Posts Tagged ‘ Irish government ’

News in Brief – Shatter Resigns As Kenny Morphs Into Putin

shatter

Before we kick off can you all take a minute to imagine the theme to The Apprentice . . . got it? OK now we can start.

Alan Shatter has left the building. While the Indo asked ‘who trapped the rat in Leinster House?’ The answer became obvious, it was Enda and he was clutching him by his whiskery tail.

So Shatter has resigned and the future of the justice system is restored, well not exactly, but it’s bound to be a bit better right? RIGHT?! Former social worker Frances Fitzgerald has stepped up to the plate so hopefully she has a better idea of right and wrong. That’s beside the point though what NIB would like to draw everyone’s attention to is that Kenny has taken over Defence. Put a crown on him and call him Putin. Surely putting our dear leader in charge of the country’s defence policy is like appointing him leader of all things. Maybe NIB is exaggerating but you just wait, when the words ‘5-year-plans’ slip out you’ll know we warned you! Continue reading

Irish Government Releases Statement On An Garda Sìochàna

gardairte

The Irish Government have today released the following statement in relation to new information about An Garda Sìochàna, who have been found to be recording large numbers of incoming and outgoing calls.

The statement also comments on today’s resignation of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Government statement in full

At its meeting today, the Government considered a new and very serious issue relating to An Garda Síochána.

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Opinion: Abortion Debate Highlights Political Impotency of the Younger Generation

File:Abortion protest - Barcelona, Spain (8133579204).jpg

Abortion protest – Barcelona, Spain. Photo: David Berkowitz.

As I left my house to go to work yesterday I found, as I regularly do, junk mail crammed into my letter box. But, unlike the usual menu for takeaways or an estate agent trying to get me to sell my rented house, I found a leaflet for anti-abortion. It was well made with good eye-catching design; even the pictures of its featured politicians were Obama-ised like the famous ‘Change’ posters. I left it where it was and continued on my way. Two minutes down the street I met the man who was handing out the flyers. Now, I work in a place where daily I deal with large numbers of elderly and retired people, so take my word for it when I tell you; he was one of the oldest people I have ever seen. He was walking up driveways at the pace of a snail with a limp, and his liver spots were so numerous they could have been freckles on a ginger child. Never before have I seen the division of opinions between the old and the young so perfectly portrayed. And yet, despite this man’s obvious lack of vitality he was standing up and making an effort to involve himself in an issue he feels very strongly about. The same can definitely not be said of the majority of the young people in my generation.

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Crippled Irish Political System Requires Total Revamp

eire“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner,”

-James Bovard, Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty.

It has been stated and stressed many times over the course of the past few years, in various ways and with various examples to illustrate the point: Ireland’s political system is a frustrating failure. Our politicians are almost universally reviled as people who will say anything to get elected, promptly forgetting about such promises when the votes are tallied and their place in government has been cemented for another few years. If the people are accused of apathy then it’s hard to blame them. At this stage the whole process is a farce, a joke, to the point where much of the electorate feels alienated and simply doesn’t bother joining in anymore. Why, they ask, when elections feel like a sham – merely replacing the people sitting in Dáil Éireann rather than the policies they enact. How many thought they were getting away from cronyism and the political policies saddling the majority with the mistakes of the minority when Fine Gael was last elected to government? And how many simply sighed when they finally realised it was really Fianna Fáil in a different guise sitting in Leinster House spinning the same tired old yarn? Continue reading

Report Says State Was Involved In Magdalene Laundries

MLAfter an 18 month investigation, and a few lengthy delays, a report into the Magdalene Asylums of Ireland has finally been released, and it concluded what most of those involved in the advocacy group ‘Justice For Magdalenes’ already suspected – the State was indeed involved in these industries. It had long been claiming that these were private industries, run by the Church and the Church alone – but the fact of reality is that the Catholic Church essentially was the State. Continue reading

Ireland And Abortion : A History Of Silence…

 Where were you on February 23 1992? Me, I was three years old and more than likely playing with my prized collection of Barbie dolls blissfully unaware of the court case that was rocking the Irish nation.

The case I’m referring to is of course The X Case and February 23 is the day the chaos eventually came to an end with the Supreme Court ruling (after a long and hardy battle) that a pregnant and suicidal fourteen year old was in fact entitled to an abortion.

