Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill, 1985: Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 6 March 1985

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 107 No. 8

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

[735]Mrs. McGuinness: Information on Catherine McGuinness  Zoom on Catherine McGuinness  I realise the matter raised by Senator Lanigan is one of importance. Therefore I am prepared to forgive him for any interruption he may have made of my speech.

There are several groups of people to whom this legislation is relevant and who may not necessarily go along with the statements made by at least the more vociferous of the Roman Catholic Bishops. They include the minority religions and the increasing number of people who do not practice any religion, one way or the other. We blind ourselves to reality if we pretend that these people do not exist and also if we pretend that because they happen to come from a Catholic or a Protestant background they are thereby to be categorised as being Catholics or Protestants. They are not. They are people of no religion and they, too, have their rights and their views. The largest group involved — this comes out very strongly in the results of the opinion polls that have been conducted on this question — is the group of people who are sincere and committed Catholics but who simply do not accept their Church's teaching in this area and who have rejected Humanae Vitae and the teaching therein but who are otherwise thoroughly involved, devote and sincere Catholics. We are blinding ourselves to reality if we think that these people do not exist. They do not only exist in Ireland, they exist throughout the world wherever the Catholic Church has adherents. They are a very large group.

Contraceptives, whether condoms, medical contraceptives or other forms of contraception, are by and large being used by precisely this group of people. These people too have their rights. They cannot be expected to accept a Government position which would say, “Because your Church says you must do this, therefore you must do this by law even though you yourself have made your disagreement with your Church's doctrine quite clear both in words and in action.” To leave out consideration of this very large group of people and to say that because nominally 95 per cent of the population [736] are Catholics therefore we have a majority of 95 per cent of people against contraception and therefore we should forbid contraception altogether is a total contradiction of what society is like.

It is very important that our legal system bears a real relationship to what people do and that we do not have laws flouted every day of the week with total disrespect. When one piece of law is regarded as a joke or broken all the time soon other pieces of law are treated with disrespect, the whole legal system is regarded as a joke, the law is broken all the time and no notice is taken of it — it is only the law and is there to be broken. We have enough trouble of that type in our society today. There are enough people who reject our laws without continuing on our Statute Book a measure which is continually broken by perfectly ordinary respectable people who are not criminals.

The present legislation is unworkable and it was known that it would be unworkable from the day it was passed. Senator Lanigan suggested that we ask people for birth certificates to prove they are 18 years of age. Do we now ask them for marriage certificates to prove they are married? We most certainly do not. The law is not worked in that way and it was never intended that it should. It was known perfectly well from day one that the Act would not be put into effect rigorously. It was, from the beginning, an exercise in futility and hypocrisy. To bring the law into line with what perfectly ordinary, non-criminal members of society practice every day, is the right way to treat the law rather than trying to pretend that society is other than what it is.

The attitude that is shown to our young people by those who oppose this Bill is deeply insulting. The people we are talking about, the 18 year olds and over, are not children. They are young adults. Only recently we passed the Age of Majority Bill which clearly sets out that people of 18 years and upwards are full adults. We expect them to be able to die for their country, to vote for their Legislature, to [737] make full decisions with regard to financial contracts, to sue and be sued and to do all those other things that involve informed choices. Yet we say we cannot allow them to make informed choices in their sexual lives. This is totally removed from what our young people are like. We seem to be suggesting that, despite the fact that a very large majority of them have received this much vaunted Catholic education with its Catholic ethos and its putting across of Catholic ideas, the moment the law allows them to depart from the way in which they have been educated they would all rush like the Gadarine swine down the hill of depravity and sink to the bottom in a morass of promiscuity and sexuality. This shows disrespect for our educational institutions, our young people and the way in which they look at life. The attitudes of 18 year olds and upwards to these matters are, in general, a great deal more adult than some of the attitudes that were displayed in the debate in the Dáil and in some cases in this House.

It is quite clear that one does not legislate for morality and that one cannot do so. This was highlighted by the Church of Ireland Bishops in their statement in which they stated that the Christian life with its standards cannot be imposed on people. It is something accepted freely as the expression of commitment to Christ's values and standards. People cannot be legislated into sexual morality. People cannot be made good by decree and to attempt to do so can be counterproductive in its effects.

Our young people have very good consciences and the ability to make a decision in this area. They have been given an education which tells them what their own Christian churches believe in this area. They are adult enough to make their own choices. The choices they make will not be affected by the fact that the legislation is as it is at present. I find it difficult to believe that there are many, if any, 18 year olds who have really regulated their sexual choices and their sexual lives by the present Family Planning Act.

However, because of the way in which the debate on this Bill was conducted [738] outside the Houses of the Oireachtas the major issue has become who rules the country, the Government or the Bishops to put it in its simplest form. Everyone has said that the Catholic Bishops have a right to express their views and that of the Church and that they agree to do this. Taken simply, this is true. I would like to look at this more closely and see what exactly that right is and what it entails, in particular in view of the contrast between what was said by Archbishop McNamara and Bishop Newman in this debate and the stark contrast between that and what the Bishops' group put forward as being their attitude to the New Ireland Forum.

The Bishops have a duty to instruct their flock and no one could have any objection to that. If, for instance, in connection with this legislation the Bishops had said to their flock, “Catholic teaching is against any form of artificial contraception inside or outside marriage; it is against artifical contraception under the 1979 Act; it is against artificial contraception under this Bill and, regardless of the law of the State, you, as Catholics, must in conscience avoid the use of artificial contraception and this has been set out in Humanae Vitae”, no one could possibly have any objection to a statement of that kind. However, what the Bishops have said has gone a great deal further than that. Virtually all the Bishops, even those who made the most measured statements like Bishop Brendan Comiskey of Ferns, seem also to believe that, in addition to pronouncing on theological matters, they can pronounce on the probable social effects of legislation but only in the sexual field. One wonders when they are commenting on the possible social effects of legislation why do they not do this, for instance, in regard to the budget, the Canals Bill or the Social Welfare Acts. It is probably because it would be seen as an overt interference in the political field. If one did that kind of thing from the left, from the liberal point of view, as the churchmen did, they would be no doubt blamed by the Church as have priests who took part in politics in Nicaragua and South America.

It is clear that, generally speaking, it is [739] only on issues to do with sexual morality that matters of conscience seem brought in. Are our consciences only to do with sex? Have our taxation, social welfare and environmental policies nothing to do with our consciences? Do we not need informed consciences to deal with these matters? If so, why is it only in this area that we are told about the possible social effects of our legislation? When Bishops who are expert theologians but not sociologists comment on the possible social effects of legislation, it should be made clear by them and to them that they do not do so as authoritative experts. In this field, they are just as amateurish as any of the rest of us. We may be doctors, lawyers or whatever but we have as good a right as the Bishops to say that we have authority to say what the social effects of legislation will be. In this area they are not exercising their teaching function as theologians and this should be made clear. Such statements about the sociological effects of legislation are only marginally acceptable. It is only marginally that they have a right to make this sort of statement.

