SHAUN CONNOLLY: The fate of this country is in the lap of the gods now

Web grab of the now-infamous 'lapgate' incident, as Cork TD Tom Barry pulled colleague Áine Collins onto his lap during the late-night Dáil sitting.

THIS column might never reach your eyes. Ireland will surely have fallen off its axis, now that the X case legislation has passed the Dáil.

Hordes of lying women will be laying siege to the clinics of gullible psychiatrists, “demanding” terminations on the grounds of bogus suicidal intent, as the nation descends into moral chaos.

On the plus side, the airports will be strangely quiet, as women who have a crisis pregnancy no longer have to make that lonely journey abroad. But, in reality, nothing much will have changed, except that this Dáil, and this Government, has gotten themselves hated just that little bit more, by the way they have conducted themselves in recent days.

Not content with being the second most unpopular administration in history, Enda Kenny and Co are going all out to try and replace the last, Fianna Fiasco effort as number one.

How else can you explain their need to twist the knife with every new tax and cutback?

After year-long raids on vulnerable children, and the disabled, the Cabinet has now set its sights on those other notorious social parasites — cancer victims.

The ‘c-word’ is drummed into us from an early age as the worst medical news we are likely to receive.

While there have been great advances in treatment, withdrawing medical cards from many people who have the disease, on the grounds it is no longer so fatal, is beyond cruel.

As a doctor, Health Minister James Reilly will, no doubt, have had to deliver those two, crushing words, “it’s cancer”, to terrified patients, so he knows full well the misery he has inflicted with the flick of a pen.

With the cost of hospital care and drugs, and 50 quid for every GP visit, Reilly has now loaded the currency of financial worry onto people facing into their darkest days. People who, at least in part, still fear that cancer equals a death sentence, because of the particular grip the disease has on our medical consciousness.

It was with a similar contempt that plans were revealed for new water-charge regulations, which would restrict supplies to households behind with their bills.

It is as if the Cabinet sits around revelling in its ability to appal.

Imagine the scene. Enda Kenny: “Right, that’s cancer victims fecked, who next? No, Reilly, it’s too soon to do the disabled again. Ah, yes, I know, let’s screw the poor! Everyone hates this new water tax, but how can we make them really hate us just a little bit more?

“We need something twistedly inspired, Phil, like that clause you stuck into the nasty, little property tax laws, that house buyers had to snoop on sellers, and face fines if they didn’t inform the authorities if the band was out by a couple of grand — just like in a police State — that was evil-genius craic.”

Phil Hogan: “Thanks, boss, how about we say we won’t just cut off the water supply, but, first, we will lower the pressure so only a trickle goes into the homes, to really put the frighteners on them, like?”

Enda Kenny: “Brilliant. We will look just like an occupying army, trying to quell the native population into submission by starving them out. Who needs Lucinda when I have you, my Horrible Hogan.”

Leo Varadkar: “Yeah, yeah, and when we go around to canvass at the Euro elections next year, they won’t be able to throw a bucket of water over us — because we’ll have cut them off. Losers.”

Pushing the X case legislation through was a rare progressive act by this Coalition, after two decades of inaction, but it will have hardly any impact on the 4,000 plus women still forced to travel to distant clinics in Birmingham, Liverpool, and other English cities each year.

Deirdre Conroy, who, before waiving her anonymity was coldly known as “the D case”, after being legally refused a termination in her home country for her fatal foetal pregnancy, told Newstalk Breakfast: “It is strange to be discussed as a letter, a ‘D’, or an ‘X’, knowing you are harbouring a painful secret. I don’t see how this legislation changes anything.”

While I disagree with Lucinda Creighton’s arguments and logic on abortion, she showed admirable spine and conviction in giving up a ministry to stand over what she believes in.

How different from her spineless fellow Mayo-woman, Michelle Mulherin, who admitted she was putting party over principle in order not be “booted out” of Fine Gael.

“Other people have made different choices, and I think the most important thing is that you are OK with your own choice, the means by which I do my job to the best that I can do it, and I hope that I can be here on the national stage for a number of years, as I gain experience,” she said in a garbled defence of her actions.

Surely, the experience we have gained of Mulherin is that she is a weak voice, easily crushed by the party machine and thus of no worth to the national stage.

Her repeated use of the word “choice” is also grimly ironic, as that is the very thing she seeks to deny fellow Irish women.

Making the Dáil sit until 5am to get the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill through was a tactical mistake that has dragged the reputation of the Dáil even lower than it was before.

The members’ bar is but 10 steps from the Dáil chamber and it did a roaring trade that night.

Before the sitting, Tom Barry, like most backbenchers, was, at best, a “Who’s he?”.

Now, he is infamous as a “What a....” as in “What a dope...”, “What a disgrace...”, or, if you are the Fine Gael hierarchy, in their initial response: “What a fuss about nothing, sure it was just horseplay and that Áine Collins one is a fine filly, snort, snort....”

Despite the world talking about the incident, as the Irish parliament was again plunged to the status of an international joke, Mr Kenny — one of the few people in public life who still regularly refers to “housewives” — refused to say a word, despite being pressed on the issue.

That silence, along with his shameful inclusion of just two women in the 15-member Cabinet — ‘the nanny’ (children’s minister), and ‘the housekeeper’ (social protection) — tells you all you need to know about how he views women.

With an example like that, it is little wonder his deputies cavort like teenagers at a frat party. As the X case finally closes, Ireland remains on its axis — and our elected representatives continue to get their TD kicks right through the night.

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