It would be difficult to propose a context in which blasphemy and homemaking might provide fodder for a single discussion, but in Ireland, absurdities have become an everyday phenomenon. In October, when the Irish “progressives” have recovered from their exertions in annihilating the right to life of the unborn child—and dancing themselves dizzy in celebration—the next assault will be unleashed: a referendum encompassing the abovementioned unlikely bedfellows.
What is proposed is a two-part referendum. One element relates to a scheme to remove the word “blasphemous” from Article 40.6.1 of the Irish Constitution, which guarantees the right of citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions, but restricts that right by declaring that, in the interest of public order and morality, the “publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”
Removing the word “blasphemous” is, of course, simply preparatory to further assaults on the Constitution. Next up will be the three strongest assertions of the Christian basis of the Constitution. First, the Preamble, which begins:
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, we, the people of Eire, humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial, gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation, and seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations, do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.
Second, there is Article 6, which provides that: “All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.”
Third, there is Article 44, which asserts: “The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.” Article 44 goes on to guarantee freedom of conscience and religious belief, forbid discrimination on grounds of religion, and guarantee that public monies will not be expended in a manner that discriminates against any religion nor to compel students to attend religious instruction.
There is no plausible exigency right now for removing the blasphemy provision—other than to clear the way for a discussion that will enable the removal of these other elements, liberating opponents of Christianity to ridicule and calumniate the history of Christian Ireland. If we have learned anything from recent history, it is that all crusades against the provisions of the Irish Constitution depend on lies and dissimulation.
The justice minister, Charlie Flanagan, recently expressed concerns about Ireland’s international reputation, saying: “Regrettably, there are some countries in the world where blasphemy is an offence, the punishment of which is being put to death. In these countries, such laws are not an anachronism but a very real threat to the lives of those who do not share the views of those enforcing the laws. Such situations are abhorrent to our beliefs and values.”
It might seem unlikely that the minister meant to give the impression that, every Saturday in the provincial squares of Ireland, there are public hangings of people who have taken the Lord’s name in vain. But that is the way things have gone in Ireland: People will half-believe anything if you say it with a straight face.
For the record: It has been 163 years since the last prosecution for blasphemy in Ireland.
The second element of the October referendum will be an attempt to remove Article 41.2.1 of the Constitution, which states that “by her life within the home, the woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved,” and 41.2.2, which adds that the state will “endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”
This, likewise, is described as “anachronistic,” and also “sexist.” It appears so only to those who know nothing about how the laws of Ireland actually function. In fact, Article 41.2.1 has frequently been used to the benefit of women and mothers in legal cases dealing with sex discrimination. It has also been the basis for financial recognition of the work of a spouse in the home, and has accordingly entitled women to a proper share of family property upon separation.
Article 41.2.1 was designed not to imprison women in their kitchens, but to guarantee the rights of women and mothers. It was, for its time, a “progressive” measure: In 1937, when the Constitution was enacted, many women were forced to work at menial jobs to provide for their families. The consequences of its removal will be, for many women, directly contrary to the consequences promised by proponents of the change. Of course, among the real objectives of those proponents is to erode further the idea that a family needs to have a mother at all.
The purpose of Article 41.2.2 is to remind government and society that those who care for others at home make a contribution that must be recognized, supported, and compensated, and that the impoverishment and isolation of home carers is not in the public interest.
In 2002, a Supreme Court judge observed that the Constitution is “a living instrument” and should be interpreted through a contemporary lens, adding that work within the home is nowadays mutual to both parents; thus, the Constitution implicitly extends recognition to the contribution made by a man within the home. Article 41.2.1 is also read as referring to the rights of carers other than parents in the family home, especially carers for the old, infirm, and disabled. The removal of this article would have radical implications for such situations, especially since Ireland’s populace is now aging dramatically. If it becomes untenable for the elderly to be cared for by relatives at home, many more than at present will end up in old people’s homes, where they will eventually become vulnerable to one of the next items on the “progressive” wish-list: euthanasia.
These assaults on the Irish Constitution are not pursued for the sake of mere entertainment or virtue-signaling. They have a purpose, to do with Ireland’s dependence on the munificence of globe-trotting, tax-avoiding corporations.
Both the “blasphemy” and the “homemaking” categories offer opportunities to portray Ireland Past as a dark, discriminatory, and forbidding place, run on the basis of terror by the Catholic Taliban of yore. As with previous attempts at mutilations of Irish ways and laws, these initiatives are designed to court the new masters of the Irish corporatocracy by announcing the end of a regime that never actually existed, and promising that the values favored by corporations, rather than Irish values, will be cherished above all. And this, in turn, is the deep meaning of the justice minister’s public palaver about Ireland’s “international reputation.”
For decades, Irish politicians have been brandishing our rock-bottom 12.5-percent corporate tax in their enticements of tax-tourist companies, deleting principle in exchange for a modicum of low-grade employment. As a result, in the latter half of the last century, Ireland entered tentatively into a new set of dependencies, which have grow’d like Topsy to become a new form of colonization.
Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis recently described what he sees as the two Irelands: One, the “real” or “old” Ireland, is depressed, impoverished, disconnected from the new Ireland of Facebooks and Apples. “But of course,” he added, the new Ireland is “piggybacking, free-riding … by allowing Apple and Facebook to pay 2 percent tax.”
This view was echoed the same week in a study carried out by academics from the universities of California and Copenhagen, which estimated that foreign companies had channeled €90 billion of their corporate profits through Ireland in 2015, putting Ireland ahead of Switzerland, Singapore, the Netherlands, and all the Caribbean islands in its low-tax inducements.
In short, our so-called leaders have turned Ireland into a fiscal strumpet. Our corporate tax rate is our red light to the world, a wink to the wise designed to seduce multinational tax-avoiders and obviate the necessity of deeper thinking among our ruling class. Inevitably, it has produced a particular class of political leader: craven, unimaginative, visionless, clueless—suited to the role of messenger, but singularly ill-adapted to lead a nation of independent-minded people, proud of their own history, heritage, and culture, desiring to live in a country that controls its own fate, fortunes, and future in the world.
Ireland is now a nation in hock, and not just economically. Everything we do or propose is mimicked from somewhere else. We pretend to be a modern democracy, but it is all a performance. We long ago waived the option of living by our own genius. And this is why our so-called leaders constantly talk down Ireland Past, for by doing so they signal to the outside world that they are prepared to do anything demanded by their economic overlords to ensure their own survival, beguiling the foolish young with their “liberal” crusades against the phantom Catholic Taliban.
They are treacherous phonies: prepared, in pursuit of their own interests, to break up Ireland, its history, traditions, values, faith, and institutional and founding principles for scrap, and sell it off to the highest bidder. Or, for that matter, to the next malefactor who happens along the road in search of a free lunch.
John Waters is an Irish writer and commentator, the author of nine books, and a playwright.