In this debate some of the Bishops, in particular, Archbishop McNamara and Bishop Newman, went much further still and positively told Catholic legislators that they must vote in accordance with Catholic teaching, in accordance with what they described as an informed conscience, which I presume means a conscience informed by them, that they must vote against the Bill. As Senator Bulbulia pointed out in her excellent contribution to this debate, those who disagreed with Bishop Newman were dismissed as being a few Hottentots for whom we did not need to legislate. The action of some individual Bishops who telephoned Deputies two and three times in their homes to try to put pressure on them and this kind of speaking out is not just marginally unacceptable but is totally unacceptable. I am extremely glad that, despite this kind of speaking out, the Bill succeeded in passing through the Dáil and I hope it will pass through the Seanad. I have spoken at some length on [740] it as it is a very important issue. We ought to get clear in our minds precisely where and how Bishops have a right to instruct their flock and precisely where and how they have not a right to try to influence legislation.

I have been saddened by the attitude of the Fianna Fáil Party. They are, as it were, betraying their traditions by the way in which they have dealt with this Bill. They have suggested there is no demand for it. I have dealt with that point already. It has also been suggested that it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose. While in a democracy I accept that as an argument, it does not hold water for an instant because there are plenty of Bills which come before this House, for example, the Criminal Justice Bill, where we have a limited degree of opposition from the Fianna Fáil Party. Despite the fact that they are in Opposition they quite often find it within their abilities to support Government Bills. The suggestion that because they are in Opposition they must oppose is not one that can be really acceptable.

Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  That suggestion came from the Government parties and not from Fianna Fáil.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Senator McGuinness to continue without interruption.

Mrs. McGuinness: Information on Catherine McGuinness  Zoom on Catherine McGuinness  I have no desire to interfere in the inside business of Fianna Fáil. At least part of the anger that resulted from Deputy O'Malley's speech in the other House was because he said what, in principle, Fianna Fáil believe in and what they deserted, through expediency, in relation to this Bill. On this issue they have made far too much of expediency and the advantage of the moment as opposed to the sort of principles they have always stood for during the years. I do not accept the call that was made outside this House for a free vote on what is called an issue of conscience. As I have already said, all issues are issues of conscience and not just issues of sexual morality. Generally speaking, political [741] parties vote on their party's policies and cannot be expected suddenly to declare a free vote on a particular issue.

It is extraordinarily hypocritical of many of the people who put pressure on from outside the Houses to suggest that the Government should allow a free vote but accept that Fianna Fáil should not have one. Either we have the Whips on for none or we have the Whips on for all. I accept there are people in both parties who may find it difficult to vote and yet obey their party Whip. On the other hand, I think very little of the hypocrisy of one person who specifically joined a party and accepted the Whip in order to vote totally against his convictions as expressed over and over again in previous speeches. This can be only entitled as the stroke that failed.

The major difficulty with the Fianna Fáil attitude to this Bill has been that it is totally inconsistent with their support of the New Ireland Forum report, particularly in the context of a unitary united Ireland which is what the Fianna Fáil Party want. They must see that while the passing of this Bill may not be of crucial importance in this issue, if this Bill fails to pass it will be of crucial importance in the issue of a united Ireland. It will be a repeat of what occurred in the fifties in the mother and child scheme when as I have told the House before, the Unionist Party were able to publish the debates in the Dáil without any comment whatsoever by simply putting a cover on them stating: “Church or State?” We do not want this to happen 30 years later and show that there has been no change in Irish society since then.

In view of the evidence the Bishops gave to the New Ireland Forum when they appeared before it, their statements ring pretty hollow in the light of what they have said in the debate on this Bill. Fianna Fáil's support for a unitary State and a united Ireland is not compatible with their attitude to this Bill. It is true, of course, that no matter what we do in this State the extreme Unionists and Paisleyites will not change their attitude. What will happen is that the more moderate [742] Protestants and the people who might accept that change will come and those to whom the New Ireland Forum was addressing itself in its declarations about the value of the different traditions in this country, if this Bills fails to be passed, will be the ones who will feel rejected, alienated and kicked in the teeth.

Indeed, as I said in the debate on the Forum in this House, persons like me who have come from Northern Ireland, who have accepted the idea of a united Ireland and who have worked towards it, could not but be totally alienated if we felt that at the belt of a crozier the entire Government fell down. I am extremely glad that the Government had the courage to stand up and literally be counted on this issue and that they did not go to the Bishops first for permission to bring in this legislation before they did so. If we are aiming towards a true republic and if we are even aiming towards basic democracy we must accept that the Government have a right to govern, and the Government, on the best advice they can get, have a right to delineate social policy and to stand up for their social policy.

At the end I return to the practicalities of this Bill. It seems to me that the practicalities that are brought in by the Bill, the changes in legislation, are both socially and legally desirable. For that reason I have every intention of voting in favour of the Bill.

Mr. Robb: Information on John DA Robb  Zoom on John DA Robb  During recent weeks when considering the implications of this Family Planning Bill many people have approached me, both by letter and in person. Some were critical of my point of view and some were appreciative of it. I must say that nobody has written to me in any abusive manner whatsoever. What I have had to say and what I have written has been received, even by those who would be critical of it, in as constructive a manner as one could have hoped for. That, unfortunately, has not been the experience of others but I can only speak for myself. I have been asked continually why are we discussing such a matter as family planning when both parts of this [743] island have so many more serious matters to discuss and to consider at this very crucial time. Indeed, we must address ourselves urgently to the weak economy in the South and the subsidised economy in the North. We must work for an Ireland where there will be a viable economy for all, not dependent on outside sources of capital to sustain it.

We have not a problem, we have a tragedy which requires peacemaking and all our energy diverted into peacemaking. It would be quite wrong of me to stand here today, as a representative of what I have referred to often as the Irish minority tradition, and not say how deeply I have felt about the killings of the last two weeks, and I mean all the killings. I hope the House will excuse me if I make my point by having a very short silence before I continue.

