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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: July 8, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

    Was Dermot Ahern “got at” over Civil Partnership Bill?

    Mary Minihan

    You know the way you half-hear things on radio? It happens to me all the time.

    I was walking on O’Connell Street last Friday morning, sort of listening to a debate on the Civil Partnership Bill on Pat Kenny’s radio show, when I thought I heard Independent Senator Ronan Mullen claim Justice Minister Dermot Ahern had been “got at” over the legislation.

    I’ve listened back now and turns out that is what he said, in the context of a reference to his proposal to introduce a so-called conscience clause that might allow, for example, registrars to opt out of facilitating civil partnerships.

    “This is the one thing that disappoints me about Dermot Ahern in particular. He was widely regarded as of course being a conservative on this whole issue back in 1993 and to some degree he was got at precisely because of that, he had to be then seen to implement the Programme for Government,” Mr Mullen said.

    That’s some claim.

    I interviewed Ahern recently, and asked him about his personal beliefs in the context of his political work. He said the Civil Partnership Bill, which he has sponsored, had provoked “a bit of a campaign” against him. He also revealed he’d been denounced “by a 28-year-old curate off the pulpit in my own constituency in Drogheda for the Civil Partnership Bill. Somebody half my age.” (He’s 55.)

    He said: “I do leave my religion behind me and I genuinely mean that. While we all have our beliefs and our own religions, I don’t think it should cloud our judgment.” He said an element in Fianna Fáil would probably never be reconciled to the terms of the proposed legislation. (If you’d like to read the full interview it’s here: http://bit.ly/bffKnN)

    Three Fianna Fail Senators resigned the party whip yesterday because of their objections to elements of the Bill (My report on that is here: http://bit.ly/dp2ETe, while my colleague Jimmy Walsh’s Seanad report is here: http://bit.ly/9TB1v5). Ahern is continuing to face down their amendments in the Seanad as I write.

    What does this mean for Fianna Fail? Well, while Jim Walsh, Labhras Ó Murchú and John Hanafin (Minister Mary’s brother) say they will support the Government on other matters, their move brings to 10 the number of Fianna Fail TDs now outside the parliamentary party.

    Three other Fianna Fail Senators are without the party whip: Ivor Callely (over expenses claims), Larry Butler (expenses) and Denis O’Donovan (dog breeding legislation). Four Fianna Fail TDs without the party whip are Mattie McGrath (stag hunting legislation), Dr Jim McDaid (cervical cancer vaccination), and Dr Jimmy Devins and Eamon Scanlon (both cancer services in their Sligo-North Leitrim constituency).

    And let’s not forget “number 11″, Joe Behan, who left Fianna Fáil and became an Independent TD over 2008 budget cuts.

    It doesn’t say much for party discipline on the last day of the Dail session.

    UPDATE: In the Seanad, Ahern has just said he wasn’t “got at” in relation to this legislation (Thursday 2.45pm).

    • Liam says:

      the obsession with sex within the catholic church never ceases to amaze me and their constant attempt to continue to pull the strings in this country is outrageous. If a bank clerk tried to decline a gay couple a mortgage for being gay, I assume he’d be on slung out on the street as quick as you like, yet when it comes to services where the state is in a position deny people civic rights then any and every card will be played in an attempt to show who is really in charge here.

    • robespierre says:

      The baseline depends on where you draw the baseline for morality. Are Ronan Mullen, Des “No Divorce, No Abortion, No Right to Information, No Right to Travel, No Right to Contraception” Hanafin’s son and wee Dermot what constitute middle ground. If they are the baseline or the norm in our society then given Ahern’s comments on the Dáil record that he has never retracted, he was definitely “got” and had to support this despite private concerns as a fundamentalist roman catholic.

      If you happen to baseline in the middle ground you would find civil marriage (i.e. not religious marriage) to be more popular than the greying profile of the Dáil would likely believe. Most of the country is aged under 45 and is less likely to be bigoted.

      Thirdly, whithertofore legislation that leads the hoi poloi? That is what Zapatero did in Spain 8 years ago and there world hasn’t imploded.

