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Posts Tagged ‘ Oireachtas ’

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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News in Brief-Shatter’s Racy Novel Returns While Irish Biscuit Gambler Isn’t a Jammie Dodger

A cardinal at the Vatican at the beginning of the week, claimed Enda Kenny wasn’t making sense, after the Taoiseach reportedly asked: ’How do you like your eggs in the morning? Raising eyebrows Enda went on to say: ’I’m a teapot and I’ve made some terrible mistakes in regards to our country’s future but I’m really, really sorry and that. It’s not you, it’s your beard.’ It’s unclear who he was referring to. Continue reading

Changes Made As Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Bill Is Unveiled

Earlier yesterday afternoon, the Cabinet concluded and agreed the Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013. In short, this means that in certain circumstances it should now be legal for a woman to receive a medical termination if her life is at risk due to the pregnancy.

The meeting this morning came after discussion was deferred yesterday, due to on going disagreements. The final wording of the legislation has now been agreed on, and is due to be published shortly. Once it’s published, the process of passing the legislation through the Oireachtas begins. TD’s will get a chance to examine the contents in the Dáil. Continue reading

Humanists Offer Fresh Alternative To Traditional Ceremonies

HAILast month, a bill was passed through all stages in the Dail here in Ireland that will allow ‘celebrants’ to carry out humanist wedding and funeral ceremonies in Ireland.  The Humanist Association of Ireland has been campaigning for this bill to be passed for over a decade and they hope that it will be signed into law by the President before the summer. Before the bill was passed couples that sought a humanist ceremony would have had to combine it with a civil ceremony but now couples can legally be married by humanist ‘celebrants’. Announcing the breakthrough on their website, the HAI said, “This is a major victory for the Humanist Association of Ireland which has been campaigning for this change for the past decade…In addition to wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, Humanist celebrants conduct naming ceremonies to celebrate the arrival of a child into a family. They also conduct funerals that aim to balance the sense of loss with a celebration of a life ended.” Continue reading

The Religious Have Their Say On Final Day of Oireachtas Abortion Committee

 

 shThe Oireachtas Committee yesterday held their final day of hearings regarding abortion in this country.

Representatives from several Christian sects, the Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Ireland and the Catholic Church, along with Ali Selim from the Islamic Cultural Center,  Rabbi Zalman of the Dublin Hebrew Congregation and Michael Nugent from Atheist Ireland, convened in the morning session to give statements regarding their respective organisation’s stance on abortion.

The morning’s proceedings began with a statement from Christopher Jones of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, who stated that “Abortion…is gravely immoral in all circumstances”. The representatives for the Catholic Church conjectured that if the Govt. decided to legislate for the X case, in which a young teenage girl was raped and consequently impregnated, then that would pave the way in the future for women to seek abortions unrestricted. It was stated that:

“Reassurances that the Government’s decision to legislate for the X case will lead to very limited abortion in Ireland are not reliable. It will be open to anyone who wants to avail of abortion on the wider grounds provided for by the X case to challenge any attempt to limit these grounds in legislation and/or regulation through the Courts.”

The underlying message is that abortion is morally wrong in any situation and allowing abortion at any level will inevitably lead to abortion on demand.

Church of Ireland representative Michael Jackson and Methodist Church of Ireland representative Heidi Good both opposed abortion on demand and realized that the issue is contentious and very complex. Although opposed to abortion on demand Jackson and Good both recognized that there is some cases where an abortion would be permissible, namely if there was a ‘real and substantial risk to the life of the mother’. Trevor Morrow of the Presbyterian Church stated that his church were ‘strongly pro-life’ and believed the unborn foetus should be treated as a person, but insinuated that if there was a substantial risk to the life of the mother then an abortion may be what is required. Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Center reiterated much of what was said before him and stated that “Abortion could be conducted as the last and only alternative to protect the mother’s life”. Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland enjoined the committee to legislate based on ‘human rights and compassion’…and not on religious doctrines.’ Nugent bypassed all dialogue about the legal and medical aspect of abortion, expressing the view that the decision should be entirely that of the pregnant woman’s and her medical team, and said:

“Please respect that individual ethical decisions should be made on the basis of personal autonomy and individual conscience, while not infringing on the rights of others. Please respect that individual ethical decisions about pregnancy should be made by a pregnant woman in consultation with her medical team.”