We have a conflict in this country, not only of identity and of loyalty, but also of ethics. It is in this area that we must ask ourselves how significant the family planning Bill is. I suggest that looked at from a Southern perspective it may not be as significant as people might or should feel it is. In many ways it is a challenge to the Southern people to ask themselves whether they really want an Ireland that is able to embrace a diversity of traditions, not just Protestant, Catholic and other non-practising or non-Christian traditions, but the many sub-traditions which go with each of these denominations. When one sees the tension, the challenge, the conflict and the criticism which have been provoked by the passage of this relatively modest Bill through the Dáil and subsequently, one must ask whether there is the imagination — let alone the will—in the Republic to bring about unification with those who feel most threatened by it. Whether or not the Northern Protestant community, the loyalist community, want or believe in contraception — there are some who do not — nevertheless they see it as a right and a matter of choice. In looking at the overall perspective, in looking to the future, in trying to liberate a more independent attitude of mind towards coping [744] with the problems that exist as we grope for new direction in the future, I feel that this is an important Bill. I share Senator McGuinness's appreciation that it has thus far passed through the Dáil and I hope it will pass through the Seanad.

In his speech to the Dáil the Minister outlined that it was attempting to make two fairly small amendments. I presume he meant by that that the medical profession would no longer be responsible for the dispensing of contraception in its entirety and, secondly, he was intending to extend the outlets for the purchase of contraceptives. He indicated that the aim was to produce a comprehensive family planning service. In common with many people he feels that there is a right in today's world to such a service. He highlighted the fact that the service which exists was located very much around Dublin and that a minority — about 25 per cent — of the chemists of Ireland were providing the service, as had been intended in the original Bill of 1979. As a medical professional a matter in that Act which I found somewhat difficult, perhaps almost offensive, was the bona fide element in it. We were being asked as a profession to prescribe family planning on certain bona fides, emphasising the need for family planning, and the need for medical care “where appropriate”. I do not think our profession, which is concerned primarily with the curing of disease and marginally with its prevention, has had sufficient training to make value judgments as it was inevitable it would have to make on the bona fides of all people asking for family planning as outlined in the previous Bill. Therefore, I feel, in common with professional organisations, that that amendment is very welcome for professional reasons.

It is important to appreciate what a person perceives when he or she goes to a doctor. We tend to think of our health service and our health centre, which is a disease service served by disease centres because the profession is primarily concerned with disease. A healthy person going to such a doctor in his practice or going to such a centre, is going as though something is wrong with him, obtaining [745] the label, so to speak, of disease. With the consumer society more and more people have been labelled diseased. In this area where we all need to develop a much more healthy attitude the last thing we want is to see it as a matter of going to the doctor to decide whether one should or should not have contraception other than specifically in those areas where the matter of disease is concerned.

Questions about morality have been raised and it is fair to point out that in this part of the country where there has not officially been contraception illegitimacy has risen from 2.7 per cent in 1971 to 6.8 per cent in 1983. In Northern Ireland in 1982 illegitimacy was 6.45 per cent and in the Republic 5.54 per cent per thousand live births. In 1983 3,700 abortions were carried out on Irish women in England and I understand that even since the passing of the constitutional amendment the abortion rate has not decreased as some had hoped, and as I hoped, regardless of whether it was passed.

Another interesting matter which has been highlighted in the debate in the Dáil is the fact that at the beginning of this century some 30 per cent of Irish men and 25 per cent of Irish women married over the age of 35 and by 1979 the groom in less than 7 per cent of such marriages was over that age. I add in parenthesis that I was 36 when I married. The point is that during that time and in recent years in spite of the lower age of marriage the number of children born to married couples has greatly diminished, which implies that contraception of some form or another is very much on the increase.

I listened with great interest to the contribution of Senator Jack Fitzsimons particularly because he had insights and a viewpoint and came from a tradition quite different from my own. In the Ireland of today we will go nowhere unless we can listen to the point of view of the other man who holds a perspective that is different for all sorts of reasons, historical, sociological, location, religious, schooling and so on. The sincerity with which the Senator spoke, spoke for itself and the contrast between his experience in early life and mine is so vast that sometimes [746] I feel it ill behoves me to comment on what he said because his has been a life of struggle and mine has been a life of comparative ease. Therefore, I must listen to him and try to understand his feeling as well as his logic. He made the point that we cannot cope with matters as big as this entirely by logic; we must realise that instinct, feeling — conscience, if you like — is a very important and significant dimension to this debate.

I felt the Senator gave the authentic viewpoint of many people in rural Ireland. He stated that this legislation would be a radical departure from accepted standards and that standards have dropped in countries where contraception was employed. I suggest that these standards have already dropped in the terms to which he was referring and that a much bigger thing is going on in the world which is in part related to the new technology, in part related to 200 years of rational thinking, in part related to the increased speed of communication when people travel at the speed of sound and ideas at the speed of light, in part related to the much greater expectations kindled by the media penetrating everyone's home today, and the contrast between that and the reality wherever people live. There is a great deal of frustration and there is an almost outraged reaction to this frustration which has led to a departure — and I agree with the Senator here — from many of the standards which saw humankind through previous centuries. However, we should not forget that just as there is hypocrisy now there was much hypocrisy also in the past and perhaps we are fortunate that we can discuss these matters so much more openly and freely today and we can hold a different point of view. We can listen to the other person's point of view and we can try to accommodate it within the limited perspectives of our own.

The Senator also mentioned that sexual morality would collapse. He suggested it was like a tug-of-war, that up to this moment it had gone backwards and forwards and suddenly if contraceptives became readily available in Ireland sexual morality would collapse. I hope [747] to deal with this later in as sensitive a manner as Senator Fitzsimons did in his address. We may at the end still differ but I think we would share the similar concerns. He said that it is not a defeat for the Church and I agree entirely with him on that. I hope never to see a debate such as this motivated by the need to defeat the Church.

In any healthy society we want a healthy and free tension between the wise men, the elders, those who hold authority for the moral law and also those who hold authority for legislating for the people as their elected representatives. However, perhaps it would be a good thing, if the Church were not exclusively consulted, were not consulted in the traditional fashion for once in the way in which it has normally been done. That does not mean that the Church should not be listened to. In my view the Church will never be in a strong position until it is clearly seen to be separate and the legislators are seen clearly to be separate from it. That may be a Protestant point of view, nevertheless there is a need for guidance, counselling, metaphysics, a need for the spiritual dimension in living, and we miss this at our peril if we ignore it. The Church, with centuries of thinking behind it, has a vital role to play in this whole need which man has and not only the Christian Churches or the Christian religion but also the global religions and the global holy men.

