In a country where the exercise of personal conscience for members of virtually all political parties is now expressly forbidden, no effort is really required to discern what Gandhi’s anxieties would be.
It is very worrying for a modern democracy, not only that the exercise of personal conscience is forbidden, but the not-so-subliminal message that there will be ‘consequences’ for those who fail to adhere is reminiscent of a darker age.
Disturbing, too, is the lack of any real outcry on this infringement of the most basic of freedoms — freedom of conscience. The fourth estate is strangely quiet here.
On the proposed abortion legislation, Government and opposition representatives are — with the exception of some notable individuals — indistinguishable.
The citizen who believes differently has now really only three options:
1. To publicly dissociate oneself from the actions of the majority. As they say — “not in my name”;
2. To work ever harder at winning “support for life” by outreaching further to those who find themselves in difficulty (male and female) and to offer them hope and real encouragement as they journey towards the birth of their child — and beyond;
3. To find from within the disenfranchised, candidates who respect and promote the primacy of conscience and to support them in future local, national and European elections.
In conclusion, the bogus argument that religion has no place in this discussion seems to be an orchestrated distraction for those who would wish to avoid the core discussion on human rights which has been studiously avoided in this ‘debate’ to date.
Legislation in such a situation is founded upon sand and is doomed to failure. To only acknowledge the rights of some is self-evidently unacceptable and has no place in law. “In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.” In Ireland, it looks set to try.
John Carroll (Rev)