Ridiculing of Mattie McGrath shows anti-democratic nature of abortion committee

Democracy moving towards totalitarianism with no place for minority view

To observe Independent  TD Mattie McGrath’s attempts to instil some truth and logical clarity into this Oireachtas session is both enlightening and disconcerting. He is clearly subjected to ridicule as he tries to give voice to a minority view. Photograph: Eric Luke

To observe Independent TD Mattie McGrath’s attempts to instil some truth and logical clarity into this Oireachtas session is both enlightening and disconcerting. He is clearly subjected to ridicule as he tries to give voice to a minority view. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Prof Veronica O’Keane, in her opening statement to the Oireachtas Committee on Abortion, made the claim that “the mental health of every person in Ireland is being damaged by the Eighth Amendment”.

When challenged by Independent TD Mattie McGrath, she stated that this assertion was “absolutely not” based on any methodologically driven study. Her role, as she understood it, was not to offer any scientific expertise but rather her personal opinion, based on personal experience and on contacts with people in desperate situations.

To observe McGrath’s attempts to instil some truth and logical clarity into this Oireachtas session is both enlightening and disconcerting. He is clearly subjected to ridicule as he tries to give voice to a minority view. McGrath is one of the token advocates defending the lives of the unborn on a committee that, in his words, has become a charade.

The committee is composed primarily of campaigners for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Of the “experts” called before it, something like 25 are on record as being in support of abortion. Many of them are campaigners for the cause. Only four of the experts who have appeared are opposed to abortion or are neutral on the issue.

Constitutional protection

One might say that an instrument of democracy is being used in a manner that is anything but democratic in order to remove the constitutional protection for the most defenceless members of Irish society.

Recently we witnessed the debacle at UCD in which the students’ union president, Katie Ascough, was voted out of office for upholding the law of the land. On the basis of legal advice, she had omitted information on abortion from a student publication.

It seems that the students’ union has a history of breaking the law with impunity, which tradition Ms Ascough did not uphold. Of course, to pursue criminal charges against young adults would be unseemly. It’s surely just coincidental that these pro-choice students support the “correct” view, isn’t it?

When one pauses to reflect on the two incidents just outlined – instances of a discernible trend – it becomes very clear that in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment, the people of Ireland will be voting on much more than simply whether to retain or to abrogate an article that seeks to protect human life in the womb. The referendum will, in effect, also be a vote on the kind of political society we wish to cultivate.

Uncivilised manner

Can we condone Government committees being loaded in favour of particular outcomes? What does it say of a society when a young, intelligent, honest, and law-abiding lady can be treated in such an uncivilised manner because she seeks to uphold the law of the land? One might quite rightly point out that student politics is not mainstream politics. The fact is, however, that today’s university students will be tomorrow’s leaders.

In the case of both incidents, what we have witnessed is the result of an ideology in which what is right is no longer grounded in the inviolable dignity of the person but is subjected to the will of those who exercise power in society – albeit subverting the instruments of democracy in order to do so. The trappings of democracy conceal a naked will to power that does not need to offer anything remotely approaching a reasonable argument in support of its designs.

Irish democracy is moving towards a form of totalitarianism in which the support of reason for the weakest and most defenceless in society is unwelcome.

I suggest that even pro-choice advocates should pause for thought. A “yes” vote would constitute an immediate victory for them. They themselves, however, might be numbered among the next victims of a form of democracy gone badly wrong.

It is impossible to find reasoned arguments in support of the moral legitimacy of wilfully destroying innocent human life. Pro-choice advocates would, however, be better off in the long term if they attempted to engage in reasoned dialogue. The alternative, which they are currently pursuing, might well accentuate a political reality that, on mature reflection, they would rather not inhabit .

Fr Kevin E O’Reilly teaches moral theology at the Angelicum University, Rome

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