look at the treatment of children who have found themselves in institutions; that will look at all the vulnerable sections of society? That could have been followed by compassionate legislation. Listen, I suggest, to the voice of morality in Ireland as we have become used to it. It almost strikes one that I am using the wrong word when I use phrases like compassion and love because they have no place in the version of morality that is being peddled by the people who are in this lobby for this amendment. Compassion and love are things they have left aside because they would have demanded a concern over the years for all the people I mentioned, the vulnerable women in society who have been discriminated against, the children who have been discriminated against and so on. I urge the Members of the Seanad to take that path of concern and compassion rather than the one of judgment and criminalisation. This judgmental mentality of criminalisation is one of the most serious limitations in our ability to deal with our problems at present. I can give an example of it.
I remember listening to the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill in the other House and the published reports of that Bill gave lists of people who were speaking about the importance of strengthening the forces of law and order. I cannot recall that in the two days I listened to the debate that I heard a single condemnation of the marauding band who went through Fairview Park beating up people that they asserted were homosexuals. This is what we face in our society. Our version of morality is limited to sexual morality. It tramples in areas of private decision-making as if there was no respect for freedom of conscience and refuses to judge the most savage attacks on individuals on the basis of bigotry and hate.
We need to ask ourselves questions in 1983 at a time when half the population are under the age of 25, when we have nearly 200,000 people out of work, when in Europe there are 12.3 million people out of work and by the nineties we expect 15 million to be out of work. What moral capacity have we to respond to problems that face us here and in Europe if we are looking backwards, taking refuge in the thirties, peddling this musty, diseased, narrow view of ourselves that we insist is something superior to the rest of the world?
There is another side to it that sits nicely with that stunted version of political morality and it is the idea of a nod-and-a-wink notion of the law. I read with great care the statement in The Irish Catholic on Thursday, 21 April 1983, by the Bishop of Kerry, Most Reverend Dr. McNamara, who wrote under the headline, “Recent Objections To Amendment Answered”. The whole force of Dr. McNamara's argument is essentially this one. He is taking up the point that this referendum if passed will seriously endanger the lives of women, will put at risk practices that are going on in hospitals at present in relation to ectopic pregnancies and women suffering from cancer of the uterus and so on.
His reply has subtlety to it. He says that to suggest that this would happen is to suggest that the law would be operated rigidly rather than flexibly. To my mind this is as flagrant an abuse of the principles of jurisprudence as I have read for some time. What is really being done is shaking holy water in this case over the classic evasion we have towards the law. It is almost irrelevant what the law says, it is what we practice that is important. The suggestion seems to be that we can change the law and, of course, whatever appears to be prohibited will not really be prohibited because we know that what we are doing will continue on.
That fits nicely in a society that has broadcasting Acts that are flouted every day as people go around listening to their radios in their motor cars and so on. It is, in a curious way, strikingly subversive of the force of law itself because its statement when one passes it right down to the end seems to be saying: It is irrelevant what form of law you have; it is what you do when you have passed it that counts. I do not want to live in a society like that. I accuse that kind of thinking of being casuistry of the worst kind. It is dishonest and is evasive.
There is a preliminary point I want to clear up from last night's debate that is important because some speakers seem to be suggesting that one could equate the pro-life movement and the anti-amendment campaign of which I have the honour to be a sponsor. I will just make one point. To my knowledge no member of the anti-amendment campaign has broken up a meeting. We have not seized microphones and sang "The Galway Shawl" in front of doctors who wanted to speak on the rights and wrongs of this amendment. The thugs, where they have come, have come from the ranks of SPUC. They have been seen on television for what they are. It is they who have come to the meetings and it is they who have broken up the meetings. They have done so in claiming to represent some kind of Irishness that they are the sole guardians of. They represent a certain kind of Irishness. It is an ugly side to our character, the intolerant and the bigoted side. I speak with as much credentials about Irishness as anybody who is a member of any of those organisations whether their titles be in Irish or in English.
