Given Lucinda Creighton’s recent remarks on Twitter here, I thought I’d repost this post from last week. It seemed relevant.
It’s funny the way an issue bubbles up to the top of the political surface. Over the last two days, polls showing Fine Gael heading for a possible overall majority have suddenly had all sorts of people sitting up and pondering what that means. What’s particularly interesting are the numbers of people raising Fine Gael’s social values. This particular article has been sent to me by a number of different people, for example. Now, let me be clear about something before I continue: Leo Varadkar’s position is perfectly defensible from a moral and political standpoint. It is not, by Irish standards, a radical or extremist view. In addition, Leo should be congratulated for actually being willing to voice an opinion on a controversial subject, and for actually having a coherent set of ideological values by which to steer his political decisions. But what is worrying is the fact that this will be the first time in modern Irish politics that we may elect a government with prominent members who actually have a clear conservative social agenda.
Does this matter? Yes it does. If one considers gay rights, for example, will Leo and others with a conservative social agenda push for the appointment of conservative judges? Will the new Fine Gael government actively oppose moves on same-sex marriage, or refuse to broaden civil partnership rights, or maybe even reverse them? I don’t know the answer to these questions, and that surely means that they are worth asking in a campaign. What I do know is that having a government which has prominent members actively in favour of a conservative social agenda would be a major new departure in Irish politics. Sure, Fianna Fail were not enthused about same-sex marriage, but they weren’t ideologically committed to stopping it either. Could we see a situation where a socially conservative Fine Gael could be faced by a new Fianna Fail that, whilst not being socially liberal, could permit its TDs to vote their own conscience on matters like this? Will this allow Fianna Fail to finally adopt Des O’Malley’s Standing by the Republic values?
We have never had a Fine Gael government not tempered by Labour’s social liberalism before. It’s hyperbole to equate Fine Gael with Sarah Palin or George Bush, but not with, say, John Howard’s government in Australia, which actively opposed gay rights. If that’s what we are about to get, we need to wake up to it.