Senator Fitzsimons, very touchingly, referred to the opportunity he had received in life through the teaching role of the Christian Brothers and he generously paid them a tribute by saying that he would not be here today if it had not been for what he had received from them. He went on to say that he felt, therefore, obliged to listen to those who had given him guidance and opportunity when he was young. My difficulty with that is that as a person who was extremely unlikely to attend a Christian Brothers' school and whose children are certainly not likely to attend Christian Brothers' schools I must ask, if one extended that argument to its logical conclusion, [748] whether we would not end up by denying those who did not belong to the particular religion of which the Christian Brothers are a part, certain rights of representation if they are to be represented by Catholic representatives? That, of course, begs the question which I will allude to in my summing up, of whether, pursuing that line of thought, a strident minority might not have to say, “Enough is enough, we will settle for secession or we will settle for consociation, the right to have two electoral roles, the right to have separate legislation.” Anyone working towards a new Ireland does not want to work for that sort of Ireland, and I hope it will not become necessary.

He mentioned that birth control was not a safeguard for women, it was a licence for men. I would submit to him that there are negative and positive aspects to birth control, and I hope to refer to these later. In my choice in life, having made the choice, one can use it for constructive or destructive purposes. That is where understanding, awareness, counselling, communication and some help to know the possibilities of playing with fire come into the debate. I cannot accept that birth control cannot be a safeguard to women or that it must be a licence to men, and in fairness to Senator Fitzsimons I do not suppose he was stating it quite as stridently as that. Regarding artificial contraception one must ask the rather impossible question, would we prevent joyriding by prescribing cars? This may not be a very good comparison, but nevertheless there is some point in it.

I brought here today a three years record of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, in relation to the sexually transmitted diseases, and I will mention the most recent one for the year ending 31 December 1984. Much has been made of the fact that if we introduce contraception we will bring about an increase in venereal disease. Do not let us forget that venereal disease was rampant long before artificial contraception became available. Let us remember that it is readily accepted that condom contraception for any individual sexual act will reduce the incidence for that individual in that act [749] of sexually transmitted disease. Senators may be appalled at these figures but they are the truth, and that is what we should be trying to deal with. Furthermore, let us acknowledge straight away that in Northern Ireland there is a much better collection of data in this area. There are three well known clinics, one in the Royal Victoria Hospital for the eastern area, one in Coleraine for the northern area and one in Altnagelvin for the western area. It would be unfair to say if the figures here are better or worse than these, that it is necessarily a reflection between equal collection of data. There were in the year 1984 in total 7,658 cases of sexually transmitted disease in Northern Ireland, of which 866 were caused by a condition known as candidiasis, an infection very common among married people. When we refer to that figure of 7,658 we are not talking entirely about casual sex nor are we talking entirely about sex outside of marriage.

Of the serious sexual conditions only one case of syphilis was a primary case. There were 28 cases altogether but some of these were not presented until many years after the initial infection. There were 350 odd cases of gonorrhoea and 2,805 cases of non-specific genital infection which is probably the commonest cause of sexually transmitted disease at present.

Over the years there has been an increase and the figures would represent an incidence of about 1 to 1.5 per cent of the population drainage. That is where we start. There is an argument which says that contraception will prevent those diseases being transmitted. There is another argument that provision of contraception brings temptation more readily to fruition, therefore there will be more permissive sexual activity and therefore the incidence of disease will increase. I have already referred to the fact that permissive sexual activity is certainly not simplistically related to the presence or absence of contraception.

An interesting article in relation to the Act which is in existence appeared in The Sunday Tribune, in 1982. I would like to record for the Seanad some of the points [750] that were raised: One, only 15 per cent of Irish chemists at that stage were stocking contraceptives. I understand that has risen to some 25 per cent now. Two, 80 per cent of contraceptives used were illegally supplied. The law was not properly policed in this instance. Three, at least three major clinics were operating without licence required under the Act. Four, none of the health boards had provided their own family planning clinic at that stage as envisaged under the Act. Five, vast areas of the country, as we have heard this morning, have no adequate family planning service. The Sunday Tribune contacted organisations and health bodies involved in the provision of family planning services, health boards, private clinics, the Irish Nurses Organisation, the IMA, and the Irish Pharmaceutical Unit and main distributors of imported contraceptives. It was generally stated that the Act was not working and the laws were being ignored and the whole thing was inoperable.

This, perhaps, is not surprising when we read in John Healy's column on a recent Monday that 30 million condoms have been imported since the original Act came into operation. In 1981 150,000 people had attended the private family planning clinics based in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick, plus many more who had come North, as can be verified by anybody working in this area. In the Act such clinics could provide advice but they were not entitled to supply or sell artificial contraceptives. As Senators all know, only pharmacists could do that and only on a doctor's prescription, yet all the comprehensive clinics in those towns referred to in the article provided a full comprehensive service. Two clinics were working without the licence required of them. One clinic applied for a licence, did not receive it and was still working when the article was written in 1982. Fewer than 200 of the 1,200 pharmacists stocked contraceptives at that time although this number has now increased. The head of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, Mr. Charlie Roche in 1982 was quoted as saying:

The Department of Health are well [751] aware of the breaches but they obviously want to take no responsibility for this particular piece of legislation. [The 1979 Act]

The Act makes a mockery of the legislative process because the Department of Health are turning a blind eye to the breaches. This Act will probably just fade away, because nobody is prepared to abide by it and the Department does not seem to care whether they do or not.

Dr. Rynne, the well known family planning physician, was quoted as saying:

No more than 10 per cent of the country's doctors were operating the Act effectively. Information, instruction, advice and consultation on methods of family planning that do not require contraceptives was demanded of health boards. Even such natural family planning facilities are apparently very thin on the ground.

In the survey carried out by Irish Market Surveys Limited, a document was prepared for the Health Education Bureau entitled “Public Attitudes Towards Family Planning” dated March 1984. Page 27, paragraph 5 states:

Satisfaction with the Present Laws relating to the Sale of Contraceptives.

Over twice as many Irish adults are dissatisfied with the present legal situation regarding the sale of contraceptives as are satisfied with the status quo. Just over one-quarter of the total adult population have no firm view on the current legal situation.

Page 31 states:

Perceived Government Role in the Provision of Family Planning Clinics.

There is overwhelming approval of the idea of the Government setting up family planning clinics amongst the 18-50 year old population represented in the survey. Fully nine out of every ten respondents were in favour of the notion of the Government setting up specific family planning clinics as part of Health Board Clinics throughout the [752] country. Only 4 per cent opposed the idea while a residual 7 per cent had no clear opinion one way or the other.

It should be clear to anyone that the legislation as it exists was not a legislation which was being enforced. It is extremely doubtful if it could be enforced. It was not legislating for reality as perceived by the vast majority of the childbearing population.