I remember talking to my father about his time in the War of Independence and of the kind of values they wanted for society. It certainly was not the kind of society we have at present. The people, for example, who described themselves as republican were not people who wanted to trample on the views of protestants, who wanted to judge women, who wanted to turn their eyes away from the real problems that are going on and to strike sanctimonious poses in ignorance and in callous indifference to the real problems that exist. Often when driving home from some of the meetings that discussed this amendment I pondered on what was said when one asked the question: "What difference will this amendment make?" Everybody for and against would give the same answer — not very much real difference in relation to the thousands of women who make the lonely journey to Britain. I thought how callous that sounded. I read more literature from the people who are in favour of the amendment and it became perfectly clear to me what, in fact, was afoot.
This amendment — I urge Fine Gael Members to pay great attention to this point — is being put forward as much for international consumption as it is for national consumption. It is acknowledged by its proponents that it will do nothing whatsoever to change the number, probably the debate will have increased it, of people who go to England for abortions but it will, as Dr. Julia Vaughan has said again and again on radio and television, enable us to be seen as a people who have done something. We will have made our gesture which will be seen internationally as having created a clean area in the world, an abortion-free zone. That is what Ireland will be.
It is irrelevant what takes place in England. Indeed, the ranks of the moral entrepreneurs broke briefly during the campaign when their legal advisers suggested that we should start pursuing women outside the jurisdiction in France, England and so forth and that we should make sure that we had a legal instrument that enabled us to make such a pursuit. That was stated in a Veritas publication as we know very well. By and large, to be fair, what most people who have been for this have wanted to say is that they wanted to make Ireland an abortion-free area.
I find that this view of life, this view of the law, this view of morality, and this notion of social policy if it be there at all is so crazily unsuited to our conditions at present that I cannot see for the life of me how it can be supported by reasonable people or by legislators. I must consider for a moment the manner in which the different parties have taken up a position on this referendum. In relation to the Fianna Fáil position — I say this with great respect to Members of the Seanad who are members of Fianna Fáil—I urge them to pull back from the position that the leader of their Party, Deputy Haughey, has taken on this issue. Historians will judge this year and last year as a time when he could have put an end to this incredible nonsense by a single personal decision. He could have at any time said: "This madness must stop", and he chose not to do so. It is interesting to note — I can only rely on newspaper reports — that it appears there has been very little debate within the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party on the pros and cons of continuing with this amendment. That is a terrible mark on the Fianna Fáil Party and on its leader. They will not be thanked for having, in 1980 taken an extraordinary political historical leap to the Right of Fine Gael. John White in his "Church and State in Modern Ireland" once credited that party as being stronger in dealing with the forces of Catholic demands in the forties and fifties than the Fine Gael Party and so on. Suddenly, in 1980 if one had fallen asleep for 40 years, one would wake up to find Fianna Fáil to the right of Fine Gael. I suppose that is progress of a sort to the Right.
The Fine Gael Party have an extraordinary position in relation to the amendment. They should seriously consider at this stage rejecting the amendment. I appeal to them to support the motion that has been put down by the Labour Senator, that we decline to give a Second Reading to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill on the grounds that the Bill is so unclear and ambiguous that it is not the proper subject for a proposal to be submitted to the people in a referendum. I do not understand the position of saying, on the one hand — we have had excellent legal opinion on this and have heard it in the debate yesterday — that the wording in this amendment represents a threat to the life of mothers and at the same time not to vote against it. Having done that they said they hoped the people will vote against it but they will not campaign to ask them to vote against it. I wonder which theology seminar I am at now in trying to straighten that one out.
If I stick to the subject which I know, political science, I can gather a clear implication from that. What it is really saying is: If you can avoid upsetting the people by taking your position first, good luck to you and it is something you should try. It is saying in a lovely way — perhaps we are moving towards anarchy altogether — is that we consult the people first and then after the people have given a safe decision the legislators will be safe to have an opinion. It is, of course, an intolerable abnegation of responsibility.
