A lovely bit of window dressing going on at the Seanad
Christmas may be over but that doesn’t mean the fancy window dressing has to stop. It only began in Leinster House yesterday.
They have a strange relationship with time in Kildare Street. Some people might think 20 years is a long time to wait for important life or death legislation, but it’s the mere blink of an eye where our Governing politicians are concerned.
After the 1992 Supreme Court ruling in the X case, which determined that a woman has a right to an abortion in Ireland in limited circumstances, including the possibility of suicide, it was up to the government to legislate for that decision.
Fat chance. Instead, they held referendums on the issue. The public gave them a nudge by endorsing the Supreme Court’s view in all of them. Nothing was done.
A decade later, another referendum, with the people again demanding the same outcome. Still nothing was done.
Slow years of court cases, expert committees and countless top-level reports galvanised governments into finding something better to do than the job they were asked to carry out by the public they purport to represent.
All the while our legislators shrugged their shoulders and came to the same, resigned, conclusion: isn’t life a beach? And they bravely buried their heads in the soft sands of Leinster House for fear of injuring their delicate political necks.
It’s a comfortable spot, face down in that sand, because you can’t see the sea right beside you and the unending flow of Irish women crossing it in search of the remedy they instructed you to provide.
Or at least it was comfortable, until the European Court of Human Rights came along with a shovel in 2011 and dug our political leaders out of their sand-locked complacency. It found that an Irish woman’s rights had been violated because the government never gave effect to the judgment in the X case. Something would have to be done now.
Suddenly, the brakes were off. The government burst into action with the trademark urgency of a lame tortoise. An “expert group” was set up, because this matter had to be fully examined in case all the other expert groups and judges of the courts and people who voted in several referendums had missed something over the last 20 years.
And it took us, at warp speed nine, to the Seanad Chamber yesterday morning, where a special meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children was taking place. The committee is holding a three-day public hearing to discuss plans to legislate for limited abortion following the publication of the expert group’s report into “matters relating to A,B,C v Ireland” . The letters stand for the women who took cases to the European Court of Human Rights.