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Tolerance? November 14, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A depressing piece in the SBP by Feargal Quinn. Writing about ‘contemporary’ Ireland he wonders ‘what lies beneath our obsessions with major social issues’? Hmmm… to ask the question is to miss the point I would have thought. He suggests that we are a ‘nation that seems determined to find issues which tear us apart at regular intervals’.

He then pivots after listing various referendums, though not answering his own question, and argues in relation to divorce that ‘presented with the Tenth Amendment in 1986 (which was rejected) and in the age old tradition of referendum questions being re-put until the voters produce the correct answer we went thrust it all again in 1995 with the Fifteenth Amendment. If the Taoiseach keeps his recent promise to FG TD Josepha Madigan, we will run this issue one more time’. I find that a most unreasonable analysis. A decade between referendums seems to me to be reasonable (a shorter period not so much). Moreover there’s been twenty odd years since 1995 and the same question isn’t being put but rather an effort to shorten the time during which a divorce can be applied and granted. Which whatever my own views on that proposal, and I’m strongly in favour, seems again to be a reasonable length of time, some would think – again myself included, it was too long a length of time.

Then we’re on to same sex marriage. Where apparently ‘modern Ireland’s new form of liberalism [came to] the fore which dictates that it is okay for you to have your opinion so long as it is the same as mine’. For apparently… ‘even the dogs and the cats in the streets were enthusiastic advocates of a Yes vote and the consensus was that anyone who opposed the referendum was a backward, selfish cave-dweller. the effect of this of course was that many of the voters who were opposed to the referendum felt unable to take part in discussions or debates on the topic’. Where to start? Firstly the irony of him making this point in a national newspaper, and a former Senator himself with an attendant platform is all too evident. But further even if some voters felt unable to take part in debate, which I think is overstated, they had the basic right to vote. And yet, on the day the proposition was voted for with a pretty substantive majority vote near enough everywhere. If the issue was quite as divisive as he suggests I wonder would that have been the case, or perhaps it was that this was a measure whose time had come. And that support for it was strong and unwavering. It’s worth keeping in mind (and Mark P once made this point) that support well in advance of the vote remained solid throughout the campaign and even three years before was in the mid-60s in favour of the measure (excluding other). So it’s not as if the measure was somehow foisted on a populace adamantly opposed to it. Anything but.

But apparently such facts are as nothing to him for he writes ‘this type of environment stifles debate and is a challenge to our democratic values. The media bear some of the blame for this’.

And so to abortion for this appears to be the destination. First he makes an odd assertion that in relation to the Citizen’s Assembly Justice Laffoy ‘seems to have been drawn towards conclusions which with which even the the most liberal members of the cabinet seem ill at ease’ ignoring the actual deliberations and conclusions of the Assembly members themselves! Then talking about the Oireachtas Committee he writes that:

The least one should be able to expect from an Oireachtas committe charged with examining all aspects of the proposed referendum on abortion is that there would be balance brought to bear in terms fo the people invited before it and in terms of the balance of time allocated to each side.

Wendy Lyons retweeted the other day a tweet Hugh O’Connell sent where Catherine Noone pointed out the problem with that line:

Noone: We have really struggled to find medical experts to come into the committee to state the status quo should be maintained… not as simple as pro-life and pro-choice anymore. This is from a bygone era.

Of course I suppose the Committee could pack out with non-experts to maintain some spurious ‘balance’, but that does seem to be missing the overall point of the exercise. Unless the belief is that adherence to belief alone will do the trick.

He concludes by – almost remarkably by saying that ‘the various referendums that have been held over the past 30 years could be viewed as staging posts in the evolution of our county. But one would have to question whether these campaigns must always be so divisive.’ Well, again, where does one start – perhaps with the thought that simplification, a refusal to engage with complexity, and so forth haven’t helped. There’s a lot to criticise in contemporary processes, but the Citizens Assembly and the workings of the Committee (with acknowledged flaws) are broadly speaking doing us some service – at least to this point. And in a manner which might blunt the divisiveness of the past, though then again seeing the rather dog in a manger attitude of some potential witnesses etc in relation to the Committee one might be forgiven for thinking perhaps not.

He ends by saying that ‘true liberalism must by its nature encompass an openness too, and respect for, the views of those whose views are not aligned with our own views’. Yes. Indeed. But not agreement. And when it comes to facts, as with the medical experts mentioned above not at the cost of pretending there’s an equality of opinion on both sides.


1. Ian - November 14, 2017

Hmmmm…. Wasn’t he opposed to the social referenda; divorce, marriage equality…. because of his strong religious beliefs. He is in the Knights of Columbanus and also has a Papal Knighthood


WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2017

I’ve heard that though i can’t recall him mentioning it.


2. EWI - November 14, 2017

First he makes an odd assertion that in relation to the Citizen’s Assembly Justice Laffoy ‘seems to have been drawn towards conclusions which with which even the the most liberal members of the cabinet seem ill at ease’ ignoring the actual deliberations and conclusions of the Assembly members themselves! Then talking about the Oireachtas Committee

Not at all strange. It’s been clear for the last week or two that the new strategy (and Quinn is clearly on board with this) is to now demonise the Assembly and the Committee.


WorldbyStorm - November 14, 2017

Definitely a push on now.


3. CL - November 15, 2017

Re balance on the Oireachtas committee:

Peadar Toibin said there was a lack of balance with 24 witnesses called being pro-choice and only four witnesses being pro-life…
His Dáil colleague Jonathan O’Brien said this was because pro-life groups have refused to appear before the committee, telling Mr Toibin not to cry over spilt milk….
Sinn Féin TD, Eoin O’Broin, said Peadar Toibin was trying to undermine the work of the committee.
“I’m very disappointed that [Peadar Toibin] has aligned himself with Mattie McGrath & Rónán Mullen in trying to undermine the work of Committee & SF reps on it,” he tweeted.
He said Mr Toibin’s views did not match those of the party.”


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