February 9th, 1983
From the ArchivesAs a referendum to insert the right to life of the unborn in the Constitution seemed inevitable, this editorial pleaded for a last-minute change of heart
The Government and Oireachtas are largely the guardians of the national ethos and of the national interest. The nation, need it be said, goes far beyond the borders of the Twenty-Six Counties. And that national interest should never be subordinate to mere rules of procedure. Is it, therefore, too late to appeal to all concerned, and primarily to the Taoiseach [Garret FitzGerald], to step back from the proposed Amendment to the Constitution on abortion, and reconsider? Is it not possible for members of the Oireachtas, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, to come together at this late stage, as men and women of goodwill, to spare the electorate here, and the nation as a whole, a campaign which seems destined to divide the people and rankle for a very long time; an exercise which many genuinely believe to be entirely unnecessary? Though motives on both sides need not be questioned, the tone of much debate has been shrill, partisan and anything but uplifting.
Spiritual pride plays its part.
Dr Garret FitzGerald is, most of all, in a dilemma. It is of his own making. Dr FitzGerald’s impassioned invitation to a crusade on behalf of the unity of Northern Protestants and Southern Catholics stands oddly against his hasty agreement with the promoters of this Amendment. If not the antithesis of what he inspired in so many people, it can be seen as an aberration therefrom.
His promise to the sponsoring group must be measured against his duty to the whole nation. And it has been made clear to him that, on the side of the Protestant Churches, there is grave apprehension.
Any advantage which might be taken by political opponents, should he in any way step back from his promise, would not detract from his standing, but could well rebound on those who falsely accused him. The public, surely, need only be fully informed of the depth of the Christian reservations of the Churches who oppose this Amendment, to agree that postponement, at least, would be in the interests of us all.
Not that the Protestant Churches are alone in having doubts. ICTU has spoken out and given cogent reasons. Lawyers have given legal reasons against the Amendment. Other groups too.
Could not a resolution such as this be put to the House? “That Dáil Eireann, while affirming its total condemnation of abortion and its intention to ensure that abortion remains unlawful, considers, in the light of the views expressed by the Protestant Churches and others, and in the light of the pressing urgency of the economic and social issues of the day, that it is untimely and inappropriate, at present, to proceed with any proposal for a Constitutional Referendum in relation to this matter.”
If this was signed by members of the faiths represented in the House (and especially, but not exclusively, by thoughtful members on the Coalition side) the nation could breathe more easily. This, to the man and woman in the street, would be the practical side of ecumenism and a good deed in the cause of the whole nation.
Read the full article at iti.ms/XRVwqu;