O Lord, give us a fresh election but not just yet #GE16Part2

54 days since the election, it seems clear that, for some, the real focus is on the next election, writes Donal O’Keeffe  

You’d want to be brave to comment on the ongoing discussions to form a government, seeing as the story twists and turns on a daily basis, but 54 days – and counting – since the election, one thing at least is clear: for some in Dáil Éireann, the last election isn’t half as important as the next.

It looks – at the time of writing – like the talking will go on well past the (presumably) scheduled next failure to elect a Taoiseach. With the Labour Party suddenly talking about talking about going back into coalition – and whither the Greens and SocDems? – it looks like this uncertainty could stretch out for weeks more.

Latest polling suggests an immediate election would only yield another hung Dáil (and cost €40 million we don’t have). The Independents might well suffer if the electorate thinks again about electing a hodge-podge of sole traders, what’s left of Labour can’t be too confident either and Sinn Fein and Fianna Fáil would rather wait. O Lord give us a fresh election, seems the prevailing opinion in political circles, but not just yet.

Please read on…


Repeal Ireland’s cruel and unusual Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, on the other hand, practically mandates them. That’s the legacy of 1983. That’s what happens when we let religious fundamentalists decide our future.

This Christmas, Ireland has just seen its latest – but certainly not its last – “right to life” horror story. This time the very meaning of life and the very meaning of death were twisted and reduced to the stuff of nightmares because doctors feared prosecution for murder if they allowed a brain-dead pregnant woman a natural death.

The Eighth Amendment was foisted on supine politicians in 1983 and voted for by 850,000 people. The youngest of those voters is in their fifties now. Fintan O’Toole wrote recently, and brilliantly, about the forces behind the Eighth Amendment. They were exactly who you think they were. Read O’Toole’s column here.

That amendment gave us Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which states that mother and unborn have equal rights to life and the State will vindicate those rights where practicable. In effect, a woman, a sentient person, is reduced in value to being of the same worth under Irish law as a days-old cluster of cells within her.

I wrote about this in greater depth in my column in TheJournal.ie the other day:

Opinion: Tragic case of clinically dead pregnant woman highlights our unworkable approach to abortion

Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Donal O’Keeffe


To Ireland’s “pro-life” Catholiban, all rights end at rape

Helen Lovejoy Syndrome” is what Alan Flanagan calls it. That’s when people who are more moral than everyone else attempt to win every argument by screeching “Oh won’t someone PLEASE think of the children?” Divorce? Children. Gays? Children. Abortion? Now you’re talking.

Generally speaking, these children tend not to be real children. They are usually theoretical, hypothetical hit-me-now-with-the-child-in-me-arms children. Real children tend to be complicated and unpredictable. From their hold-the-line-at-any-cost approach on “Tonight with Vincent Browne”, you’d be forgiven for thinking that some our more dead-eyed moral bullies would be appalled at the sight of an actual, real child.

Well, they have a real child this time, Ireland’s Helen Lovejoys, a tiny baby in an incubator. That baby’s mother, barely more than a child herself, says she was raped in her home country and, when she found herself pregnant in the middle of Ireland’s barbaric Direct Provision system, she became the central figure in Ireland’s latest horror story

Three decades after Catholic fundamentalists got their hands on Ireland’s Constitution and planted their 8th Amendment as a bulwark against the oncoming tide of liberalism, a young rape victim can be denied an abortion and can be forced to stay pregnant against her will until such time as the pregnancy is (barely) on the cusp of viability outside of the womb and then she can be carved open by C-section.  

Bad enough that we have to listen, in the interests of “balance”, to fanatics who opposed at every opportunity the free availability of both sex education and contraception and who consider the Morning After Pill as monstrous as a late-term abortion, but now we have to listen too as they crow on social media and on the airwaves at what they see as a victory.

What has driven me up the wall this past week (blocking out for a second that this poor woman’s wishes were ignored and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was interpreted in the most brutal way imaginable) is the vicious, pathetic and downright evil suggestion by the crawthumpers in the “pro-life” movement that those of us who believe a woman’s body is her own would wish dead the baby currently struggling for its life.

Having a mindset founded on a default setting of absolute certainty and the burning belief that God has a Holy Plan (and that it’s a baby as soon as Daddy gives Mammy a knowing look after their second glass of shandy) means that in the warped minds of the Catholiban everyone else is as capable of abandoning a child’s rights once it is born as they are.

It is hard to avoid the suspicion that what is at the heart of fundamentalist Catholic “pro-life” thinking is not really so much angels dancing around the head of a zygote but rather what is now known as slut-shaming. Maybe it’s not so much caring about babies, whether they are born or not, but rather about the warped desire to ensure that any woman having sex pays for her sin. Perhaps that’s why it’s a baby and it’s always a baby. Rape? Incest? Non-viable pregnancy? Just watch those dead eyes.

I desperately hope that baby lives. I hope she or he enjoys robust good health and, more importantly, outrageous happiness. I hope that baby knows love and joy and better again silliness. I hope that baby has a life as big as the sky.

This in no way affects my prayer that a terribly young woman, (I understand she has barely turned 18,) monstrously abused not once but over again, and more than one of those times by the Irish State, will in time be able to reclaim a sense of her own self, a sense of her own body and a sense of her own life. I hope against hope she can again define herself as herself.

Not being as morally-stunted in our thinking as those who can no longer remember whether they claim that God thinks for them or that they think for God means that some of us can care about the baby while still believing the mother should not have been raped and should not either have been forced against her will to remain pregnant.

Breda O’Brien of the right-wing, Catholic fundamentalist cabal the Iona “Institute” (quote-marks my own because words should actually mean something) says in her Irish Times column of the 23rd of August “the right to choose ends long before the right to end someone else’s life”. That clears that up then.

Because the “pro-life” believe it’s a full human life at the moment of conception, then it’s a baby at the moment the rapist fulfils God’s Holy Plan. So what Breda is actually saying is the right to choose ends at rape.

Here’s my question. If forcing a rape victim to remain pregnant is in the end a good thing because, look, a baby, then might it be morally wrong to interrupt a rape? After all, if you’re not “pro-life”, then who are you to know the intricacies of God’s Holy Plan?

I’m going to Hell for asking that, I’d imagine. Mark Twain was right: “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company”.

Donal O’Keeffe