But for Deputy Martin Faraday, it could all have been so different. The Irish government, pressurised by a politically active Pro Life Campaign (PLC), would still have held a referendum in 1983 to insert an anti-abortion clause into Ireland’s constitution. The 8th amendment to the constitution would still have overwhelmingly passed, declaring that the state would vindicate and defend the right to life of the unborn. Then Ireland would have continued on its “Do as I say, not as I do” way, turning a blind eye to its women leaving the jurisdiction to seek abortions in the UK. The PLC would celebrate their surreal victory as the one pro-life organisation in the world which celebrates not what happens to a foetus, but where it happens. An Irish solution, as it were, to an Irish problem.
The problem, however, was that Martin Faraday was that rare beast in Irish politics, a politician who actually believed what he said. A devout Catholic, the young deputy from Kilkenny was tall, handsome, charismatic, and had led his native county to victory in the GAA hurling championship in 1979. Although socially conservative, Faraday nevertheless had respect on the liberal left for his consistency, speaking out just as strongly on issues of poverty and on opposition to the death penalty. Many spoke of him as a future cabinet minister, perhaps even party leader.
The problem, political correspondents muttered to each other over a pint in the Dail bar, was that Faraday wouldn’t play ball. He wouldn’t keep quiet when it was wise to do so. He had been a key player in forcing the government to hold the referendum, and now he was going to take the outcome of the referendum to its logical conclusion.
The Protection of Life (Border Controls) bill of 1984, prepared by Faraday with a group of pro-life barristers, was placed before the Dail formally by him in a private capacity. The purpose, he told the house, was to implement the imperative in article 40.3 of the constitution. The state was committed to “defending and vindicating the right to life of the unborn, as far as practicable”.
This bill is, he declared, the practicable means of doing so. To the horror of both his own party and the opposition parties, all nominally pro-life and supporting the new amendment in its intent, the young deputy outlined a proposed system of border controls for pregnant women. All doctors would be required to place newly pregnant women on a national register, allowing the state to track each pregnancy to its completion. Any pregnant woman would require a special exit visa from the state, and would be examined upon her return to the jurisdiction to ensure that an abortion had not been procured. Aborting a foetus whilst abroad would result in a criminal conviction and a life imprisonment for both the woman and any individual who knowingly assisted her.
“If you oppose this bill,” he summed up, “you are not pro-life. By opposing abortion in Ireland but supporting the right to seek abortion abroad, you are just slightly less pro-choice. But you are not pro-life.”
The bill received major international media coverage, with many speculating that it would never pass. Both government and opposition spokespeople, speaking off the record, dismissed it as totally impracticable. But they hadn’t counted on Faraday, who mobilised the PLC once again, bringing to bear even greater pressure than had been brought on individual TDs and senators to enact the original amendment. First, politicians were publicly lobbied, harassed and cajoled into supporting “the Faraday bill” at least being put to a vote in both houses. What could be more reasonable, the PLC asked, than at least having parliament debate the deputy’s proposals?
Once that hurdle had been passed, and the bill was allowed be put to the floor, the campaign really started. The PLC publicly identified who was voting for and against. Parish priests singled out local politicians who failed to commit. TDs’ houses and family members were picketed, and the Catholic hierarchy, deeply wary of the bill, nevertheless came out in favour after threats from the laity.
Charles J. Haughey, who found the bill to be deeply objectionable, did what he usually did, and threw his support fully behind it on the basis that it was causing chaos for the Taoiseach, Garrett Fitzgerald, within his own party, and that was grounds enough. A number of Fianna Fail TDs refused to support the bill and were expelled for “conduct unbecoming a member of Fianna Fail”.
With the governing coalition, pro-lifers in Fine Gael and Labour held the majority, and demanded support. Fitzgerald kept his cards close, until the day of the vote, when he stood and announced that such a law went completely against the republican principles to which he subscribed, and he would therefore “stand by the republic” and vote against the bill, announcing a free vote and his resignation as Taoiseach.