I want to put on the record of this House that the day I am afraid to offer an opinion on any matters like this I am perfectly willing to leave public life. I was faced with this choice last year when this amendment was published. I saw it as divisive, as singularly insulting to the minority, as unnecessary and, above all else, I saw it as anti-woman. I immediately issued a statement to the effect that it should be opposed because I believed it was marching us backwards to the thirties rather than taking cognisance of any of the real problems we have. However, we are in this position where Members of the Dáil and Seanad are invited to have no opinion while they wait for the public to speak. More than that, there is another twist to it, that while they keep their opinion in cold storage they are hoping the people will vote in a particular way. Maybe I am very old fashioned. It is either clear in its wording or it is not. It is either good in its effects or it is not. It is clear that there are many Members of both Houses who know that this wording is neither clear nor neutral in its effect and neither will it bring any benefit to Irish society in any way. Yet they are not free to vote against it. I find that truly extraordinary. I choose not to condemn anybody for that; I seek to understand some of the reasons for it. The reasons for it are largely similar to those I have already spoken about in relation to the atmosphere that prevails here. It is an atmophere of fear. Michael Davitt I believe it was — I do not wish to be accused of delivering any insult — who said that the Irish people had a weakness worse than drink; it was moral cowardice. There is a lot of moral cowardice involved. There is appalling moral cowardice by people who saw this as an opportunity to whip up votes. Is there anything as disgusting as the bad faith that is being sown in our political system by people who wander the corridors saying that they know that this measure is wrong, say in private it is unnecessary, that they disagree profoundly with the people who are proposing it and yet, at the same time, politically vote and behave differently?
It will be my pleasure to struggle for as long as I have energy against another kind of appalling Irish political phenomenon, the side of the mouth people. I remember them at the last election, the pathetic spectacle of a candidate and a relative of his going up to the car where the spokespeople were, saying: "Give me a bundle of those" so that he could hand out literature that was making allegations about certain people, claiming people were baby killers and so on. Then, when some of us arrived at polling stations, they ran back into the cars, keeping their heads down so that they would not be seen. That is what is at stake in 1983, decades after independence, when the country is full of young people with many problems, unemployment, housing, better institutions needed and in a part of this island people blowing themselves to pieces every day and we get involved in this seedy exercise. I will listen carefully to invitations to discuss a new Ireland and to speak about a pluralist society but the words will die on the lips of the people who refuse to stop this amendment should they want to restore themselves to some liberal version of themselves.
Another point which I covered is the question of the manner in which this term "pro-life" has been used. I gave a list of measures last night ranging from family planning to adoption, abolition of the status of illegitimacy in regard to which some of the principal figures who are now in the pro-life amendment compaign opposed all these measures. They picketed Dáil Éireann. They distributed leaflets and wrote to Members. Some of them actually came to this House. I can recall an occasion when one of them was removed for interrupting a speaker. They have not changed. They are the people who want to say that they are pro-life. They are pro-life and avoiding everything to do with life that would have improved the lot in the last decade of women and children. There is another side to it. How could this mentality be pro-life? If we were courageous legislators we would say to ourselves that there are some irreducible facts that face us. I have mentioned the youth of the population, the economic problems that are striking us and the lack of interest there is in political institutions. Every act of bad faith by politicans will damage those institutions further.
We have an opportunity of forging an entirely new version of Irish society. Last night I was discussing the effects of this amendment on our relationships with the communities in Northern Ireland. I want to clear one point. I am not suggesting that I am against this amendment simply because of that. I believe that I have the right to hope to live at some stage in a modern State, in a State that would be pluralist, that would derive its ethics and its morality from reason and compassion rather than from bigotry and hubrisive denominational majority strengths. I believe I have the right to hope for that and that is the reason I am opposed to the amendment. There are thousands more like me who just want to live in a modern society, a society that would seek to understand rather than to judge, a society that would value the freedon of conscience I have spoken about.
We have a choice in the amendment. The day this amendment goes to the people, and is carried, we will have set ourselves back, maybe a century but by a half a century certainly. We will be held up. We will be the darlings of the Right in the United States. The Wilkies will come back I suppose, doctor and wife, and congratulate the Irish pro-life amendment campaign for having had a signal victory. Who knows, but all our Right wing people may go to the United States and start winning victories there. We may be witnessing some kind of international crusade back beyond Darwin; it is a kind of new missionary activity. The mind boggles.