Refuting the decision to automatically include religious institutions in the debate Nugent went on to say the religious must be respected but they should ‘not impose their own religious values on pregnant women who do not share those religious beliefs’.

What is wholly apparent is that the religious agree on much more than they disagree on. But there are some discrepancies. The Catholic representatives tip-toed precariously around the issue of rape and incest, refusing categorically to state that the stance of the church meant that a pregnancy as a result of rape or incest is still a valid pregnancy and should remain. Ali Selim was agreed upon this, also. He stated that:

“Women who have victims of rape deserve due sympathy and help. But a child conceived in this unfortunate situation still has the right to live. The continuity of this pregnancy of course places a heavy burden on the mother, which may drive her, likewise many other economic and social scenarios, to think of terminating this pregnancy. But killing the foetus is not the right solution. In fact it is a crime against this innocent human being.”

Selim believes the foetus, however conceived, is sacred and should be protected.

Following the representative statements the committee was opened up for questions from TD’s and Senators, and the Catholic representatives were duly pressed on clearing up their stance on the X case. Christopher Jones, the second representative of Catholic Bishops, expressed regret over cases of pregnancy following rape but reiterated that the denial of life in these circumstances is still not condonable. There was also much dialogue on the issue of suicide. Rabbi Zalman stated that the Jewish stance on this is one of compassion; if there is risk to the life of the woman it must be addressed. The outspoken Ivan Bacik, a Labour member of the Seanad, wanted to know by what right the Catholic Church felt they could advise on such an issue regarding pregnancy and a woman’s body, their institution being made up exclusively of celibate men. Marc MacSharry makes a point that only 3% of pregnant women were deemed suicidal last year, a relatively low number he contends. The Methodist representative Heidi Good took issue with this and said probably the most memorable thing of the morning session.

She stated that the need for legislation was absolutely necessary and that if only 3% of women were deemed suicidal it would be wrong not to legislate for that 3%. She said “This country was founded upon respect for the individual… If there was only 1 murder in the last 100 years we would still have to legislate about murder. If one pregnant woman in the next 10 years is deemed to be suicidal it would be wrong of us not to legislate for that.” There will be much rumination in the following weeks regarding this contentious issue. With an ongoing investigation into the death of Savita Halappanavar and this weeks proceedings, Ireland is likely to begin legislating in the near future.

By Shuki Byrne.

3 Day Oireachtas Committee on Abortion Begins Today

LHThe Oireachtas committee is today gearing up for 3 days of meetings, featuring expert legal and medical groups, to discuss the issue of abortion in Ireland. Pro-choice and pro-life organisations will also have an opportunity to lobby their cause. The issue has been propelled back onto center stage following the death of Savita Halapannavar in November. It has been an extremely divisive issue in this country for decades and because of governments precariously tip-toeing around the subject it has inevitably not been comprehensively addressed.

Topics of debate in the Oireachtas will centre on the legal issues of abortions in Ireland, on the medical aspect of the issue and the morality surrounding it. The imperative aim of the 3 day intensive meetings is to clear up the grey areas surrounding the legal facets of the eligibility, or lack-thereof, of seeking an abortion in Ireland. The law now states that abortion is illegal in Ireland. In Ireland abortion is currently prohibited under sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person’s Act 1861.

Under Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution the State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees to respect the mother in national laws. The 1861 Act puts women and doctors in fear of criminal prosecution regarding abortion. In the X case in 1992, the Supreme Court held that abortion was lawful in Ireland, if there was a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother. No legislation regulating that right was ever enacted, a fact regretted by the Supreme Court in its 1992 Judgment.