    • Kynos says:

      The age of the curate and the age of Mr Ahern have nothing to do with it (other than that he betrays a certain arrogance in slapping down young pups on chronological grounds alone). Curate’s merely voicing his Party line as it comes up against the principles of the Civil Partnership concept (i.e. it caters for people who according to the RCC and the Bible – not always in line with each other – are gong to hell. And we shouldn’t be catering to such people apparently we should be showing them the ‘error’ of their ways only). Anyway you must be psychic Ms Minniehan to have anticipated that Mr Ahern would be denying something in the Dail only couple hours after you wrote it here on this blog I presume he has better things to do than write on this blog sorry read this blog in fact as I’m paying him and am de facto his boss I bloody well expect him to. Have better things to do. Get back to work Ahern if yer reading this. No lip.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Dermot Ahern is FF personified – he couldn’t care less about civil partnerships either way but probably would have got more stick for not doing it than for doing it hence why he did it. If it had been the other way he’d have done nothing and waited for the EU to do the job like Go Go Quinn – although she is happy to take credit for decriminalising homosexualty, shame she only did so in the face of an EU ruling and impending court case and fine.

      If only we had a government like Spain who just did the right thing and gave full equality and told the priests to go to hell and funny enough there was no wrath from this God – no doubt because, in my opinion, there is no such thing.

    • John B says:

      We can not put any trust in a politician who views his own beliefs as a hindrance to the way he does his job.

    • Paschal says:

      It was a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which is part of the Council of Europe, not the European Union which you referred to Desmond. There was no requirement in Irish law to obey ECHR rulings at the time but there is now. The Irish Constitution is superior to the European Convention on Human Rights, according to an Irish Supreme Court ruling.

    • steve white says:

      basic rights for gay couples in 2010, reports on tv tonight about the lack of proper schools because of religious domination and government abdication to them of education, these guys are dragging their feet and holding the rest of us back Mary, they don’t deserve any praise

    • Christopher says:

      The curate in question is actually 39, not 28 and Dermot Ahern wasn’t mentioned in the sermon at all – he wasn’t even mentioned cos the priest referred to Catholic legislators.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Well there’s the issue @ 8: there should be no such thing as a Catholic legislator – a person entrusted with the responsibility and privilege to legislate on behalf of others is supposed to leave their personal baggage outside the door.

      The fact that those who profess to be Catholics (while of course at the same time ignoring the rules of that Church when it doesn’t suit them) think that faith should be taken into account when laws are being made, that will affect those who are in reality non Catholics – despite what our parents put on birth/communion and confirmation certs without our consent , indicates that you don’t need to dig deep to see the old Church hasn’t given up the ghost or faced up to what it did.

      In my view, there’s no such thing as God – it’s an outdated mechanism which evolved over time by people’s less knowledgeable about their environment than we are and in 200 years people will be calling us unknowledgeable too. It’s just a way for people to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions or the failings of their society.

      Denial is an emotion that is stronger than love or hate – and possibly even greed. Look at the damage done to people’s lives through the actions of others who deny they have a drink/drug/emotional problems or to their own lives by refusing to admit they have the problem.

      If a gay person wants to get married (why they’d want to get married in a church I don’t know except they look nice as a building I suppose) and have children and create a family and have tax rights and pension rights and all the rights you’d expect in a normal society then they should have them.

      People don’t need the threat of revenge from an angry ‘God’ to do good things in their life – it makes sense to do the best you can and most people do do the best they can. This mind game about there being something else we can abdicate responsibility to for the things we don’t want to face up to is what needs to be outlawed!

    • Christopher says:

      A gay person can get married – like everyone else they can marry someone of the opposite sex. And funnily enough that’s what you need to have children. This rubbish about “having children” as if they can manage it on their own.

      So let’s get this straight on leaving your beliefs outside the door. Someone who’s anti-racist should pretend not to be? A feminist should forget that (whither Ivana Bacik?). A homosexual should what? What should David Norris do?

      How are legislators supposed to leglislate if they have no principles, no beliefs – is it tossing the coin?

    • kynos says:

      “The Irish Constitution is superior to the European Convention on Human Rights, according to an Irish Supreme Court ruling.” is that so? I thought Bunreacht was especially specific to the contrary. Art. 29.10. As in. Oh no that’s the Council of Europe which isn’t in fact anything to do with the EU is it.