This brings me back to the question of the law and the Church, the law and the State. It has always seemed to me that the Churches duty in a country such as ours is to hold aloft the moral ideals towards which we should strive but for which none of us is strong enough to live by. We try to live by them but inevitably we fail. The Christian message is that, having failed, there is a means of reintegration of the person who has become fragmented through the process of failure, guilt, remorse and worse.

I maintain it is the duty of the State to legislate by taking into account our imperfections, by recognising the imperfections, by dealing with them in the most realistic and understanding way and at the same time to try to do it in such a way that it does not impose any obligation on any person to conflict with the moral law. The moral law and those who are concerned about the interpretation of moral law must give the signposts, the pointers to try to give society its hope and cohesion. The State law must recognise our limitations and must be able to legislate to cope with the reality. The reality must inevitably be a mix between the imperfection of life and the ideal towards which we strive.

We talk a lot about law and order these days. Sometimes we overlook the need to relate it to justice and equal opportunity. When we talk about justice and equal opportunity we are also talking about perceptions because perceptions differ depending upon where and how we live. Perceptions are related to locality, to the sectarian nature of our upbringing, to the social background, to community demands and loyalties. They are also [753] related to our religious upbringing, our religious teaching, our perspectives of being an Irishman and of belonging to a community in Ireland. If we are going to insist on law and order we have to ask ourselves is this law policable and if it is not policable if by changing it will we violate seriously the feelings of people who do not want to see the law changed?

There is a difficulty in this Bill because among many of the Catholic people in Ireland the idea of artificial birth control is so abhorrent that they feel that their feelings could be trampled on in this respect. I must re-emphasise that there is nothing in this Bill which is obliging any man to deviate from a conscientiously held viewpoint. There is much about this Bill which is signalling to minorities in Ireland that Ireland can be a society in which diversity can flourish, in which different traditions can gain from each other and in which perhaps those who do not belong to the tradition that might be insistent on no family planning might even in time learn from it, and vice versa.

It is good that there should be tension between the law as it exists and the morality as it is pronounced, between order and freedom. In the final analysis are we not trying to create a society which blends the right to be with the need to belong? As one 20th century philosopher has put it, “The essence of man is the conflict between being a part of and apart from nature or the natural world.” As soon as man said no for the first time then he broke from his natural instinctive environment and started to use reason. This is his dilemma. That tension is inevitable in the state of man. We as legislators must consider it and not imagine that man is in a natural state of bliss. Paradise has not yet been regained and there is a long way to go before it is.

I suggest that the criminal law cannot cover the moral law in a multifaceted society. We have to ask ourselves as we legislate, are we prepared to accommodate those with minority views or are we only endeavouring to tolerate them? If we are not prepared to accommodate, if we are not prepared to tolerate, what are we doing? Are we saying that they must [754] be excluded? Are we saying they must be isolated and if you go down that road must they be imprisoned or even worse, as we have seen in this century, the end product of such zenophobic thinking.

Serious concern has been expressed that pushing through this Bill has been a negation of democracy because of the way in which it has come through relatively quickly and the Whips have been applied. Senator McGuinness made a point about the Whips and she does not make a distinction between sexual morality and morality in general. Nevertheless, I would say to her in response that I feel there is a serious point at issue here and that those who are concerned about having their social power hijacked from them by the ballot box and then used by the political party system have every right to feel concerned about party political parliamentary democracy as practised in these islands.

We have a long way to go yet before we practise the democracy of the founding fathers which was an invitation to take the people into partnership. That, of course, demands a new look at the whole dimension of community democracy and institutional democracy as well as parliamentary democracy. Perhaps the critics of this Bill have done us a service by highlighting some of the apparent contradictions when one discusses the philosophy of democracy and democratic representation which come about when one looks at the way in which party political democracy is exercised and used in these islands at present.

Senator McGuinness emphasised the point about youth, that youth can fight, youth can vote, youth are expected to take full citizenship at 18 years of age but youth are not thought to be trusted with the right to choose in relation to sexual matters. I feel that, just as old men need to be challenged, so youth need to have the counselling of the wisdom that comes through experience and living. Certainly I feel that we should ask ourselves are we, in fact, communicating with our youth, are we sharing with them our experience honestly? Are we helping them to find out what happens when you [755] compromise the integrity of human relationships so that they can come to a more informed position, a more sensitively tuned intuition in relation to things that they can get involved in in their early years and rue for all sorts of reasons later on?

We should ask ourselves in this age when women have at long last insisted on their right to speak and their right to be heard whether, in fact, their position was not due to the centuries old idea that it was the man who provided the seed and it was only with the discovery of the ovum that suddenly one began to realise — it took generations to penetrate into the consciences of men — that the female was as necessary as the male to come together combining to create a new life, that they were equal partners but that they certainly had not had an equal voice in affairs. By “equal” I do not mean the same. It is the equality of difference I am referring to. The woman's viewpoint is not heard from the pulpit; it is not so easily heard from the pew; it is not heard in the political arena as stridently as men's, although that is gradually changing. I wonder if we have listened sufficiently in this debate to what our women have to say.

To legislate against contraception in this day and age is not only to take a flight from reality. It is also to pretend that contraception is the major cause for what has been referred to as permissiveness or extra-marital sex, but one might equally legislate to make the sharing of cars after sundown a criminal offence. There are many areas of life in which the temporary bonding of two people, who are not bonded with enduring affection for each other, needs to be looked at again. In a country without divorce could we not consider compassionately what happens to the deserted wife, the woman who is relatively young and who comes to politicians in their clinics — I understand this is a matter which is increasingly prevalent at constituency level — and who presents to them the fact that she has a family, her man has left her, she wants to bond with another man, she does not [756] want to have an illegitimate child and she seeks some form of contraceptive aid. All of these problems confront us. I feel that this Bill is at least making it more likely that we will be able to come to terms with them and come to understand them better because we will begin to talk about them more freely.

I share the concern of those with teenage children in today's Ireland. There is much confusion, much despair, much futility associated with our endeavour. Such does not exclude our educational process. Doubt about tomorrow has replaced the certainty of yesterday, leaving people very unsure today. No longer is there a secure constraining ethos which we disobey at our peril in the social sense. Today's penalties and today's restraints are much more subtle and in some sense much more devastating. We are reaping what we have sown. To play with fire is to risk being consumed by it. Youngsters today have been thrown back on themselves, the products of a generation of confused parents, the failure to distinguish between the integrity of a true existentialism and the falsehood of permissiveness in the sixties has left many without philosophy and some without sanity.