Previous to this only the physical health of the mother was taken into account when deciding whether or not she was entitled to an abortion but this ruling meant that for the first time ever a woman’s mental health as well as the very real threat of suicide would also be taken into consideration.

Today, twenty years since that judgement was first handed down, I’m sorry to say Irish women are still waiting for the legislation that will allow them access to life-saving terminations.

Here, I take a look at what is perhaps the most controversial and divisive topic of our time; abortion and the Irish Governments damning history of silence…

The X Case

The X Case is without a doubt one of the most controversial and closely followed legal battles in the history of the state. Not only did it spark outrage and debate amongst Irish citizens but it also drove thousands of people – both pro choice and pro life – to demonstrations across the country.

It all began in December 1991 when a fourteen year old girl known only as X was raped by a man known to her and her family. Just one month later, following a bout of illness which forced the girl to visit her local GP, both her and her parents were informed that she had in fact become pregnant. It was then that the youth finally broke down and admitted that her attacker had been sexually abusing her for two years.

Immediately the attack and the years of abuse were reported to local Gardai and investigations began. Meanwhile, unable to tolerate the thought of carrying to full term her rapists child the fourteen year old and her parents decided it would be best for her to travel to England in order to undergo an abortion. Before doing so however they asked Gardai if the foetus could be tested in order to provide proof of paternity as the accused was denying all responsibility. The Gardai then asked The Director of Public Prosecutions if this evidence would be admissible in court who in turn contacted The Attorney General Henry Whelehan who immediately sought an injunction under Article 40.3.3 of the constitution – at the time this put the unborn child’s right to life on equal footing with that of the mother – which barred the teenager and her parents from leaving the country or terminating the pregnancy. Already in England the family were then forced to return to Ireland.

The first injunction barring the girl from leaving the state only lasted until February 10th at which point her case was then tried in front of Justice Costello. Despite hearing testimony from a clinical psychologist who felt the girl was at high risk for suicide and from her distraught mother who related how her teenage daughter had admitted wanting to throw herself down a flight of stairs and even considered throwing herself under a train while in London, Justice Costello eventually decided that the right to life of the unborn child should not be interfered with and ruled that the defendant must be restrained from leaving Ireland for a period of nine months.

“The evidence also establishes that if the court grants the injunction sought there is a risk that the defendant may take her own life. But the risk that the defendant may take her own life, if an order is made, is much less and of a different order of magnitude than the certainty that the life of the unborn will be terminated if the order is not made.”

Determined to see what they believed was justice served the defendant and her parents immediately sought an appeal from the Supreme Court. The teenagers legal team argued that the High Court judge was “wrong in law” in finding that the danger to the life of the mother was less than the danger to the life of the unborn.

On the final day of proceedings the Supreme Court judge ruled that the decision of the High Court should be set aside and the youngster was permitted to undergo an abortion. It is understood, however, that while awaiting termination the girl suffered a miscarriage.

Interesting to note is the fact that the victim’s perpetrator was tried, jailed, and eventually had his sentence severely reduced on appeal only to go on to kidnap and sexually assault another teenager in 1999.

The Referendum

As a direct result of The X Case and the Supreme Courts ruling the Irish Government put forward three possible amendments to the Constitution in a referendum. These amendments were known as the 12th, 13th and 14th amendments.

The 12th amendment asked to remove suicide as grounds for abortion, the 13th amendment asked that women should have the right to travel outside the state for abortion and finally the 14th amendment asked that information about abortion should be made available in the State.

Given that we are constantly hearing how severely opposed to abortion the people of Ireland – such a devout Catholic country – are you would expect that the 12th amendment passed where the 13th and 14th failed. In actuality the opposite is true.

History Is Forced To Repeat Itself

Despite the results of these referenda, the Irish Government did not act on them, and in 1997 history repeated itself with The C Case. This time a thirteen year old girl was forced to delay the termination the courts eventually declared she was fully entitled to in line with her basic human rights and in light of the X case ruling.

Instead of tackling the issue then and granting the Irish people what they had already asked for in the previous referendum the government engaged in what many critics have called “delay tactics,” commissioning more reports and expert committees on the subject. This continued until 2002 when then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, held another referendum asking what was essentially the same question as that of the failed referendum of 1992 – should we remove the threat of suicide as grounds for abortion. A decade later the Irish public issued the same answer, no. Once again they voted to support the X Case decision. Regrettably despite this, the second vote on the issue, legislation was still not forthcoming. Having yet again failed to address the issue of abortion the Irish Government ensured that women in need of what are in many cases life saving operations would not have access to them here in Ireland – Baffling considering the Supreme Courts ruling concerning the X case and indeed the two referendums in which the Irish public voted in favour of termination if and when the mothers life is in danger.