The choice we have is very simply that one. We can have political institutions that are seen to take these matters seriously, that debate matters in terms of the adequacy of a piece of legislation as law, the adequacy of a constitutional referendum in terms of its justification or in terms of necessity. Students of Constitutions would agree that there are really two basic elements to a Constitution. One is that it seeks to guarantee certain matters. The second is that it only makes assertions of guarantee in matters that are certain. In this case we are not able to guarantee anything. It is also made perfectly clear that the effect of passing this referendum is that there is no threat to any matter which we seek to guarantee. On the second criteria of certainly, it is pretending to be able to assert a certainty in matters in which there is no certainty possible. I have heard people say again and again that they know exactly when life begins, suggesting that there is no difference between human life and potential life, between an embryo and a fertilised egg and so on and that they can with certainty say that all these are the same. They go on and make demands that will have implications for harassed women, women often with very few resources, that will create uncertainty in the medical profession and in the world of science and may have the effect of cutting off many people who need therapies they are entitled to. Women are entitled to benefit not only from changing social attitudes as a matter of right but also developments in science and medicine. There are infertile couples who will also be endangered by this constitutional amendment. The answer to all that is: "Ah, you know it will not happen". That is the view of flexibility of Dr. McNamara, the Bishop of Kerry. One can have the luxury not only of appearing shining white to the international community but one can also have the luxury of having a constitutional statement that says one thing and a set of practices that say another. That schizophrenic view of the Constitution and of legislation is one of the most dangerous slopes that we should avoid.
Much of the remaining points I wanted to make have been covered by a previous speaker. For example, Senator Robinson has given a very valuable summary of the compaign to date but, in addition, has given the precise form of the submissions made to Members from different groups. In relation to what we are being asked by such minorities it would be wrong to allow the impression to be created that they have asked us for any veto on a referendum. They have not done so.
All the different minority groupings who have written to us have told us that they merely made the statement for conscience. That is the principal basis of their submission. We need to be careful that it is that that we are rejecting if we proceed as we are.
There is a point in the referendum campaign so far that is distasteful. The 1937 Constitution which we seek to amend was adopted in 1937 and in 1977, 40 years afterwards, The Irish Times ran a special issue on the Constitution in which they asked people's opinions on its adequacy. Michael McInerney is quoted in that paper of the day saying that Mr. de Valera had informed him that he did not think the Constitution would last in an unchanged way into the sixties and the seventies.
What we have to think about in many ways is that if the Constitution is to be changed is it not a rather strange irony that we are changing it like this when there are so many other things to change it for? I listed some of these last night. They included, for example, the suggestion that a new Constitution might express the equality of the sexes, something that was not acknowledged in the thirties. There has been an evolution in public opinion towards equality. A new Constitution might express that. A new Constitution might give rights to children. We have the absurd position at the moment that a child caught in a tug-of-war between two parents who, because of our dishonesty and hypocrisy, cannot even re-marry but can separate or pretend they were never married, is not entitled as of right to representation in his or her own right. We could have given rights to children. We could have put limitations on the manner in which the right to the private property clauses of the Constitution have served to impede or control speculation in building land. It would have enabled us to build more houses. We could have stated that we were a neutral nation, a powerful position to be in as the threat of war escalates every day. We have chosen in 1983 to do none of these kinds of things. We could have, for example, given the right to shelter as a basic right. I could think of other ones.
We are doing none of these because in May 1981 a group of people came into the Dáil and they met one leader of a party accompanied by a Minister and they said "yes" because they believed that at the following appointment the next day an answer "yes" would be given, and the whole business started. It will cost over £1 million — I have deliberately left that until last — at a time when we do not know the extent of real deprivation in our society, when we do not have many different pieces of social information that we need in relation to vulnerable sections of the community. We are not spending tens of thousands of pounds on research. We are not assisting any emigrants' bureaux. We are not giving the money towards intervening in any great area of need. We are spending over £1 million on setting up an image of ourselves internationally as being the most archaic, denominational, uncaring society in the known world. That is what we have decided to spend money on at a time when we gallop past 200,000 people unemployed.
