Des O’Malley on Ireland as a republic, 1985 Dáil debate

From the Dáil debate on Family Planning (Amendment) Bill, 1985, and worth reading in full… but here’s an excerpt:

“Republican” is perhaps the most abused word in Ireland today. In practice what does it mean? The newspapers do not have to explain it because there is an immediate preconceived notion of what it is. It consists principally of anglophobia. Mentally, at least, it is an aggressive attitude towards those who do not agree with our views on what the future of this island should be. It consists of turning a blind eye to violence, seeing no immorality, often, in the most awful violence, seeing immorality only in one area, the area with which this Bill deals. Often it is displayed by letting off steam in the 15 minutes before closing time with some rousing ballad that makes one vaguely feel good and gets one clapped on the back by people who are stupid enough to think that sort of flag waving is the way to make progress in this island — to go back into your own trenches rather than try to reach out to people whom we need to reach.

One of the most distressing aspects of this debate, inside and outside the House, particularly outside, has been the lack of trust in young people. Young people can hardly be blamed if they look at this House and its Members with a certain cynicism, because they see here a certain hypocrisy. I have had plenty of experience of young people and plenty of experience of many Members of this House, and if I were to place my trust anywhere today, before God I would place it in the young people. I would not abuse them or defame them, by implication at least, in the way in which they have been defamed as people who are incapable of making any kind of sound judgment unless it is legislated for them. Even the exercise of their own private consciences must be something that must be legislated for. I have said before that I cannot accept that concept, though I have seen a reverend bishop saying that we can legislate for private morality. I beg to take issue with him.

Technically, of course, he is right. I can think of at least two countries in the world where private morality is legislated for. One is Iran and the other is Pakistan. Private morality is enforced by public flogging every day in Teheran and other cities in Iran. It takes place in Pakistan where they are having an election in three weeks and where every political party has been dissolved except the Government party. One aspect of enforcement of private morality in these countries is the stoning to death of adultresses. I do not know what happens to adulterers, but adultresses get stoned to death.

In a democratic republic people should not think in terms of having laws other than those that allow citizens to make their own free choice in so far as these private matters are concerned. That is what I believe a republic should do. It should take account of the reasonable views of all groups, including all minorities, because if we do not take into account the rights of minorities here, can we complain if they are not taken into account in the other part of this island, or anywhere else? The rights of minorities are not taken into account in Iran; the Bahai are murdered at the rate of dozens a week because they will not subscribe to the diktat of Islam. I do not say that will happen here but it is the kind of slippery slope we are on…”


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