The bill passed the Dail with a clear majority. The minority of deputies from across the political spectrum who had voted against the bill emerged from Leinster House to a large crowd of pro-life demonstrators. A small, unrepresentative number proceeded to rush the deputies, and there was a prolonged fight in the car park until baton wielding Gardaí managed to rescue them.
The new Taoiseach immediately appointed Martin Faraday as minister for justice with a clear responsibility for implementing his bill.
In the weeks that followed, abortion clinics in the UK reported a large upturn in Irish women seeking abortion. International TV crews gathered in Irish ports and airports to watch crowds of pro-life vigilantes carry out impromptu “inspections” of women leaving the country whom the suspected of being with child. BBC TV news rang footage, which was repeated worldwide, of a pregnant woman being called a “whore” by a group of self-appointed sash-wearing “Unborn Protection Officer” middle-aged men in Dublin airport, before being hit with a bottle. She later died that evening. The child was not saved. Faraday, to the surprise of many, publicly condemned the attack and the vigilantism, and demanded the prosecution of the individuals concerned.
The bill came into law within weeks, and soon large numbers of women were being denied exit permission on the grounds of suspicion that they may be seeking to terminate their pregnancies. The PLC celebrated (with non-alcoholic sparkling wine and orange juice) a sharp fall, in the first six months of the bill’s operation, in the number of Irish women registering for terminations in the UK. Faraday applauded the result as proof of the will of the Irish people, as expressed in the amendment, being carried out.
In the north of Ireland, the unionist parties, both strongly pro-life, attacked the law anyway, as proof of Rome Rule, in that wonderfully first principle gymnastic way at which Northern Irish politicians excel.
Then Marie-Louise Dufour, a young French 21 year old woman living as an au-pair for a middle class family in north Dublin, got pregnant by the family’s 19 year old son.
Dufour, on visiting a doctor and discovering her predicament, had decided to return to France and seek a termination. Oblivious of the Faraday law, she was stunned to find herself arrested at Dublin Airport and charged under the Faraday act.
Within half a day, the French foreign minister was on the phone to his colleague, demanding her release. The story was the lead item on French television news.
The Attorney General advised the cabinet that the Faraday act was correctly applied. The 8th amendment did not distinguish between the nationality of the mother or the unborn child, even if the foetus was half Irish.
The cabinet decided to instruct the AG to approach the Director of Public Prosecutions to see if the case could be dropped. The DPP, who had opposed the Faraday law, nevertheless was committed to enforcing the law, and this, he told the AG, was a clear cut case.
The Taoiseach received a phone call from President Mitterand. It was not a pleasant conversation. The French President left the Taoiseach in no doubt that France would not permit one of its citizens to be treated this way.
On returning to the cabinet, the AG suggested a last ditch appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the act. At this point, Faraday resigned, questioning his fellow cabinet members’ commitment to the unborn, including that “beautiful creature inside Marie-Louise Dufour. That is whom we are fighting for.” Faraday was met by a huge crowd from the PLC who hung on his every word.
That afternoon, to massive media coverage, the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau, accompanied by support ships, became visible off Dublin Bay. The boom of patrolling Super Etendard fighters could be heard in the city. The Irish Naval Service ship LE Aoife was despatched to “escort” the French ships, but proceeded to have an engine failure and had to be towed back to port by one of the French escorts.
The Taoiseach quickly contacted President Reagan, asking for assistance and perhaps even US protection. Reagan, although sympathetic, pointed out that the US had been alarmed at Mitterand’s election in 1981 and was threading very carefully to keep France in NATO, and so didn’t really want to cause waves. He also pointed out that the story was getting awful coverage in the US.
President Mitterand then called the Taoiseach again, and suggested that as it seemed a legal resolution was impossible, France had a suggestion. Initially appalled, the Taoiseach consented.
Marie-Louise Dufour was moved to Garda headquarters, and at 3am on Sunday morning a helicopter carrying French commandos from the Clemenceau carried out a lightening raid. Gardaí on duty had been warned 10 minutes previously by the commissioner that they were not to offer resistance, and the French commandos, as agreed with the Taoiseach, were carrying unloaded machine guns. Nominally under duress (but after offering tea and coffee, which was politely refused, although a few chocolate digestives were received gratefully), the duty officer led the commandos to Dufour’s cell, where she was handed over to the French soldiers, and they departed.