Maybe we have decided then that what we want in this State is an end to all these liberal speeches and an end to all these liberal debates. Maybe what we want really is a kind of "Croke Park" version of the Constitution. Maybe we should put a demand to play Gaelic football and hurling into the Constitution. Do you think we should do that, a Leas-Chathaoirligh? There is nothing to stop any group of people taking what they think is a demand that will go down well all over the country, arriving in Leinster House and getting a constitutional referendum on this basis and then demanding that we all live according to it. Here we torture ourselves regularly when we condemn different people who are disobeying law and order. We are making a mockery of law. This amendment is based on distrust too.
I listened with interest to Senator Hanafin's remarks about the Supreme Court. It was not that he was going to impute any pro-abortion position to them. This was to his credit and he was very fair last night when finishing his speech in saying that he would not impute it to any of those people who were against the amendment either. I respect that. It is a decent point for him to make. He went on to say, which is curious, that the Supreme Court would now have guidelines. We are going to give guidelines in the Constitution for the Supreme Court to operate within. Equally this is interesting. We are so omniscient in this year of 1983 that this Legislature is going to ask that a constitutional referendum take place which will remove the power from the Legislature to legislate in any of these areas in the future. We know better than future Legislatures. We know better than future Members. We are such sensitive souls, so acutely aware of the moral requirements that are on us that we need to turn our minds aside from unemployment and war and all these things and get on with the business of making Ireland safe for the generations to come.
I hope that the historians who write about this period will have the courage to record it accurately and that they will judge us correctly if this matter is not stopped. I reject entirely the suggestion that the Supreme Court needs guidelines or that the Legislature needs to have a constitutional prohibition standing behind their consideration. I respect the Supreme Court and I respect the Legislature and I happen to believe that future Legislatures may be even more responsive to the human needs and social needs than we were. In all of these matters they must be more sensitive than we were. For that reason I do not believe it is necessary to remove this matter from the Legislature in the Supreme Court and fork it into the Constitution.
Finally, much of what I have said is different from many speeches that I have given around the country dealing with technical aspects of this amendment and its implications because these have been discussed by other speakers and I was seeking to avoid repetition as much as I could. There are practical aspects to the passing of the amendment that I would be worried about. Everything that has been achieved in relation to family planning, for example, has been of benefit to women, particularly women in the lower socio-economic groups who are threatened with families that they simply cannot sustain. They are in bad housing often; they are more threatened by unemployment and by poverty. They have benefited from family planning advice as it has been available. If this amendment put into danger the availability of some forms of family planning that are available at the moment it would be seen as very regressive. It must be seen as being anti-woman.
I have deliberately concentrated on some of the values that lie in the campaign, both for and against, for another reason. At the present time we have to choose between different sets of values. In relation to crime, for example, we have to avoid reacting without understanding crime. We have a choice between understanding and control. We could, for example, seek to institute greater mechanisms of control without understanding what is happening. Equally in this matter we have a choice between tolerance and intolerance. We have a choice between sectionalism and pluralism. We have a choice between the future and the past. We have a choice between equality and inequality. If we took one set of values, the tolerance and the equality and the compassion rather than judgmental attitudes, we would be addressing ourselves far more adequately towards the problem which we are put in here to debate.
This debate, from the proposal of this amendment, has been characterised by intolerance, unfairness and fundamentalism, tactics which we have said enough about already. It will be a very sad day for Ireland if Senators in this House do not vote to stop this proposal before it does even further damage to our people.
When the campaign began people said that it was not going to be divisive, that it was something people could unite around. It has been as divisive as any suggestion in our history. It has divided churchmen, set up conflicts between churchmen and legislators and so on. It is more than divisive. It has encouraged a tendency in our society that had been on the wane, the tendency that was norrow, the tendency that wanted to celebrate the views of the majority at any cost. The fundamentalist values that I mentioned are being brought out in the campaign.
