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Out With The Old And In With The New: From Hollande to Holland

This week has already proven to be tumultuous time for European politics and it’s only Monday. A wave of change seems to be washing over both France and the Netherlands, leaving some of the top posts in Europe currently up for grabs.

The first round of the French Presidential elections saw Francois Hollande take a step closer to becoming the first ever Socialist President of France, his 28% giving him a clear lead over Nicolas Sarkozy’s mere 26%. Although not yet defeated, this can be seen as a personal blow to Sarkozy. Not only is it a spanner in his campaign to be re-elected but it also can be viewed as a resounding personal defeat; it is the first time in 50 years that an outgoing President has failed to secure a majority in the first round of votes. It has been noted by many that success for Hollande could mark a turning point for politics in Europe. Hollande favours a European fiscal pact that encompasses provisions on growth and jobs rather than just purely austere measures. This could leave the German Chancellor Angela Merkel more isolated in her insistence that rigid austerity measures are the only way to resolve the euro crisis.

In other significant news, the Dutch Prime Minister today resigned from his post after an emergency cabinet meeting was called.The Dutch government information service released a statement that left no uncertainty on the matter:

“Prime Minister Mark Rutte has offered his cabinet’s resignation to her Majesty Dutch Queen Beatrix,”

This move was not entirely unforeseen after crucial negotiations on a new set of austerity measures collapsed at the weekend. Geert Wilders’ dissent on the matter meant that the government no longer had the support of the Freedom Party, support that had ensured the government’s majority in Parliament in recent months.

What with Hollande’s recent success in the Presidential campaign and his desire to encourage job growth, perhaps he will soon be in a position to offer Mr.Rutte a new post? But for now we must be content to surmise on what the coming days will bring. One thing is for sure; all eyes will remain fixed on Europe to see how both the French and Dutch situations play out.

Private Member’s Bill on abortion voted down

Abortion has always been a contentious issue in Ireland, what with our stoically Catholic roots and our relatively conservative views on pregnancy and extra marital relations. However we once again see the ban on abortion in this country being questioned on a national platform. With the Dail debating the reform of abortion legislation we find the same old arguments being regurgitated in favour of retaining the narrow scope for abortion in Ireland.

A series of articles featured in the Irish Times have recently provided a moving insight into the physical and emotional journey that numerous couples have to take to obtain an abortion. Numerous travel to Liverpool, as abortion in Ireland is only available in extremely narrow circumstances where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. This is as a result of the holding in the X case, a holding which successive governments have failed to fully implement in legislation.

Today the age old argument that abortion is “sin” was commented upon by Mayo TD Michelle Mulherin. However the argument took an almost farcical spin when she commented that the most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies in Ireland is “fornication”.

With all due respect, isn’t that obvious? What’s next; are they going to declare that alcohol is the leading cause of inebriation or that overeating is a major cause of obesity? With our government making not-so-groundbreaking comments like that it causes us to wonder at their capacity to make decisions on such significant issues. It is doubtful that any of the countless unmarried couples who are “fornicating” of late will be at all surprised by the TD’s comments.

The debate resulted in the proposed legislation, the Private Member’s Bill on abortion, being voted down by 109 votes to 20. It looks likely that for the time being at least the current stance of Irish law on abortion shall remain unchanged.