    • kynos says:

      But then the EU is shortly to accede to the Convention on Human Rights so then no provision of Bunreacht will be able to invalidate it. The latter. Or indeed the former for that matter as is already the case. Ireland is no longer a country but a county. One with provisions about God in its local charter Mr Fitzgerald. Well God proposes but these days the EU disposes. And will increasingly continue to. In the case of civil partnership that’s to the good imo. We shall see how it works out in other matters less civil more military and uncivil in deed.

    • Frankie says:

      Dermot Ahern was got at but not in the way Ronan Mullen thinks. He was ‘got at’ by his colleagues in the legal profession who persuaded him to turn cohabitation between heterosexual couples into a parasites paradise! The debates in the Oireachtas, like most media comments, dealt only with the issues of gay rights and the supposed damage this legislation will do to the institution of marriage. The real impact of this legislation on citizens lives will come from the other part which imposes marriage-by-stealth on cohabiting couples without their knowledge or consent. Only one TD (Mattie McGrath) dealt with the real issue in this Bill. He said that couples who have chosen not to get married or enter into a civil partnership should have their decision respected and that “this legislation violates the fundamental principle of consent and is an attack on personal freedom”. Unfortunately his Oireachtas colleagues were too busy proclaiming their trendy liberal credentials to prevent this most disgraceful attack on the civil and human rights and freedoms of Irish citizens. Prof. Ruth Deech of London’s Gresham College quite rightly stated that this law was set to be a “windfall for lawyers but no one else except the gold-digger”. Mr Ahern’s lawyer friends will be pleased but cohabitees would be well advised to end their relationships asap.

    • Mary Minihan says:

      Sincere thanks for comments posted over the weekend and before – some interesting food for thought there. Briefly: Christopher, may I ask, did you attend the sermon Dermot Ahern referred to? Do you know the curate? Many thanks, Mary

    • Christopher says:

      Yes, Mary, I did. And they tried to get the priest to go on the radio a few days later – lucky for him he didn’t – three politicians, including Ahern, waiting to attack him. And no one else to balance it. Typical of the Irish media. When they go to discuss social issues they think having politicians from different parties who all think alike is somehow providing balance.

    • Aidan says:

      Christopher @ 10:

      There are many infertile hetero couples who resort to IVF, surrogacy, or adoption in order to have children. It seems, if your solution for gay people who want kids is to marry someone of the opposite sex, then your solution for hetero people who want kids is to try to only fall in love with a fertile partner. Doesn’t seem very practical.

      The problem for Dermot Ahern is that his religion states that homosexual acts are immoral. That view is virtually indistinguishable from homophobia, and therefore as regards this legislation, Mr. Ahern had to in some sense disown his religion as part of his working life. The difference between that and feminism or anti-racism is that those beliefs are socially acceptable and are (rightly) held to be rational and fair views, and therefore politicians who hold those views do not have to disown them.

    • Maurice O'Leary says:

      Our local curate here spoke about the early Christian martyrs being asked to deny their faith when saying that TDs should not deny their faith and vote for the Civil Partnership bill.

      He also recently equated abortion and IVF – a view that many people with IVF children, grandchildren etc don’t share despite the official RCC position.

      Even among the regular mass goers, many people are highly sceptical of his fundamentalist views.
      Fortunately the other 2 priests in the parish are from the opposite end of the spectrum.

    • Christopher says:

      The trouble with “socially acceptable” is that it’s such a fickle method of judgment. Anti-semitism was socially acceptable in Europe for centuries. Racism was socially acceptable in America and South Africa. And now in Ireland anti-Catholicism is deemed to be socially acceptable.

      Equating the Catholic position on the immorality of homosexual acts with homophobia is just intolerance – liberal intolerance.

      My point about homosexual couples and kids is that they can’t have them in any natural way – and yet we’re supposed to go around saying “I have two mommies” – no, you don’t have two mommies, you’ve a mammy and a daddy and your mammy’s lesbian partner.

      As for IVF and abortion – well it’s wrong for two reasons – it invariably causes the destruction of embryos, treating them as a byproduct to be disposed off when you’re done, and, like contraception, it separates loving sex from the creation of life.

      As for so called Catholics who disagree on these matters – they ain’t Catholic anymore. And politicians who vote for them – they’re to be refused Communion should they present themselves (Canon 915). They can’t keep their party whip and the Catholic whip at the same time.