Dr Mark Murphy who has carried out and published extensive research into the States abortion crisis has found countless cases in which mothers threatened by a real and substantial risk to their lives were ultimately forced to travel abroad for a termination of their pregnancy. Dr Murphy found that 9% of GPs had managed a patient with a life threatening medical condition (including but not limited to cancer patients who required abortions in order to avail of chemotherapy, women with severe cardiovascular disease and those at severe psychiatric risk such as rape victims) however he recorded only one instance of an Irish doctor performing a termination in an Irish hospital – in the case of severe preeclampsia.

Savita Halappanavar

While I do not intend to belittle the pain and trauma suffered by these women who had to fight so hard simply to access the medical care that would allow them a chance at life perhaps the most shocking and heartbreaking case of all is that of Savita Halappanavar a woman who critics of Ireland’s antiquated and draconian abortion regime have dubbed a “martyr to the political cowardice” of our government. Savita, you see, did not have the opportunity to take her case to the courts.

If the X case gripped the nation twenty years ago then it is the tragic tale of Savita Halappanavar that is all but consuming the people of Ireland today. Two weeks ago Mrs Halappanavar who was 17 weeks pregnant and suffering intense back pain was admitted to Galway University Hospital where it was soon discovered that she was in fact miscarrying. As time went on it became clear that the child she was carrying would not survive and both Savita and her husband were made aware of this. Now in terrible pain Savita requested – on numerous occasions – a medical termination as did her husband Praveen only to be told that nothing could be done for her as a fetal heartbeat could still be detected. Having further questioned the hospitals decision the couple were then informed that an abortion could not be carried out as Ireland was a “catholic country”

Eventually, following three more days of agony in which the couple repeatedly begged for a termination doctors finally agreed to remove the remains of the fetus. Sadly, it was just days before Mrs Halappanavar showed signs of severe septicemia (this occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream) which later proved to be fatal and at 1.10 a.m. on October 28 the 31 year old was pronounced dead.

It is understood that had the fetus been removed earlier the life of this woman, a beloved wife and daughter, could have been saved. Multiple investigations into Savita’s tragic and seemingly needless death are currently being carried out. This, however, will do little to ease the troubles of Mr Halappanavar a man who lost both his unborn child and wife within a matter of days.

Medical Confusion

As difficult as this may be for some to hear the Irish government’s failure to create definitive legislate concerning the issue of abortion is not only unfair to the women of the country but all those in the medical profession. Doctors want to provide safe and effective care for patients but legislation is required in order for them to provide that care. In other words they need clear guidelines for managing difficult situations such as that of Mrs Halappanavar’s. Addressing the nations current stance on abortion Dr Murphy said “To delineate and categorise those medical conditions on each side of that nebulous line between ill health and life threatening illness is difficult.” Personally I would be of the opinion that it is just too difficult. When it comes to matters of life and death I think we can all agree that the last thing we need is “grey areas”

Of course this is where our politicians and legislators are supposed to step in and provide legal clarity but even now despite rulings from the Supreme Court, referendum results, the European Court of Human Rights ruling that the Irish State is continuing to breach the human rights of every woman in the country due to their failure to implement a legislative or regulatory framework outlining their abortion rights, and countless medical professionals leaving them in no doubt as to what is required those in power have failed to take action and ultimately failed to protect the women of Ireland and their families.

Enough

Just what is it that our leaders are waiting for? Another fourteen year old rape victim to test her rights within the courts? A desperately ill cancer patient to beg for a shot at life or perhaps another unnecessary death such as that of Savita Halappanavar? The people have spoken and they have said, enough. We have had enough of the antiquated and draconian notion that a living breathing woman’s right to life is valued even below that of an unviable fetus, enough of exporting dying women to England in order to undergo the lifesaving abortions they should have access to within their own country, enough of women like Savita dying needlessly and others in similar situations enduring days of agony simply because this is a “catholic country.” Yes, we the people of Ireland have had enough.

A debate is scheduled to take place in The Dail today – Wednesday 28th of November – let’s hope a real effort is made to eliminate medical confusion and find a solution to the abortion crisis in our country. Maybe then the almost 21 year wait will somehow seem worth it.