The government protested formally, and a large PLC demonstration had to be beaten back by a large Garda force at the French embassy.
The cabinet then discussed repealing the Faraday act to prevent a future occurrence. The AG grimaced. It won’t make a difference, he said. The act, by its operation, has proven that it is actually practicable to detain pregnant women. It has actually reduced the number of Irish women seeking abortions. Even without a law, the state still has an onus to act to defend the unborn. It’s arguably illegal to dismantle the Faraday system. There is only one real option.
A week later, the Taoiseach went on TV to announce that the 8th amendment as currently structured was causing the country serious harm. He announced a referendum to repeal it.
The PLC, led by Faraday, mobilised a massive campaign of opposition. Polls showed overwhelming opposition to repeal.
Three weeks later, 62% of voters voted to repeal. In the exit poll conducted on the same day, 62% of people actually speaking to pollsters said they were against repeal, and had voted against.
Building on a common theme of both “The Man from UNCLE” and Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest”, “Scarecrow and Mrs King” (1983-87) was based on the partnership of an American intelligence agent Lee Stetson (Codename Scarecrow), played by Bruce Boxleitner, and Amanda King, a divorcee he recruits to help him on a secret mission. King proves so useful to the agency that they decide to keep her on as an asset, under Scarecrow’s guidance and protection. King can’t, of course, tell her two young sons, or her live-in mother.
The show was ex-Charlie’s Angels star Kate Jackon’s (Sabrina, “the smart one”, whom people forget was actually the name recognised star of Charlie’s Angels when it first aired) return to network television.
Like most shows of its time, it was pretty formulaic although it did have the running Will They/Won’t They theme (they did, in the end) and also an entertaining sub-plot where the KGB came to believe that Mrs King was actually the brilliantly undercover Scarecrow, and that Stetson was just some flunky.
The show ended when Jackson was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to effectively leave it, and is yet another of those hit shows from the 1980s that is vanishing even from the repeat schedules. Only Jessica Fletcher seems immune.
Boxleitner would later go on to Sci-Fi fame as Captain John Sheridan in “Babylon 5″.
It’s a form of political colour blindness. No matter what the result, there’s a peculiar type of British Eurosceptic view that interprets things in a way completely different from the rest of people on Earth.
When 75% of voters vote for pro-EU parties, that’s a massive endorsement for euro scepticism. When a former prime minister of Luxembourg, publicly nominated months in advance, is picked for Commission President over an unnamed invisible nominal alternative candidate pushed by the British, that’s a slap in the face for democracy.
There’s a whole “Fog in English Channel, continent cut off” feel to the thing, that the opinions of the editors of The Daily Mail or the Daily Express matter more that the votes of millions of Europeans, and if you can’t get that it’s you, sir, that has a problem!
It’s not that euroscepticism is not a legitimate point of view, or even isolated just to Britain. It’s that weird brand of British Euroscepticism that borders on a neurosis.
It causes grown adults to ask for the flag of an organisation Britain has been a member of for over 40 years to be removed from camera shots for fear of triggering emotional hysteria amongst people who are politically special.
It causes them to turn their backs when a specific piece of music is played.
It causes them to genuinely believe that there is a comparison between the European Union and the tyranny of the Soviet Union, a country of secret police, one party rule and slave labour camps.
These are actual adults, the fathers (in UKIP’s case, grandfathers) of children, people who have held responsible jobs.
What’s most striking is that such behaviour would be regarded on any other subject as just plain odd. If Sinn Fein MPs did the same over the Union Jack or God Save The Queen, or Tory MPs over the Zimbabwe flag, they’d be regarded as not the acts of rational people. Yet when it comes to the EU, all manner of surreal behaviour is tolerated.
One can’t help wondering is there a massive case of emotional transference going on here? That mostly middle aged angry men have seen their society change, seen women and minorities and gays all no longer defer to them, and have lashed out at social change, stumbling across a symbol of all that change? Has the EU, as a symbol of trying to manage modern global change, become the epitome of the change they hate, the very antithesis of The Good Old Days when the darkies and the poofs and the skirt knew their place?