Each day the committee will hear the arguments and evidences from the respective parties involved; today (08/01/13) the medical advisors will be heard in the Oireachtas. The committee will hear from the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Council in the morning. The second and third sessions will involve medical evidence from expert medical doctors from hospitals around the country. The fourth and final session will entail advice from Niall Behan, CEO of the Irish Family Planning Association, The Institute of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and advice from Maternal Death Inquiry Ireland.

The Oireachtas will then hear evidence and advice regarding the legislation surrounding the issue of abortion in Ireland. The day will be a rigorous one because of the contentious debate around the legality of seeking an abortion and the contentious court cases that have rocked Ireland in the recent decades, most recently in 2010. Back in 2010 3 women went to the European Court of Human Rights with a complaint about the grey area surrounding the eligibility of seeking an abortion in Ireland. The 3 women had traveled to the UK to seek an abortion for reasons of health and/or well-being as it was unclear whether any of them were eligible for one in Ireland. The motion was brought to the ECHR over 2 years ago and the question remains why it was put on the back burner instead of being addressed there and then. The aims of the day will undoubtedly be to clear up the muddied waters and provide concise advice about further legislation.

The final day of the proceedings sees religious groups, pro-life groups and pro-choice groups have their say. Various Christian sects, the Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Ireland and the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference, take up the vast majority of the morning session, with the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland and Atheist Ireland (a very late addition) offered the chance of submitting advice. Atheist Ireland were only recently invited by the Health Committee to attend the session and a post on their website states that, “Ideally, there should be no need to hear any specifically religious or nonreligious ethical views, but if they are hearing religious ethical views, then they should also hear nonreligious ethical views.” The decision to invite the group will be a bone of contention for the other religious groups in attendance, as they see the moral landscape of the issue of abortion as primarily religious. The group hopes to put forward their views regarding the issue from a humanist and a secular perspective:

Our policy is that society should address ethical issues based on human rights and compassion, and applying reason to empirical evidence, and not on religious doctrines; and that individual ethical decisions should where possible be made on the basis of personal autonomy and individual conscience, while not infringing on the rights of others… Also, as one example, Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean Brady has recently asked people to tell their public representatives that the right to life is conferred on human beings by ‘the creator’. We want to explain why we believe the Government should not legislate or regulate on the basis of imposing such theological ideas on citizens who do not share them.

Although the group rejects the general decision to seek advice from religious groups the Atheist population will be glad that they have been asked to contribute to this contentious debate.

The final 2 sessions of the day will encompass advice from pro-life and pro-choice groups, and will hear advice and evidence from the Director of Action on X, a group that have been actively campaigning for the government to legislate on this issue. The decision to split the days up into medical, legal and ‘moral’ is a telling one. It illustrates the tendency in this country to afford religious groups the sole right to moralize for the rest of us; the first day is medical, the second legal and the third ‘moral’. The group Atheist Ireland would contend that the moral landscape of the question should be addressed within the legal and medical framework, and should not be afforded to religious groups.

Enda Kenny recently said that Fine Gael remains a ‘pro-life’ political party. The majority of Fine Gael backbenchers maintain that Ireland will remain a country in which abortion is illegal but they face a backlash from the Irish public who were outraged when Savita Halappanavar died in November. The public show of solidarity with Savita’s husband and the general indignation that this could happen in our country in the 21st century was wholly apparent. If Fine Gael stubbornly insist upon a pro-life stance following the reaction of the public they look set to drop in popularity. Popularity among the coalitionists is low following the budget in December and this will only cause Fine Gael a further setback. However, if Labour manages to push through with their goals regarding abortion here in Ireland it might give them a much-needed boost. Support for Labour is waning following their poor efforts to halt Fine Gael cutting benefits in the recent budget.

New Gender Quotas May Do More Harm Than Good

Earlier last month, Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave his opinion that the political system in Ireland was a failure, in relation to getting more women involved in elected office. Kenny was speaking on the subject of the introduction of gender quotas for the next general election, saying that greater participation by women in political life would lead to “better politics.”

