Whip system February 9, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
Reading about the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, and very interesting it is too – and well worth returning to during the week ahead, I was struck by the debate on SF taking a position on a free vote on abortion. In essence it boiled down to whether the party could or should take a position which its representatives had to abide by. I’ve no problem with the latter, on any issue. More broadly I dislike intensely the idea – for example – that there are some issues which are ‘conscience’ votes and others, usually on matters economic, which are not. The very public spectacle of politicians wrestling with the former and waving through the latter is deeply unattractive.
To my mind, party discipline alone as well as communicating a coherent position – even if others disagree or find that position inadequate – requires a degree of acceptance of central positions democratically legitimised.
Meath West TD Peadar Toíbín, newly returned to the parliamentary party after losing the whip by voting last year against the party’s position on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, supported the motion.
Mr Toibin said it was the last debate he wanted to have on his first week back in the fold.
“I’d rather nearly wear a Dublin jersey on the streets of Navan at 3 o’clock in the morning. But the motion is there and I believe in it with all my heart.”
But he said “the whip system in Ireland is an oddity, exists nowhere else in western democracy. It’s illegal in some and anti-constitutional in others.”
Is it though? Not so sure about that.
Just on the debate, this from Mary Lou McDonald gets to the heart of it:
“we cannot accept as a political party that we would not have a considered policy position on the matter”.
She said “we have to be in a position, notwithstanding the diversity of view and the passion within our ranks, to come to a considered view, and we have done that on this issue. The issue of protecting a woman’s life is not just a conscience issue, it’s a public health issue, it’s a social policy issue as is the issue of abortion itself.