Early on in the campaign many of the people working for it suggested that what they were doing was beginning at this one and that they would work their way against the case for divorce and against the case for different forms of family planning, that they would not be satisfied with this but would turn back the wave of permissiveness and so on. If you say you are going to turn back the clock like that, that you are going to set your face against the sun, I would argue that we need all of the other values that I mentioned. We need compassion, concern, tolerance, openness and the ability to handle new proposals, new structures, new suggestions in a way we never did before.
If someone from outside our country came here in May 1983 and found this discussion going on at a time when we need to be debating so many other issues, what would he conclude?
I find myself appalled by another side of the campaign. This causes me great distress. John White in his book Church and State in Modern Ireland argued that at the end of the 1950s we were moving into a new period in which there was little attempt at direct interference by, for example, the Hierarchy on matters of legislation. Let us be clear on this issue. On this issue there are clear statements from members of the Hierarchy. Of course, the Hierarchy have a right to do that. I do not deny it. But if you allow this, be equally ready to accept the criticism for what you are doing and why you are doing it. They must be willing to accept this criticism.
It raises the question of Church-State relationship in Ireland and our freedom to legislate. I spoke to a front bench Fianna Fáil TD last week after the Bill had been passed in the Dáil and he said to me "I believe we can expect the priests to say an appropriate few words in the pulpit". He added "I would go further than that. I would say that it is their duty" and so on. We have the priests in the pulpits and the republican party outside distributing the leaflets for them, all wanting us to live in the 1930s. I knew many people who were republicans and there are many who have put their names courageously to letters to the newspapers to say that the people who would want to peddle this narrow, sectarian, bigoted view of Ireland are not speaking for them with this ultra-conservative, right version of life that the seek to slap into our Constitution that would be binding on people.
One might say that the people will decide. The choice facing Members of the Fine Gael group and the Fianna Fáil group is this: if you say the people will decide, why then do you not all say you are not standing for election again? Who is going to run the campaign? The different lobbying groups will stand. Perhaps they should all come into the Dáil and then there would be a consistency between the people who are asking people to vote outside and the people who are actually voting inside. There is a daft notion that you can offer no opinion when you are in a Legislature that is decision-making and at the same time wait for the people to make up their minds so that then when they have made up their minds it will be safe for you to have an opinion. That is an appalling version of parliamentary democracy in 1983. Let us have leadership in politics. Let us have people who will lead in matters of options in social and economic policy.
I have been in the unusual position of being in politics for 16 years, it being 14 years since I stood for election, and I have represented viewpoints that have usually been in a minority. I accept the judgment of the people. I am satisfied to live in a democracy but if you want to live in a democracy and if you have a Legislature — a Dáil and a Seanad — it is there to take decisions, it is there to lead on philosophies, options and strategies. It is not there to toss matters out to the public like a greasy ball and say when it comes back we will have made up our minds on the basis of what you, the people, decide. If you want to abolish parliamentary democracy, say so and let us have loose meetings at every crossroads, in parish halls and community halls if that is what people want. While we have a parliamentary democracy the requirements of parliamentary democracy are that people who sit in Parliament can and must be required to vote and make up their minds on the basis of what is good for the people and what is good law. They must be made make up their minds on the basis of what is right.
I have noticed in the erosion of parliamentary democracy in the last ten years that many of the worst features that exist in our society — that I had hoped were dead — are creeping into our assemblies, for example, people peddling anti-intellectualism are suggesting that complicated discussion of legislation is somehow unnecessary. It is necessary because it is these Houses that decide what our law will be and if you say you are a democrat you must respect the institutions in that way.
I, for one, do not accept the rule of the mob. I oppose all people who would administer their own recipe against crime and I oppose people who suggest they have the right to whip up what I call the values of the mob or the horde. All of these matters are wrong. We moved towards parliamentary democracy in a careful evolution and it is badly served in a day when we refuse to have opinions, in a day we refuse to put a stop to something that has been truly a nightmare for many people in this island.