    • Aidan says:

      I said socially acceptable and held to be rational and fair views, the latter statement being important and not to be omitted to suit your argument. Racism, slavery etc. led to huge social tensions, civil wars etc. They did not lead to fair and equitable societies (insofar as that is possible) because they are not fair or rational views. And because they led to huge unrest in societies they can never have been all that socially acceptable (especially amongst the oppressed). Those views are certainly no longer socially acceptable in this society and I think both of us would agree that our society is superior to those societies where such views are still socially acceptable without being fickle. Would you rather be a woman in this country or a country where women are stoned to death for adultery?
      It’s very difficult to claim that anti-Catholicism is rife in a country that purports to be 90% Catholic. Of course, you would argue that the figure of “true” Catholics is far less. Anti-Catholicism does not mean that people hate Catholics and want to injure them or oppress them, it is simply arguing against Catholicism, making fun of the views of Catholics. People argue against Fianna Fail and make fun of people who still support Fianna Fail. People argue against and make fun of all sorts of things, it’s only religious people who seem to think this shouldn’t apply to them. I can’t think why. There are many, many fine reasons to argue against Catholicism, the main being that there isn’t a screed of truth to it…but needless to say you would disagree.
      You haven’t argued with me before, but I don’t generally take to statements like “Equating the Catholic position on the immorality of homosexual acts with homophobia is just intolerance – liberal intolerance”, because it’s the argumentative equivalent of saying nothing. Imagine I replied to your first post by saying “all of that stuff Christopher said is just conservative intolerance”. It would have been a cheap point on my behalf. I didn’t do so, and I would expect you to refrain in return. After all, you’re a Christian: you’re supposed to a better person than a heathen like me. Consider if you were a homosexual (walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and all that) and were denied a service by a person. Would it make it feel any better if that person was true Christian or if they were homophobic? Saying that homosexual acts are wrong and that they are a sin are two ways of saying the same thing, neither of them being true.
      I pointed out that many heterosexual couples also cannot have children in any natural way. They still get married. They still find ways to have children. You just as easily say to a child born by surrogacy that they had two mommy’s and a daddy as well, and it would have nothing to do with homosexuality. We don’t need to get into the wrongs and rights of IVF, all we know is that that what heterosexual couples who cannot naturally conceive may resort to IVF and other methods, and therefore the argument against homosexual marriage due to infertility is lost. Infertile couples marry and have children every day.
      That situation would not change if homosexual marriage happened….just to help you, your next move is to say that every child needs a mother and a father. Then I’m going to ask you what the mother and father’s parental functions are that cannot be carried out in any way by the other sex, and to demonstrate that those functions are carried out by most mothers and fathers, and then you’re going to be in trouble with your argument because you more than likely haven’t thought that deeply about it, and will realize that to go on you’re going to have to out yourself as a bit of sexist (i.e. stay-at-home dads will be a real problem for you).
      If we applied your formula for deciding who is a true Catholic and who isn’t, it would make Catholicism a minority religion by the morning.

    • rubytactix says:

      Aidan…I re-watched TT’s ex school chum’s 2009 show at the Sydney Opera House again last night…..made me howl…….He’s really quite extraordinary……here must be something in the water in Navan…nothing about the ‘Israelites’ tho’ still probably a bit too contemporary for the ‘average’ IT type all the same …Trying to catch the live show… he’s touring with ‘The Three Fella’s'…should be good…!

    • rubytactix says:

      Straying a little further off the point now that I have found a comedic comrade…
      The other thing I like about TT’s ex school friend is that he is never vulgar…outrageous occasionally…absurdist often and swears a bit…like most of us… but never crude…
      I remember talking to Jo Brand in The Red Rose Comedy Club in Norf Lahndahn one night and bemoaning the fact that alternative comedy seemed to have been reduced to guys talking about masturbation…she was suitably dismissive…
      In the end I gave up going to comedy gigs…
      So it’s good that U know who an his mate are on the Circuit…looking forward to Edinburgh…and hope to catch up with ‘The Three Fella’s'…

    • Kynos says:

      Back in my day guys used talk about having sex. Masturbation wasn’t something so exceptional as to be remarkable. Clearly things have turned a corner.

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