A forced issue


More thinking that actually, it’s not old-fashioned, it’s right. I’M right. This time we’re leapfrogging the bit where I tell young journalists that checking their facts against accurate sources is the most important thing they can do. This time we’re going back to the end of September, when I joined a friend at the pro-choice march in Dublin.

The point of the visit to Ireland was to see some chums in plays at the Dublin theatre festival, and as I joined my politico-pal at the market in Meeting House Square I was hungover and sheepish and feeling politically lightweight. Frankly, I was wondering why on earth we were still having to march, and I was really only there because Speckyblonde was going. It all felt a bit, I dunno, 1990s.

Speckyblonde sounded like she was having doubts too, having unsuccessfully attempted to drum up support among her social circle: ‘God,’ she said, as we hurried over the Ha’penny Bridge. ‘What if no-one’s there? Shall we just pretend we’re going to Eason’s?’ Then we rounded the corner and saw the crowd. We joined it and soon we were, well, it was hard to tell how many we were, but it felt like a lot, all protesting a law that sees the religious right wing, despite a vile legacy in Ireland, still twisting the nuts of the state.

I still felt hungover and sheepish, especially when tourists started taking photographs of us (how glad I was to be wearing a bright red duffle coat) because I just didn’t feel as committed as all the shouty enthusiasts around me. I mean, cripes, abortion, I just don’t know if I could go through with it. But the shocking, tortured death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway has straightened a lot of spines. This regime, surely, cannot be allowed to continue.

It’s hard to see change coming from within Ireland – pro and anti are so very entrenched. However, it might turn into a tussle over money: unedifying, but whatever it takes. Maybe the EU will force it, as part of the ongoing assistance – ‘We’ll help you, but you need to start complying with EU human rights legislation’. Just the sort of horse-trading that Haughey and Ahern used to go in for.

It’s a pretty back-door way to go, but it’s probably the only way it can be done. There are few public figures in Ireland prepared to get embroiled in such an emotive issue. At least this way the problem is kicked upstairs, allowing craven politicians to say something to the electorate along the lines of ‘I know, I know, but what can you do? It’s Brussels.’

Because this is a scandal that damages Ireland and makes it look backward, whatever the medical reasons for the decisions that were taken (which are still being investigated) – and backward is not a place to be if you’re pushing your cutting-edge software and pharmaceutical R&D credentials.

It’s a sickening thought, but could such a human concern boil down ultimately to the neo-liberal credo: the market will decide?


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