Are we who indulged in the excesses of the sixties in a position to moralise for our children in the eighties? I believe only if we are able to accept ourselves for what we are and share our experience with our children so that they may not suffer from what many of us have suffered. Those of us who have fought through the pain of the permissive experience and what it means and demands in terms of reintegration of the person in the family situation and in the community situation in relation to the need for redemption for guilt and remorse, which would otherwise be self-destructive, have a duty not to hide it from this generation because if there is nothing else that they abhor, they abhor hypocrisy. We need to look at what we mean by the permissive society and how we distinguish between permissiveness and existentialism.

Jean Paul Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir were transparently honest with [757] themselves as existentialists, with each other and with the world. They set out to deceive no one. That was the key to their living and yet many were deceived by them. It takes enormous personal courage, determination and integrity to break with the morass of the society to which we belong and not suffer guilt and remorse. It is often too late for youth to appreciate this through recourse to deception and through an almost inevitable compromise in the integrity of human inter-relationship. This guilt and remorse ferments — I speak with feeling as a clinician who has seen it often — and later becomes anxiety and depression in the middle years. Anxiety and depression seek anxiolytics and tranquilisers and other therapy. It is important, therefore, to help our young people to understand the possibility of conflagration before they put a match to the kindling of their temptations. It is also important to let them know how to cope with the conflagration and how to know that the scorched earth can still grow roses again if we are prepared to plant them and to nurture them.

This is where I agree with Senator Fitzsimons because even those of us who want the Irish people to have family planning in a way which has been brought forth in this Bill, are aware that there are dangers as well as positives. Are we prepared to face the dangers, the implications, the negatives as well as the positives? If we are not then one must have some sympathy with Senator Fitzsimons' point of view. Are our holy men, our learned men, our wise men, our elders, we of a former generation who have had the experience of youth, prepared to share honestly? Have we the courage and openness to share honestly our experience so that they can then come to a more informed position in relation to their own future and their own choices?

We must share this experience, rather than just express our fears. We must share our insights rather than impose a set of rules so that our young generation in an ethnically, socially and nationally mobile world may establish for themselves [758] a code which values truth and integrity, making and exercising choices that lead to emotional growth and development rather than emotional desiccation and unnatural restraint on the one hand or emotional distortion through compromise on the other.

I return to the lessons of the sixties and the early seventies by quoting from a letter which I wrote to one of my critics this week.

Perhaps I am naive in believing that it is only through teaching that is holistic in concept through communication that is core to core, central rather than polite and peripheral, where real person speaks to real person and, most of all, by accepting honestly our own failure in the past, combined with an attempt to give example in the present, that we may persuade our young people about the integrity of relationships in all aspects of morality but, in particular, in relation to sexual morality so that they may grow into loving relationships that will endure all the difficulties ultimately of marriage in the very highly complex contemporary world.

I meet these young people in the clinical situation and, perhaps because one has their confidence in that situation, they will open up to one. In relation to their need for penetrating and open communication concerning sexuality and sexual morality their upbringing has often been woefully lacking. We are terribly inhibited in Ireland. Our teachers are inhibited, our clergy are inhibited, our parents are inhibited in sharing with them the disasters of our own life because we want everybody to think that we have had none.

Such failures seem to relate across the board. Even in this so-called enlightened age there is much unnecessary guilt. I emphasise that. We are a guilt-ridden society — much of it unnecessary — for the natural outcome of relatively harmless experimentation by youngsters who have no other way of knowing, because their elders are too frightened, too insecure, [759] too restrained, too uninformed, too timid to share in trust with them or, perhaps, may I say it, too ashamed. How many of their mentors talk through the implications, for example of masturbation? Kinsey in the fifties stated that almost all boys aged 15 years had achieved orgasm with or without a partner in the selection that he took in North America. He went on to say masturbation was widely practised and homosexual experience by no means rare. A later English study confirmed his findings.

John Healy brought the unmentionable to our attention in his compassionate plea in Monday's Irish Times on behalf of the prisoners and their partners, as he said, denied the sacrament of marriage, the guiltless as well as the guilty, “For the husband in his cell and the wife in her bedroom you turn to the wall to commit the old sad sin of loneliness, confess it and get on with it”. There are many lonely people in Ireland today.

Then there is the question of the relationship in which intercourse has accentuated the failure of completeness rather than inducing the feeling of union, fragmented relationship, unresolved negative feelings, instinct distorted by compromise, blunted integrity. In short, the feelings of guilt which I have mentioned suppressed and unredeemed are the seeds — let me emphasise this — of anxiety, depression and, worse, impotence and frigidity in later life. Where are the mentors, the elders, the holy men, the parents, even the leaders willing to share openly their insights with the young or do we feel, because we fear, the real person might be revealed when we take off the mask?

No law can deal with these matters and law as it exists, that masks reality, as it is experienced only adds comedy to the tragedy that is the emotional condition of Ireland today. The law as it stands seems to be nonsense. It cannot be policed and it pretends to legislate for a state of affairs quite different from that which is known to exist. The State should have laws which reflect reality in relation to the degree of restraint that it can apply [760] based as closely as possible on a philosophy of its wise men.

The law that is now proposed may run the risk, and indeed is running the risk, of violating the feelings to which I have referred of those who believe that legislation can effectively protect us from ourselves. Even though this flies in the face of perceived reality it will not oblige anyone, however, to deviate one degree from conscientiously held principle in relation to sexual morality.

I must therefore say that honesty in teaching, communication, sharing an example are the best means of inculcating standards of integrity in relation to morality in general and sexual morality in particular. They must be developed in parallel with this Bill throughout Ireland. In this respect the Churches have a duty to all their followers to hold aloft the Christian ideal, just as we have an obligation to legislate as we think best, taking into account the multiplicity of people, the multiplicity of outlooks we now have in relation to the world in which we live.

The passing of this Bill will not accelerate the process of Irish unity — let us be quite clear about that — but failure to pass it will entrench perceptions of Southern society in Northern minds and reinforce partitionist attitudes as a result. As in so much else in life, the passing of the Bill can have bad as well as good effects, just as the failure to pass it could have good as well as bad effects. If we espouse the technological world, however, it is increasingly difficult to see how we can reject one aspect of it, particularly one aspect which is so compelling of it. There was a time, perhaps, before the advent of technology, when the world seemed under-populated and then Malthus came along and showed us that over-population would lead inevitably to poverty and to confusion and advocated the unmentionable, the idea of birth control. There was then an understandable advantage for any group throughout the world in refusing birth control. To advocate such a viewpoint today is only to accentuate the disastrous consequences of population in relation to the distribution of available resources.

