The Irish abortion ‘mess’

…she has a point

As I write the referendum result isn’t officially in, but it obviously looks like the 8th amendment will be repealed by the clamouring horde, led by Varadkar. To their credit, many Irish doctors spoke the truth about the calamity that will now befall Ireland.

Many words have been written already, but it continues to stagger me how the language of celebration and joy (just go on Twitter after the vote) is used in referring to what by any standards, is a horrible business and the ending of a life. I guess it’s a comfort blanket for the people speaking in those terms, shielding them from the reality. It certainly trivialises both the act of abortion, and the plight of women who feel compelled to seek one. Anti-abortion campaigners are very aware that it’s an extremely difficult situation to be in. The trivialisation is, I’m afraid, all on the other side.

Two quotes. One brief one in a tweet from @john_mcguirk who helped lead the Save the 8th campaign:

The 8th (amendment) did not create an unborn child’s right to life – it merely acknowledged it. The right exists, independent of what a majority says.

Which is absolutely correct.

The second is a longer reflection from Michael Brendan Dougherty in the US (though, like The Knife ancestrally Irish, of course). It was written before the result was certain, and it keenly demonstrates the utilitarianistic trivialisation of abortion, a cynical dumbing down in order to make the deed happen:

I’ve been distracted this week by the Repeal the Eighth referendum “at home” in Ireland. You might tell me to take some time away from the Internet. An easy getaway. Not so fast. I was greeted this morning in my own suburban apartment building by one of those black T-shirts, with the white word “Repeal” written across it. The Irish, having symbiotic life within the former British Empire, are a global race. Both sides of the debate exist on the same apartment floor here in Westchester, N.Y. Janice Turner wrote the typical editorial on the 8th in the Times, Ireland edition. She describes the “No” side this way:

There are a few elderly folk with rosaries and religious tracts, but plenty of young people combining that mix of youthful self-righteousness and kitten-loving sentimentality along with obliviousness about how messy life can be.

And the Irish Times wrote similarly in its editorial:

The Eighth Amendment describes a world that never existed — a place of moral absolutism, religious certainty, good and evil, black and white — and locks us into that illusion in perpetuity. To remove it is merely to reflect the world we live in: a contingent, uncertain place, full of messiness and ambiguity, where the distances between happiness and despair, public joy and private anguish, are agonisingly small.

Did you notice the word “messy” in both of them? Ireland’s moral and religious changes are connected to its newfound relative wealth in a strange way. How odd, the hidden assumption that “messy” lives require abortion. As if abortion were a matter of tidying up. As if welcoming some children transgressed the cleanliness of a proper, upwardly mobile Irish home. This is perhaps the most sinister bourgeois morality ever inflicted on a nation. And I will have nightmares from seeing it unmasked this week. I dread the idea of returning to Dublin in 25 years, and realizing that it has changed from 2018, and become more like every other European city, emptied of those with Down’s syndrome or other deformities. That will be the predictable result. How dare these people accuse others of inflicting shame! 

…..’the most sinister bourgeois morality ever inflicted on a nation’ is also absolutely correct, and it will, tragically, leave a trail of utter misery in its wake


Twattish comments: an occasional series – Gerry Adams

How do you intend to remember famed terrorism enabler, liar and hypocrite, Gerry Adams, as he heads for an overdue retirement? Here is Gerry’s own take:

“I am a very good dancer, I sing extremely well, I am a half-decent cook, I have written a wee bit, I like walking, but I’m comfortable in my own skin and I am surrounded by some wonderful people, a great family, my wife, people who love me.”

A walk down memory lane with Gerry might take you to Omagh

In fact, Gerry’s only positive achievement is probably that he once made Eddie Izzard seem funny, for the first and last time:

…he has a point…


St Patrick’s day, again


The Knife is about 75% Irish by blood: Sligo, Roscommon and Cavan. So not the funnest parts of the place. Whenever I’ve been there though, I feel as English as I always have, try as I might to find my inner Plastic Paddy.

When I was a lad this was the day we all wore a green ribbon with a plastic harp on it at primary school, which was never really explained to us. My schoolmates with Irish parents – as opposed to grandparents and further back – had the added benefit of hanging out at the local Shamrock Club at weekends, which was generally a bit of a riot.

However, I’m proud of the Irish heritage and I have to admit, they are a unique people. The most spontaneously funny person I’ve ever known was Norn Irish, and some of the baddest , most ruthless characters in living memory have been too – try Kevin Myers’ astounding memoir, Watching The Door.

The Simpsons got it right with this perfect juxtaposition (which is mainly Irish, as you’ll see)

The sex life of governments

As a general rule, my view of government is the less legislation the better,  the less interference – governmental or judicial – in our lives, the better. A libertarian sounding view perhaps, but without the wilder fringes of that movement.

Hence my position on gay marriage or whatever you want to call it, is the same as my position on abortion – this is a matter of personal behaviour/morals/beliefs, and ideally not a matter for government. The difference between marriage and the established and practical civil partnership is a semantic one, and to dress it up as something different is pushing credibility. In any event, I recognise that if something was illegal there is a necessity to formalise any change, but it comes at a price.

In the case of legalising abortion in the UK and the US the battle lines have been drawn for years, the difference between the two countries is that as you can see in various states, the US might actually reduce abortions by legislation. That won’t happen in the UK. In the case of gay marriage it seems to me that while the  legislative outcome might well be activists’ ultimate goal, but there seems to be almost an equal incentive in the irresistible opportunity it creates to vilify opponents. The terms of the debate in Ireland have been particularly ugly and virulent, and mostly from the victorious ‘Yes’ side.

Where they lose though, is in the quality of the argument. By some distance the best writing and polemicism in the build up and the aftermath of the Irish referendum has been on the ‘No’ side, and it’s by no means been confined to orthodox Catholics. Strangely enough it was also true of the ‘No’ camp in the Scottish indyref, where most of the Nats stuff was dreary ad hominem attacks or pie in the sky economics. Quality was missing.

I don’t intend to rehearse the detail of the arguments, but in a roll call of honour I give you Tim Stanley, Melanie McDonagh, Brendan O’Neill (twice), Bruvver Eccles of course, and a seriously good piece on Slugger O’Toole.

O’Neill highlights the irony in just how intolerant and shrill the Yes camp became (and will remain that way), and McDonagh coins a phrase that neatly summarises so much of the social order since, lemme guess, 1997: “a creepily imitative quality to the liberal consensus”.

She recognises that here in the UK the robust press, despite Hugh Grant, Leveson et al, ensures that multiple views get aired, but:

…in Ireland, the groupthink has a totalitarian aspect to it. I remember meeting one young Irish girl at Oxford a few years ago who declared bathetically that she had given up on the Catholic Church in favour of the Guardian; in a way, the whole country feels as if it has gone the same way. There’s a creepily imitative quality to the liberal consensus – as though the colonial mindset has morphed through clericalism to a self-congratulatory adolescence, perpetually in revolt against the vanished authority of the church. The Irish Times declared in its editorial that this vote represented the country Ireland had become. Yes it does, and not wholly in a good way.

If there is room left for a little bit more of ad hominem in all this, I’d just like to point out that the enduringly revolting Gerry Adams was a Yes man

Land of my forefathers etc
Land of my forefathers etc