One of the many odd tropes of the current Irish general election campaign—perhaps the most disturbing—is the idea expressed by pro-life candidates and some pro-life journalists that abortion is a “settled” issue in Ireland, at least for a very long time.
Two years ago, the Irish electorate voted roughly two-to-one to strike down the Constitutional article that described the inalienable and imprescriptible right of the unborn child to protection by the state. As I have explained before, we had no right to ask ourselves such a question, never mind to vote on it: Article 40.3.3 was simply a reminder, inserted in the Constitution in 1983, of the natural law, which protects not merely the rights of unborn children but, by a similar mechanism (“In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity”) the rights of all human beings. The process by which this article was removed was profoundly corrupt: a one-sided campaign funded illegally by foreign money, which was used to create a tsunami of (again one-sided) emotive propaganda. The Government and main Opposition parties supported the referendum, which meant that it was pushed through with minimal parliamentary resistance. It is no secret that the electoral register was over-subscribed to the tune of 15 percent, and nobody in authority seemed in a hurry to ask how this had happened, still less to do anything about it.
Even without referencing any of this, it takes just a moment’s reflection to comprehend that the issue of abortion can never become a “settled” one. If abortion is the deliberate killing of innocent human beings—which is what pro-lifers everywhere profess to believe—it cannot become “settled” by virtue of any vote of the people. The people may not vote to permit the slaughter of their fellow human beings: They do not possess any such authority. In the first year after the introduction of abortion in Ireland, some 10,000 babies were slaughtered, a trebling of the number of abortions of Irish children carried out in the U.K. in the years just before the referendum. Clearly, in order to call oneself “pro-life,” a pro-life politician must do everything in her power to reverse the present situation. The idea that it is possible for pro-life politicians to sideline this question in favor of “bread-and-butter issues” has no moral basis.
A remarkable thing happened less than a week into the current election campaign. News emerged of research suggesting that the fetus may feel pain much earlier than had hitherto been believed. An article in the journal Medical Ethics revealed that the two scientists responsible for the study—one of whom had previously acted as a consultant to the Pro-Choice Forum in the U.K. and also for Planned Parenthood—said that it now appeared the fetus could feel pain as early as 13 weeks’ gestation, as opposed to the 24 weeks’ gestation which they and others had insisted upon before. One, Professor Stuart Derbyshire, had written in the British Medical Journal in 2006 that it was good medical practice not to talk to women seeking abortions about fetal pain, as there was “good evidence that foetuses cannot experience pain.” Now he is saying something entirely different: that to carry on with abortions in light of the emerging evidence would be to “flirt with a moral recklessness that we are motivated to avoid.”
I have long believed that fetal pain will be the rock abortion finally perishes on. In my 2018 book Give Us Back the Bad Roads, I proposed that “abortion will go the way of slavery . . . when medical science identifies the child’s earliest susceptibility to pain, and posterity will look back in horror at this moment we now stain in the blood of innocents, and every shred of our reputation for human feeling will be in the dumpster of history.” The latest development tells us that Ireland’s law permitting abortions up to 12 weeks, for any reason or none, is now just one week away from Nazism, and science has not yet played its full hand. There is nothing “settled” about it.
But pro-life politicians in Ireland have responded to this news merely by raising again the question of administering pain relief to the condemned children. The Irish parliament rejected this in 2018, during the debate prior to enacting the new abortion legislation.
Of course, we know why our corrupt political establishment seeks to duck this question. Accepting the legitimacy of pain relief would be to treat the fetus as a separate human being rather than something along the lines of a carcinoma being removed from the woman’s body. I am not against pain relief, but nonetheless there is something obscene about the idea of asking someone poised over an innocent human body to be a little more kind when snuffing out his life. I think of my shock when, as a child, my question as to the source of the recurring cracks I heard through the open door of a nearby slaughterhouse was met with the response, “That’s the humane killer.” I mulled over this phrase for many moons, and never came to a settled sense of it. Today, we discuss whether or not to have “humane killings” of human beings—and decide not.
These are among the reasons I have decided to throw my hat in the shredder in the current general election underway here in Ireland. I’m not a politician, and have no deep desire to become one. Although I have been involved in three major referendums over the past decade, I have never run for election before. I’m running in Dún Laoghaire, the Dublin constituency in which I have lived for thirty years and the most “liberal” (I say “pseudo-liberal”) constituency in the country. Still, it has a healthy quotient of “pro-life” (I say “pro-baby”) voters, as well as a significant scattering of working-class estates.
There are other reasons I have decided to throw my hat in. Ireland is now, after many decades of misrule by an incompetent and corrupt political establishment, culturally, intellectually, psychologically, and spiritually at its lowest ebb in my lifetime. I have put myself forward because I believe we are at a moment of grave national crisis, because our political class has ceased to represent the interests of the Irish people. Instead “our” “leaders” pander to the wishes of outsiders—the E.U., the U.N., fly-by-night corporations availing of our bargain basement tax rates. In doing so they are fundamentally changing Ireland’s cultural and demographic nature.
This crisis manifests in multiple symptoms: unprecedented levels of homelessness due to virtually unrestricted immigration (we are already at the same per capita levels of non-nationals after two decades as the U.K. after six); massive strain on health and transport services for the same reasons; politicians utterly beholden to the tax-dodging transnational sector, who openly say one thing and then do another. There is virtually no parliamentary opposition. The national media have abandoned the role of making power accountable and confine themselves to attacking critics of the government.
One of the more shocking things about the recent influx of what the political and media classes insist upon calling “the new Irish” is that it is we, the native Irish, who are expected to integrate. Not only are we not entitled to make demands of people who come to Ireland, frequently illegally—for example, that they respect our laws, ways, and culture—but we, it seems, must collapse our own culture lest the “new Irish” take offense. We have been told that crucifixes in hospitals must be removed, and that schools must end all Christian prayers and practices. Politicians are now unashamedly speaking about “hate speech” legislation to subdue any lingering criticism of controversial governmental policies. Multiculturalism means the mandatory dismantling of the rights, laws, and ways of the host culture, the de-Irishing of Ireland.
Many of the most ominous changes that have occurred in the past two decades were effected without consultation with the Irish public, without a national conversation, indeed with menace directed at dissenters. Though it is late in the day, we need to find the courage to think aloud.
For the past decade we have been living in an echo chamber, our “national” newspapers and broadcasters constantly giving platforms to the same opinions while marginalizing and demonizing others. The main parties promote the same views on every significant issue. We need to build a real economy, to dig deep into our creative resources and find ways of sustaining our people into the future by our own lights and genius, restoring our lost sense of higher values and thinking.
Miracles aside, I have the usual two chances of winning a seat in my four-seater constituency. The Big Beasts have long since stitched the whole thing up. But my purpose in running is as much to draw attention to the collapse of our culture and the imminent threat to Ireland as Ireland as to win a seat. I run not only on behalf of those who may vote for me, but also, as our great patriot P. H. Pearse reminded us, for the entirety of the Irish nation: the dead, the living, and the as yet unborn.
I hope to file further reports before polling day on February 8.
And, as usual, I am not excluding miracles.
John Waters is an Irish writer and commentator, the author of ten books, and a playwright.