[761] There is much that is anti new life and anti-life that we might address ourselves to before we are too strident in opposing that which controls life force. Many of us who opposed the recent amendment of the Constitution remain utterly opposed to abortion. Even those of us who are trained to be able to do it, would not be able to countenance it in our own experience; nevertheless not all who are anti-abortion and claim to be pro-life or opposed to nuclear armaments or conscious of the natural world that we are destroying and earnest about the need to preserve rather than to destroy, conserve rather than to squander, develop rather than exploit are opposed to the death penalty. What, might we ask, do we feel about legalised killing? Restore the natural world, control the technological world, convert homo mechanicus back to homo sapiens and then see how the world resources in terms of a “share today, conserve for tomorrow” philosophy will stand up in relation to the politics of distribution, to the challenge of population. Only then will we be able realistically to turn the clock back and say that contraception should not be practised. If by then it seems we have settled, however, for transformation rather than apocalypse — which at times seems more likely — if by then humankind has absorbed a global ethic of life, preservation and life promotion, then in relation to our development and our survival, perhaps we shall say life force can be adequately controlled by restraint rather than contraception.

Short of “Paradise Regained,” however, it seems only sensible that contraception should be promoted rather than prevented in a world of, 6,000 million, going on 8,000 million people, many of whom are starving. If we are concerned that by legislating for contraception we are legislating for the road to ruin, what about France, which has one of the most cultivated, self-confident and resilient people in the world? Kevin Myers, perhaps, caught the spirit of these wonderful people in his “Ireland v. France Special” in last Saturday's [762]Irish Times: I sat beside a Frenchman from Juan les Pins at the international rugby match and I showed him that article. He shook my hand, as Frenchmen do, and he said, “It is amazing; we get plenty of whiskey but we cannot but shock the Irish people with our view about matters of sex.” In Kevin Myers' article he did, in fact, highlight some of our contradictions, or at least make us look at ourselves and perhaps for a moment laugh at ourselves. France is a Catholic country and it is a true republic, one of the great republics of the world where Church and State are separate and both seem to have survived in spite of contraception.

I will conclude by alluding briefly to the implications with regard to the New Ireland Forum and its message. Whatever the path for Ireland in the future, whether it takes the path of one of the three options outlined in the Forum report, or considers the fourth option, the one which suggested that the people of the Republic should still be open to other ideas and other ways, it is important to prepare the way by indicating to those most threatened that there will be a place for them, that their viewpoints, their feelings can be accommodated and not by compromising the viewpoints and feelings of those who disagree with them, but by living with them and working with them and allowing the law to embrace any significant minority and to encourage those who are in a position to educate, to communicate and develop, to help young people deal with what the law cannot deal with.

It is time to legislate for reality and in so doing to face up to the implications of the importation of some 10 million condoms per annum, plus the equivalent in other forms of contraception — never mind the people who travel to Northern Ireland to get them. In doing so, lest we should overlook it, let us remember that this Bill does not interfere with conscientiously held beliefs. If by the age of 18, as I said recently, the conscience is not yet informed, then it is timely to ask ourselves if we have been as open, as honest, as communicative, as understanding, as [763] sharing as we should have been. If, however, in spite of the contraceptive statistics and of the statistics of the opinion poll, Senators were to be pressured to respond in conscience to the demand of Catholic moral teaching, then we should ask them to say so.

Senator Fitzsimons has indicated to us clearly the position of the informed Catholic conscience. I have been sensitive to that. I read his speech, thought about it a lot and have endeavoured, perhaps falteringly, to try in some way to respond to it. In other words, we must ask ourselves, do we seek to underpin majority rule in the South as well as we have it in the North? You may not like the idea I am suggesting: there might be a Catholic Irish form of majority rule. But you do not have to look further than the predicament of the Northern minority to know what I mean. I would ask you, are you only prepared to tolerate rather than accommodate minorities, excluding from them rights which such minorities feel in conscience that they should have?

Will Senators vote in such a way as to lend support to the view that the Irish people, particularly those living here, would prefer to have a Catholic State? This should be said loud and clear, if it were true. Then we would have to cope with Partition from a different perspective. Some of us, however, would say, sadly, that we have heard all this before in the part of Ireland in which we live and we have lived to rue it — that majority rule, the Protestant, British form of it, was allowed to reign for so long, and apparently in perpetuity without the prospect of change, without the accommodation needed, without the tolerance of the minority that should have been given. But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Should majority rule prove to be all right for the South, then why not for the North? The main sufferer in such a scenario would, of course, be the Northern Catholic community.

Let us not forget that we live in a world of high technology. Western man has [764] exploited the people of the earth to sustain its consumption of its resources. Hailed as an advance, his technology has brought with it the prospect of nuclear holocaust and ecological disaster. It has also allowed the conditions for population explosion. While people increasingly urge transformation as the alternative to apocalypse, we must face reality while we wait. We cannot in sense accept those aspects of our technology which have consumed resources and led to a multiplied population and then reject the possibility also offered of population control. In any case, short of planning, a cordon condomaire around the ports and along the Border contraception is here to stay. There is no way that we can, King Canute style, roll back the prospect of contraception. The law should recognise this, not only that it is here but that Catholic people as well as Protestant people and dissenting people and others believe in conscience that it is right to have it. The question must therefore be posed: should non-Catholics be satisfied, by a system of representation that results in a representative feeling that it is his or her duty to respond to the teaching of the Catholic ethos and the Catholic Hierarchy?

The great thing that has happened in the debate in the Dáil is that the Deputies have stood up and have, with considerable courage, challenged what has been up to now the conventional response to the conventional wisdom of the leading Church in Ireland. That is a healthy sign. It means we are adopting a more independent attitude and approach and we are encouraging that healthy tension that should exist not of takeover by Church of State or State of Church but that the one should be in a symbiotic relationship with the other, co-partners seeking things from a different point of view not only here and now but in the cosmic relationship also. We were told that our politicians were strictly bound to take account of what the Bishops taught where that touched on faith and morals. I would ask what is intended by the phrase “take account” when preceded by the qualification “strictly bound”. Does this suggest that politicians should follow because [765] they are “strictly bound” or should lead because they have only to “take account”? At last we have seen an indication that the latter is at least of equal importance with the former. If the people in the Republic do not expect a lead in this respect, the people of the North, especially those who yearn for Irish unity, most certainly are looking for such a lead.

With regard to the psychological, social and pathological effects of contraceptive usage do the people of the Republic have grounds to support the inference that those who walk the streets of Belfast are any more morally depraved than those who walk the streets of Dublin? If one looks at the figures of illegitimacy, for sex outside of marriage, even if we were able to collect the figures for venereal disease — I have only been able to give the Northern ones — one wonders if there is that much difference between that part of Ireland and the rest of Ireland when one part has had contraception and the other part has not. That is not to say that there has not been a great disintegration in the fabric of Northern society. Of course there has been. There are many reasons for that, not least of which is the terrible struggle in which we are at present involved and which has taken such a toll of life and limb.