The legislation has gone before the Seanad on Thursday last, where it was described as “real change,” and “real reform.” The new measures introduced in this legislation will mean that all Irish political parties will have to ensure that at least thirty per cent of candidates fielded are female, or face their state funding cut in half. The figures the legislation attempts to correct are indeed revelatory about the issue of gender in Irish politics today. In the global league of female participation in politics, Ireland’s ranking has fallen from 37th to 79th since 1990. At present there is only one female TD for every six male elected. Even more surprising is that three counties – Cavan, Louth and Laois – have never seen a female TD elected to the Dáil since 1922. Women’s groups are thus welcoming the new measures.

“This legislation will address the gender imbalance which has been so persistent in Irish politics,” said the Chair of Labour Women, Katherine Dunne.

These new quotas, however, may do more harm to Irish politics and women’s position in it than good. Firstly, ‘token’ women could be put forward in areas where they have no chance of winning, although by their participation, the party will have followed the rules of the legislation and kept their state funding. Will these partie’s priority be ensuring that female candidates are well represented or will it be simply putting forward enough to secure the cash? The latter, it would seem, will be far more likely. Secondly, this legislation brings forth the issue of affirmative action or positive discrimination. Certainly, Irish politics would indeed benefit from a greater number of female representatives. However, if discrimination is decidedly negative when being visited upon women, why should the reverse be any more acceptable? Thirdly, those candidates being put forward should simply be the best of those who can win in their constituency, those most talented and capable at what they do, regardless of their gender. Is it fair that a competent and capable male candidate is overlooked and removed, simply because the space is needed for a woman? And what if the female candidate vying for the same position is less qualified and capable than her male counterpart? Should she be given the candidacy simply to fill a quota so her party doesn’t lose state funding, simply on the basis of forced equality? Imagine the same situation in a hospital. A space is open for a surgeon with a man and a woman going for the same job. The man has far more surgical experience than his female counterpart, but loses out on the position, due to hospital gender quotas. Who would you prefer to be undertaking your complicated operation? Does gender come into the equation? No, rather skill and experience. This, of course, isn’t to say that all women are under qualified when compared with their male counterparts, the opposite is quite often the case. If the reverse was the situation, then the female applicant should be the one considered, regardless of gender, and that should be the same regarding those who run our country. Those who are standing for election should be the best of everyone available, and not just the best of a particular sex.

Labour Party TD, Joanna Truffy, has described the quotas as a blunt instrument. This indeed is true, as the issues preventing female participation in politics are far broader than the legislation would suggest. A report published by the Oireachtas in 2009 highlighted four other main areas of concern which were preventing women from getting involved in politics – childcare, cash, confidence and culture. Women have long been seen as either mothers or professionals, a combination of the two seems anathema. Though a Dáil crèche is available, the structure of its sitting times has not been changed to accommodate such needs. In addition, monetary concerns also have their impact; the report found that women, on average, earn 22 per cent less than their male counterparts. Female election campaigns may then be impaired as the candidate may not be in receipt of an independent income, or may be responsible for housekeeping or other family related needs a man may not necessarily have. Professor Yvonne Gilligan also touched upon the daunting theatre of politics and how women may lack the confidence needed to succeed in this world. Irish politics has long been dominated by men, women may be “less connected with politics than men in the first place…do not feel comfortable taking part in the power struggles that constitute political life.” And finally, linked to the previous point, the report highlighted the male dominated culture of Irish politics. Considering that all main parties in the country are led by men, the culture and norms are therefore dominated by them and their line of thinking. One issue specifically raised was that of political meetings being held in pubs, perhaps an arena not overly suitable for women with children, or a place where they may not feel completely comfortable.

And despite this report being over two years old, the powers that be seem to be focusing on the final part of its investigation; how to address the gender imbalance in politics today. Assuming that the public do vote for those women put forward by parties unwilling to lose their funding, something which is highly unlikely to change attitudes towards women in politics, then the gender imbalance will most certainly be addressed, possibly at the expense of the quality of the representatives in Dáil Éireann. A failure to address the other issues outlined in the report will simply ensure that while the numbers of female representatives may change, our provisions, perception and culture certainly will not.

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