Ireland's stance on right to life cannot be affected by Lisbon

Tue, Sep 29, 2009, 01:00

OPINION:THERE IS no doubt that the Lisbon Treaty is a detailed document. Unfortunately, the debate has not been helped by the spread of misinformation and mistruths by certain elements on the No side.

As we enter the final days of the campaign, I feel it is vital to dispel any remaining confusion by separating the facts from the falsehoods.

One of the issues that has been propelled once again to the forefront of the debate on Lisbon is Ireland’s stance on the right to life.

In a very deliberate move to mislead voters, it has been claimed that the Lisbon Treaty will pave the way to abortion. Such a suggestion is beyond ridiculous. Ireland’s stance on the protection of the right to life is enshrined in Article 40 of our Constitution.

Nothing in the Lisbon Treaty can alter this.

This is copper-fastened by a guarantee secured by the Irish Government in June of this year. The guarantee is legally binding and unequivocal. It states: “Nothing in the Treaty of Lisbon . . . affects in any way the scope and applicability of the protection of the right to life in Article 40.3.1, 40.3.2 and 40.3.3 . . . provided by the Constitution of Ireland.”

The meaning of the guarantee could not be clearer, even to a judge of the European Court of Justice. This guarantee shall become a protocol to be attached to the EU treaties at the time of the next accession treaty. Never in the history of the EU has a protocol been broken.

Ireland’s domestic position has in fact long been protected in the EU context by the Maastricht Protocol of 1992.

This was specifically requested by the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party and promoted by the taoiseach of the day and his minister for foreign affairs, Gerard Collins. Almost two decades later, it has proven to be entirely robust.

The bottom line is that Ireland’s stance on the right to life is untouchable. The Catholic Church further underlined this last week.

In his appearance before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor clearly stated: “A Catholic can, without reserve and in good conscience, vote ‘Yes’ for the Lisbon Treaty.” He also said: “The Lisbon Treaty does not alter the legal position of abortion in Ireland.”

This was echoed almost word for word in a collective statement from the Irish bishops.

Writing in this paper, Fr Edmond Grace, a barrister and Jesuit priest, said: “The Maastricht Treaty, followed by the treaties of Amsterdam, Nice – and now Lisbon – all make it clear that ‘nothing shall affect the application in Ireland of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland’. This provision protects the rights of the unborn and is further underlined by the legal guarantee given by the EU member states in June.”

It is quite clear that there is no justification left for the claims of certain extreme groups that abortion could be forced upon us by the EU.

Those who peddle these misleading claims are doing a great disservice to the cause of protecting the right to life.

People of faith have always been central to the development of the EU, where principles are rooted in the promotion of peace and social progress.

For my part, I have been proud to be active in the cause of the right to life, one of the great moral issues of our time. I have spent a lot of time looking at the possible implications of the Lisbon Treaty on the laws in our country.

As a result of this, I have no doubt that there is not even the slightest implication for Ireland on this issue from the vote we will take this week.

Des Hanafin is a former Fianna Fáil member of Seanad Éireann, and is honorary president of the Pro Life Campaign