Who remembers the dismissive words of Robert Kilroy-Silk ten years ago when he described Ireland as a country peopled by peasants, priests and pixies?
I recall it vividly, like a sharp slap in the face. I thought he was the most despicable individual I had ever come across, and in many ways, I still do, but even a reptile like Kilroy can sometimes hit the mark, as our national behaviour continues to reveal.
As I write, and even while the country is still convulsed by the shock of Savita Halappanavar’s death in a Galway hospital, the heartless stormtroopers of ideology are on the march to shout down our misgivings. The representatives of far-right Catholic groupings are given equal air space with elected representatives because, simply, they demand it.
Right now, as I type this, a young woman on the radio describes how a hospital refused to induce delivery even though they knew that her child was anencephalic. The young mother was instructed that, because there was a foetal heartbeat, they could not and would not deliver the baby, even though it had no hope of life. It doesn’t matter to our authorities that a baby with such a neural tube defect has virtually no brain, or that the heartbeat is there simply because the mother is acting as a life-support machine. If you happen to be an expectant mother who receives such tragic news, you will receive no sympathy in an Irish hospital. You will be told to carry on with the pregnancy for three, four or five months, knowing that at the end you will deliver a dead infant.
You are a machine, not a person.
That’s the Ireland that claims to espouse Christian, loving values. That’s the behaviour demanded by machines of a different kind — pro-Life hobbyists on behalf of Youth Defence and the sinister Life Institute, both of which are largely the product of one single family of extreme-Right ideologues.
Let’s be afraid of these people. They represent a very dangerous strain of Irish society.
Thanks to these people who display no human empathy, mothers are forced to carry dead babies to full term. Mothers are forced to wait three or more days to miscarry and ultimately to die of infection as Savita Halappanavar did.
We need to start asking ourselves why we built a society based on the flawed, enraged, judgemental, dysfunctional attitudes spawned by a religious movement with its roots in a very dark Ireland. The attitudes that drive Youth Defence and the Life Institute are identical to the unfeeling, callous outlook that consigned so many young girls as slaves in the Magdalene laundries. These are the very same people who ranted about wife-swapping sodomites when Ireland passed a constitutional amendment permitting divorce.
If we really believe that we have a republic, the first thing we need to do is walk away from these people and what they represent. There are many who hold sincere and deeply-felt views opposed to abortion, but neither Youth Defence nor the Life Institute are in that category. These people are about control, not compassion.
Of course, even if we had the maturity to dismiss the lies, the propaganda and the intimidation, we would still be left with the spineless politicians who live in fear of our pernicious electoral system: the multi-seat constituency. This is a system that encourages clientelism, corruption and cowardice, because it sets party colleagues at each other’s throats. If your political enemy doesn’t beat you, your ally will knife you in the back. And that’s why our politicians are so terrified to stand up on their hind legs when it comes to legislating for abortion as they were instructed to do twenty years ago by the Supreme Court. If the average FG or FF politician sticks his head above the parapet, it will be chopped off by his party colleague, in the interest of political advantage.
That’s why the politicians would rather see a young mother die in agony, or be forced to carry a dead child for months, or else to skulk off to England like a criminal.
It’s better to maintain the delusion that this is somehow an advanced, forward-thinking European democracy, instead of the primitive, tribal, superstitious, third-world prison island it really is. It’s easier to live in a fantasy than do anything about changing the reality.
This is no country for young women.
For that matter, this is no country for young men, or old men or old women or anyone else with the slightest sense of decency or intelligence. This country is broken, and we’d be better off leaving it for the lunatics to finish out their miserable existence in solitude.
I’m finished with trying to defend this failed political experiment.