World War II and the Irish deserters

Fighting for the Crown has always been a touchy subject in Ireland. Those who would take the King’s shilling were often looked down upon by friends and neighbours and even family members simply for joining the enemy. Despite the nationalist reasoning behind a substantial number of volunteers who left to fight Germany in World War I, returning soldiers were cast aside, branded traitors to Ireland by a society successfully brainwashed into believing the nationalist narrative driven into their minds by both the nationalist leaders and of course the Catholic Church. Coming home from World War II, one section of Irish soldiers who fought in Europe faced a much graver situation – not just the hatred of a nationalist populace, but imprisonment and reprisals on both themselves and their families, for the crime of deserting the Irish Defence forces.

Recently, Alan Shatter has announced a proposed piece of legislation which will provide an official amnesty for those Irish citizens who left their posts in the Free State army to fight for the Allies in mainland Europe. “The government apologises for the manner in which those men of the Defence Forces were treated after the war by the state,” Shatter declared. Following the outbreak of war in September 1939, Éamon de Valera immediately declared that the Irish Free State would remain neutral for several reasons – in view of the continued partition of Ireland, neutrality as the ultimate declaration of Ireland’s independence as well as the more practical matter of Ireland being a small nation and vulnerable to attack should she choose sides. Throughout the war, Dev maintained the Free State’s position. Strong pressure came from London over the use of Irish ports by the British navy, supported by the American representative in Dublin, David Gray. Dev continually refused any such requests, arguing that any moves in favour of one side would threaten the Free State’s safety, a stance which served to enhance his support from the populace. But really, Ireland wasn’t all that neutral, and certainly showed sympathetic leanings towards the Allies and their cause. For one thing, the Irish army passed on information to the British, while British soldiers who found themselves landing in the Free State were quietly slipped over the border into Northern Ireland; their German counterparts were instead arrested and interned. So, one might think, it wouldn’t be a step too far for some Irishmen to aid the Allies in their fight against Germany.

In the Irish Defence Forces were a large number of highly trained men, ready and itching to go into action which wouldn’t happen for them, barring an invasion of Ireland. A good portion of these men saw what was happening in Europe, and were unhappy with the country’s position of neutrality, men who wanted to fight – against evil, for more money and even food (which was distinctly lacking in Ireland’s army) or just for the hell of it. Around 4,500 to 5,000 are believed to have deserted their positions in the Irish Defence forces (alongside those who had legitimately joined the British army) and left Ireland to fight on the battlefields of Europe, though not all for the same sides. They joined different regiments and fought in many countries and during some of the most important episodes of the war which would eventually swing the Allies way. But if they expected to return home to a hero’s reception, they were sorely mistaken. While the Irish government was ostensibly neutral, the citizens were certainly not. And it’s not hard to understand why. These were a generation of people who had lived through the execution of the rebels of 1916, the War of Independence and the infliction of the Black and Tans, the Civil War and the toll that took on the populace, not to mention the partition of Ireland and the continued troubles across the country. Anti-British sentiment was still very fresh, and here were people, Irish people no less, who had deserted their country to go and fight in the army of the old enemy. And so came, from Dáil Éireann (despite their unofficial assistance to the Allied forces), the starvation order, officially known as the Emergency Powers Order No. 362, passed under the Irish Emergency Powers Act of 1939. The severity of the deserter’s punishment shows that the government of the time wanted to inflict as much physical and psychological pain on those 5,000 returning soldiers as possible. Under the legislation, they were to be punished in four ways – they forfeited all pay during the period of desertion, all pensions were lost to them, any employment benefits they might have been eligible for were revoked and for a period of seven years they were not allowed to hold any job paid for from public money. This, the government maintained, was to ensure that those who had faithfully fulfilled their oaths to the Free State army were the first to get the available jobs following demobilisation, to deter any future desertion and as a cost-effective way of dealing en masse with those who deserted, rather than incurring the cost of dealing with each individual through court-martial. In October of 1945, TD Thomas O’Higgins made moves to annul the legislation; while condoning desertion he felt the punishment laid on those who left for the Allied armies was far too harsh. However, the Dáil voted in favour of the order.