“Matt Houston”, which ran for three seasons from 1982-1986, gets unfairly labelled as a “Magnum PI” knock-off, primarily because it A) featured a moustachioed PI with a penchant for fast cars, faster women and wisecracks, and B) because it aired two years after Magnum was on the air.
It is true, Lee Horsley, who played Houston, had a very similar self-deprecating, light comic style to Tom Selleck, and both shows had very similar stories, although Matt Houston missed the sheer iconic scenery of Hawaii, being set in bland Los Angeles.
But there were differences. Houston, despite having inherited millions, was a shrewd businessman who only really acted as a private investigator for the laugh. Secondly, and more importantly, Houston had the stunning Pamela Hensley (who had left many a teenaged boy, including this one, speechless, as saucy, evil and shockingly underdressed space dominatrix Princess Ardala in “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” only two years previously) as his sidekick, CJ Parsons. Sure, Higgins was a great guy. But he was no CJ Parsons. Matt Houston, like Thomas Magnum, was what men thought they looked like with a moustache in the mid 1980s.
Like Magum PI, Matt Houston had a catchy them tune and opening credits.
He’s a new type on the block, and governed very much by the credo of “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”, and the Kremlin loves him.
Not because he’ll sing the praises of the Putin regime, because that would be just too weird, even for them. Instead, he’s big into drawing parallels between the Russians and the West. The Russians have a leader who is willing to stand up to the West, and the West doesn’t like it, that sort of thing. Putin is far more popular with his own people than Obama is, he’ll casually announce, which is certainly more achievable if you can actually ban your opponents from TV or purely coincidentally live in a country with a curiously high casualty rate amongst journalists critical of the state. He’ll be quick to dismiss NATO as being as bad as Al Qaeda, or that there’s no difference between Russian and Western democracy. Well, that goes without saying. After all, we’ve all had to stay up late on election night in Russia to see who has won. I wonder what party will win the next, say, three Russian presidential elections?
And that’s just the lefty ones. Then there’s the ones on the right, who twenty five years ago would have been shouting at pro-Russians to “go home to Moscow!” Now, Russia is a country that isn’t afraid to be patriotic and “traditional” (i.e. beating up the odd poofter), and so what if they refuse to mollycoddle blacks or Muslims or Jews like we do in the West. At least he’s listening to his people, they’ll declare, using pretty much the same argument the old segregationists of the 1950s used to use. And of course don’t get him started on the EU, or the EUSSR as he blurts out with a smile at his cleverness. Every time Putin has a go at the EU our friend feels a stirring in his nether regions. Of course, if the EU announced it wanted to show the same “strong leadership” over Europe that Putin has over Russia he’d be the first to the barricades banging on about democracy.
They’re easy enough to spot. Just watch them retweeting stuff from Russia Today. Which is funded a little bit by the state and, eh, concerned Russian citizens and companies. Who mostly think Putin is doing a bang up job. Why, just imagine if Candidate 4584 had won instead! Fox News in a big furry hat, if you will.
In a surprise move, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Nethanyahu has announced that the country is to move lock, stock and barrel to a new location in the US state of Wyoming. Speaking in an interview with Fox News, the PM said: “We’ve been thinking about this a long time. This neighbourhood is going to shit, and we’re spending an absolute fortune on security. And, let’s be honest, we really just want to be Americans anyway. So we thought, hell, let’s do it!”
President Obama has endorsed the deal. “I think this makes sense. Let’s take eight million foreigners out of an area where they’re surrounded by loads of people with guns who think they’re effectively immigrants, and move them somewhere completely different. Like Wyoming.” The president had to excuse himself after getting a fit of giggles, and left secretary of state Kerry to finish the briefing.
A spokesperson for Hamas condemned the move: “This is just typical of Israel. Here we are, building up a Jew-hating brand for years, and now look! What are we supposed to do now? Schlep all the way to Montana or whatever? Have you seen the airline prices over Hanukkah? My brother in law has over 200,000 “Death to Israel!” tee-shirts in a lock-up in Jerusalem. What’s he supposed to do now? Do you know what the margin is on a Ready to Ignite Bibi effigy? You’re talking pennies. Pennies!”
Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, is the latest symptom of a dangerous, poisonous idea that is spreading across the globe. Democracy, the idea goes, is a weak concept that is more trouble than it’s worth. From the central committee halls in Beijing to the Kremlin to the cabinet table in Budapest to the prime minister’s office in Ankara, the “strong man in charge getting things done” model is emerging as a viable alternative to the western democratic system.
It’s an attractive, simple prospectus to sell. I recall a lunchtime conversation once, with a work colleague and a Chinese consultant, where she espoused single party rule. My (Irish) work colleague was very enthused about the idea, and said Ireland should try it. When I asked why he wanted to give total power to Enda Kenny, he suggested “ah no, we’d have to get someone better” and I had to point out that under the Chinese system, “we” don’t get to decide.
That’s the thing about the Strong Man model. It’s pretty much a Hotel California style of election, in that the bastards pull the ladders up after them once they’re in office. But what worries me are the number of westerners, particularly European, who think that our system is cast in stone, that it can’t be overturned, or that it is some sort of irreplaceable natural phenomenon. That freedom of speech and worship, free elections, rights for minorities and women, the right to own property and the independent rule of law, that these are all just things that happen anyway, no matter who is in charge or how they got there. But it isn’t an accident, and things do change: most of Europe has experienced in recent history the transformation from democracy to tyranny. In the 1920s Germany had one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. Within a decade its government was mass murdering its own citizens. Things change for the worse if you let them.
Yet in the west we spend more time pondering the hair-splitting of what freedom means rather than ensuring that we can actually, maybe even physically, defend that freedom. I meet so many people, many involved in politics, who just can’t comprehend that huge tracts of the world do not think as we do. Whilst we ponder the questions of the advancement of women, or LGBT rights, or the separation of church and state, or the difference between big or small government, there are regimes that do not even permit debate on those subjects, never mind pondering what outcome is the correct one.
What’s even more worrying, indeed infuriating, is the many citizens of the west who casually dismiss not only our freedoms but the willingness of others to deprive us of them. We tend to dismiss that moment when ordinary Jews in 1930s Berlin realised that they no longer were deemed ordinary Germans. Or when university educated women in Tehran in 1979, sitting in cafes suddenly found themselves beaten into wearing burkas. Or the Muslim mothers of Srebrenica of 1995 watching their sons, husbands and brothers being loaded onto trucks. Is there any more meaningless phrase than “Never again”?
In China, Russia, across large parts of the Muslim world and even as close as Turkey and Hungary, there are those advancing an agenda ranging from single party dominance all the way to killing homosexuals, turning our mothers and sisters to chattel, imposing single religious beliefs, or just plain stealing a nation for the sole benefit of themselves and their oligarch cronies. There are literally millions of people across the world who are subscribing to parts of that agenda.
We in the west do not have a monopoly on the future. The western way is not mankind’s default way, just one option, and we in the west need to recognise that we will have to fight to defend it, possibly with arms, because democracy and human rights are not a fait accompli.
The following are questions that I genuinely don’t know the answer to about the Israel/Hamas conflict. And please, if you’re one of those people who reads the first question and decides that “Well, he’s obviously on the side of X!” then piss off and don’t waste your time reading the rest. The questions aren’t in any particular order or rating of importance.
1. What effort is the Palestinian National Authority’s security forces making to stop its area being using to fire missiles?
2. What is the Israeli justification for building settlements in the occupied area?
3. What is Hamas’ actual objective in firing missiles into Israel? It can’t be for a military victory, surely?
4. If Israel will not permit a proper Palestinian state, and won’t make Palestinians full citizens of Israel, how is Israel different from the apartheid South Africa’s National Party, controlling the lives of millions of non-citizens indefinitely?
5. Have Israel or Hamas provided evidence to a credible independent third party that Palestinian civilians/humanitarian buildings are/are not being used as military locations by Hamas?
6. Is Israel willing for the status quo in Palestine to continue indefinitely?
7. Does Israel not talk to Hamas not because they are terrorists but because Israel is genuinely not afraid of them? Israel has a treaty with Egypt, a country that tried to destroy Israel. The British spoke to the IRA. Reagan spoke to the Iranians.
Last year, an unusual thing happened to me. Ireland held a referendum on abolishing its Senate, and I campaigned in favour of abolition. Most of my political friends were opposed to abolition. For the first time ever, I was actually in fundamental disagreement with most of my friends on a political issue. We argued during the campaign, spoke on different sides during debates, countered each other on-line.
They won, I lost. They still think they were right. I know they were wrong (!) but here’s the thing: they’re not bad people. We disagree on this, and other things, but we agree on others. The point is, I don’t think they are evil or immoral or less committed to democracy or less patriotic because they took a stand I disagreed with, nor do (I hope) they think that of me. It was the normal robust rough-and-tumble of a health free society arguing a point.
When I first heard about Barack Obama I was struck, as a read about him, that he wasn’t just another liberal black candidate. He wasn’t another Jesse Jackson, speaking eloquently for a community he came from but failing to connect with others. Obama reminded me of the young Tony Blair, who didn’t see all Tory voters as the enemy but people who had to be listened to and accommodated. It was Barack Obama the pragmatic centrist who just happened to also be black who really appealed to me.
In government, he tried to accommodate Republicans over healthcare reform, eventually bringing in a healthcare system not like the socialist single-payer system used in the UK, but one with huge private sector involvement designed by Republicans and implemented by a Republican governor. He appointed Jon Huntsman, a former Republican governor to the key position of US ambassador to China because Huntsman was eminently skilled for the job.
And in reply, what does he get? Does he get Republicans who disagree with him on A, but find they might be able to do something on B if they get C? Like normal people? No, he gets people who question whether he was actually born in the US, and who actually dedicate their political time to paralysing the legislative process for fear of him achieving anything. He gets people who attack Republican governors like Chris Christie or indeed Jon Huntsman, conservatives who disagreed with the president on other things, for working with him on anything. Who get called traitors for working with the President of the United States on an issue of mutual agreement.
These are not normal people. That is not how normal people behave in their lives. Imagine a family was run on those line?
Then there are the other issues. He doesn’t think there is a gay conspiracy to destroy traditional families. He thinks that maybe having guns too easily accessible might have something to do with people getting shot. He believes in dinosaurs. He believes he was born in Hawaii. He doesn’t believe that poor people are inherently lazy. He doesn’t believe any member of any single major religion is all automatically evil. Normal stuff, believed by many conservatives around the world, not just liberals.
I don’t agree with him on everything. I think he’s way too cosy with public sector unions, and don’t get me started on drones. But that’s normal too. As former New York Mayor Ed Koch used to say: “If you agree with me on 10 out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree on 12 out of 12, see a psychiatrist.”
In short, I support Barack Obama because he is the voice of rational debate and discussion. Not because I agree with him on everything, but because calm, reasoned debate is no longer the norm, but an actual wilful political choice. There are politicians now who are effectively opponents of rational debate, who dismiss whole swathes of their own countrymen and women as “un-American”. These people are nuts. I support the non-nut.
He’s not personally corrupt. Oh, he’s sat down with developers and followed up their queries with planners, but he does that for ordinary punters too. Nothing wrong with asking a legitimate question for a constituent, as long as you don’t try to get the planner to do anything wrong, and he doesn’t.
Elected to the council after the carry-on of the 1980s and 1990s, he doesn’t get approached for “favours”. He’s the new breed of the party’s councillor who wrinkles his nose at reading about yet another former party elected rep being done for corruption.
Yet don’t ask him to fight corruption. Don’t ask him to report anything he thinks is dodgy, and he sees enough of it, to the Guards or anyone else, because that’s just not done. He’s been known to turn on his heel walking into a toilet at the the council, when he sees a colleague receiving “papers” from a developer just before a vote.
In fact, that’s the thing. He actually spends time trying to avoid learning about corruption, because he can’t report what he doesn’t know.
“Trains to where, judge? Auschwitz? I just set the timetables. Couldn’t tell you what was in them. Was it strange that they were coming back empty? Do you know, I never thought to ask.”