The resultant effect on those soldiers and their families is still felt even to this day. Speaking in recent years, those who still lived recalled the ever-present fear of being brought to task because of their choices. Work was hard to come by, as employers didn’t look too kindly on membership of the British army, forgetting the desertion aspect. Paddy Reid, who fought against the Japanese with the Royal Artillery in the jungles of Burma, resorted to scouring the countryside, finding odd jobs like picking turnips for farmers to survive. For families, home was often to be found in the slums and never in the one place for too long, nor was there ever the assurance of food on the table. Others were thrown directly into jail. Phil Farrington was put in a Cork military prison at the age of nineteen, caught while returning home on leave, where starvation rations were given to the prisoners who often resorted to eating egg shells. The guards showed nothing but contempt for the inmates, who were often beaten if they didn’t work hard enough. Suicides, somewhat unsurprisingly, were not uncommon. And perhaps more disturbing was the fate of the children of these men. Many were taken away from their destitute parents, whether their fathers had returned alive from the war or not, and were placed into industrial schools at the mercy of daily beatings with rubber truncheons and faced with malnourishment and horrifically unhygienic environments. And according to some reports, those children of British soldiers bore the worst of it all. An ‘SS’ beside their names signified the crimes of their fathers, and marked them out for the most cruel of punishments. Whether this occurred or not, the fact of the matter was that physical and sexual abuse was only the norm, for all children unfortunate enough to be cast into these places. “It’s so ironic that their fathers had fought so hard to enter in one of the most atrocious wars in the history of the human race and had freed all those poor people from the concentration camps in Belsen and yet their own children were subjected to a similar type of concentration camp back at home in Ireland, just because their fathers had ‘deserted’ the Irish Army,” said Irish politician, Mary Ann O’Brien.

“A simple pardon, yeah, we’ve had the Queen over, we’ve had people of the North, the peace,” said the grandson of Phil Farrington, deserter and veteran of D-Day, “and yet we still can’t get the Irish lads that fought for the war, we can’t get them a thank you or a pardon, it’s shocking, shocking that someone comes back from the war, could have given their life, I know many did, that are still blacklisted and then to be treated the way he was. They didn’t run away for a holiday, they weren’t making fortunes and gallivanting around Europe they were running towards guns.” Feelings are still quiet deep on a subject which is only coming back to the surface of discussion in recent years, and it’s not as straightforward an issue as one might think. For starters, those men had, at the base of it all, deserted, and any army in the world which doesn’t punish deserters is simply asking for trouble. If they do nothing, even when those who left went for a good reason (in most cases), what message does that send to those left behind, or those who might join in future years? These were men who had sworn an oath to their country and they effectively abandoned that oath. Some have argued that they probably, in fact, got off lightly. Desertion in other countries at the time would have brought a severe sentence on your head – the Soviet army in particular was infamous for punishing its deserters with execution. Having said that, less than ten years after the war ended, an amnesty for all British deserters was announced by Winston Churchill in 1953, so a precedent for forgiveness was indeed there, whereas in Ireland, the same move has taken 59 years more thus far. And whereas those who deserted from the British army surely did so to save their own skins, those 5,000 Irishmen who deserted the Irish army did so to join another, and to face far greater dangers than they would have confronted in Ireland. Their punishment was indeed severe but again at the base of it all, they had committed a crime against the country they had sworn to defend, breaking the law is breaking the law.

People will argue that their reasons were just and the ends justify the means. But we have no idea how many fought on the side of the Germans rather than the Allies, or what reasons other than fighting against evil persuaded them to abandon their comrades, their oaths and their country. Again, the explanation is the same as to why they were so hated in the first place – the residual effect of the protracted fight against the British, the legacy of their rule in this country and the continued partition of North from South. And, of course, we mustn’t forget the move by both the Irish government and the Catholic Church to create a national identity to go along with our new state following independence – an identity which was nationalist and Catholic in its outlook, an identity which didn’t allow for deviations such as fighting for those who oppressed us for so long. Even today many aren’t aware of this part of our past and in schools our history books are either shamefully short or completely empty concerning those men, their actions and their fate, which, despite the complicated nature of their actions, do not deserve to be confined to the footnotes of history..

John Stout, who served with the Irish Guards and fought at Arnhem and the Battle of the Bulge, is unrepentant. “I know in my heart,” he maintains “that we done the right thing. We fought for small nations and we liberated camps where people had been slaughtered. I would never regret…I would do it all over again.” Perhaps they were right in doing what they did. From the comfort of the 21st century, it’s hard to decide.