I would emphasise that in sexual morality as in all matters of morality we pay a high price for compromise in our relationships. In compromising we can play with fire. Many people are not so aware until much later when they suffer those feelings to which I alluded earlier. A broken relationship is all too often a break in trust. A half-hearted relationship is also an indication of lack of trust. A break in trust in the long run leads to broken people unless those people can come to terms with themselves and those they have let down through the process which I have already alluded to and which surely is the role of those who are trying to get across to us the message of forgiveness through the Christian process and the understanding of Christ's message.

Contraceptives may indeed make the sexual act easier to contemplate for many. Let us be clear, however, that it is [766] the integrity of the act, not the contraceptives, that matters, whether it leads to emotional growth or emotional distortion with all the pathological effects that can have. One indisputable fact about contraception is that it would go a long way to preventing the entry into this world of an unwanted child. Another is the one that I have already emphasised that it will go some distance in preventing sexually transmitted disease for any particular isolated act. Another fact is that many sincere people hold the view that the sexual act is an expression of something infinitely precious which is not exclusively related in today's world — the world that we have created around us — to the need to procreate. In this complex and, at times, overwhelming state of affairs of our world today, the tender expression of love culminating in the sexual act is a most precious gift of God. Why should this be denied by fear of conception to those people with genuine feelings of concern for world overcrowding and starvation, let alone feelings of concern for family size in the midst of so much social fragmentation and instability? Let us face it, people are concerned to equip their children to cope with this increasingly complex and corruptive society of which we are all a part.

With regard to the increasing number of casual relationships, we might pause to ask if something has gone wrong with the tender care in the home and in the school and in the community, whether contraception has not become a means of coming to terms with an unsatisfactory social milieu and a less than satisfactory appreciation of the sanctity of human relationships. Alienation is the “in” word; powerlessness and isolation might be better ways of expressing it. The increasing number of casual, sexual relationships are symptomatic of loneliness and futility on the one hand, a yearning to relate however fleetingly in a manner that is a reflection of the materialism and the consumerism that has gone with it in a world which has been exploited by so many things, the world which we live in today. Sex like so many things has become a commodity.

[767] I do not believe that we can seriously contemplate the reduction of sex outside of marriage unless we are also contemplating genuinely a changed society. It is in that context that I would ask Senators to consider family planning as something that we have got to legislate for at the same time as we take the opportunity to look at the albatross that we have created for ourselves, this confused society that does not know really where it is going. The two things go hand-in-hand. The enormous increase in the instance of venereal disease after the first World War had certainly nothing to do with contraception. Rather was it the product of those socially destructive forces that led people to have socially fragmented relationships. It was not insignificant that contraceptives were allocated to certain armies in the 1939-45 war to prevent infection, and the incidence of sexually transmitted disease was, I understand reduced in consequence. The social milieu in which sexually transmitted disease along with other social aberrations flourishes must be analysed in order to prevent it. Today we observe increasing marriage break-ups and nervous breakdowns. The instance of mental illness is high. Vandalism and violent crime are escalating; unemployment has reached a level unknown for generations. The gap between expectations and reality is vast and frustration mounts all round as a result. Loss of integrity and trust in sexual relationships is only a reflection of loss of integrity and trust in all our relationships and cannot be divorced from this, the loss of trust in human relationships in general. What, for example, is the moral teaching on usury which is mentioned in Psalm 15? It is condemned in the Bible. Yet, our society floats on it as people are persuaded to buy things they do not really need, with money they have not got, to enhance illusions that are false.

I submit that contraception is a fact of life. It is a fact of a technological age. It is a by-product of the philosophy of that age which has brought us to this point and until we come to grips with what we are doing to life, love and living, there is [768] no other way than to accept that it is a reality and it is here to stay, to accept that having fought through the great issues of the day, many people in conscience believe in birth control while they are prepared to listen to the argument of those who do not, and to accept in the Irish context that the present legislation is to those who are outside this jurisdiction something which could be ridiculed easily as it does not cope with reality and that the proposed legislation is an attempt to come to grips with that reality in a very modest fashion. I will certainly be voting for and supporting the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill, 1985.

Mr. T. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  My intervention in this debate will be very brief. At this stage anything that can usefully be said on either side of the political divide has been said. We are fast reaching the stage of repetition. Since the introduction of this Bill, I have listened to the concerns and fears expressed by parents and young people on the effect that this legislation will have and in particular the moral implications it will have on the lives of young people.

The availability of contraceptives to those of 18 years and over will, undoubtedly, weaken the moral fibre of our people and make the observance of chastity among the young more difficult. The experience of other countries shows that it will lead to increased sexual promiscuity, a steep increase in teenage pregnancies and indeed many more youngsters forced into seeking an abortion.

In the United Kingdom where contraception is available, there has been an increase in illegitimacy and abortion rates with 28 per cent of all pregnancies illegitimate. Of course, there has been an increase also in venereal disease and that in itself has added a huge bill to the Exchequer costs for health services. Instead of solving problems in those countries, it has created many more.

I submit that there has been no pressure for this legislation except perhaps from vocal groups who have a vested interest. There is far more important work for the Government to engage in. [769] The Government, at the beginning of their term, promised to improve the economic and social lives of the people. I think that is what they should be doing rather than forcing this legislation on us which is not demanded at the present time.

There has been a lot of criticism of the Catholic Bishops from those who support the Bill. They will say, of course, that they uphold the Catholic Bishops' right to speak out on matters relating to public and private morality. They deny Catholics the right to listen to their Bishops and to act on what they say. The Bishops have every right to speak out on matters like this and advise their flock on what the moral implications of the legislation would be.

I want to be recorded as being opposed to this legislation because it is unnecessary at this point in time and indeed would be abhorred by the vast majority of our people.

Mr. Magner: Information on Patrick Magner  Zoom on Patrick Magner  A couple of weeks ago a number of national newspapers published State papers of some 40 years ago. In part, these papers dealt with what was then a major controversy between the Church and the State. I refer to the now infamous mother and child scheme. What a harmless piece of legislation it appears now. Yet we had politicians running up to the palace in Drumcondra, with some trying to make an appointment with the Cardinal, or some people holding high, elected office in the State rushing around to see if they could bring the clergy back on the side. Looking back over those years, we can truthfully say that there was much ado about nothing. I do not believe that the present Members of this House, or indeed the young people in whom we have so little faith will need the perspective of 40 years to look back on this debate and that in the Dáil before being able to say again that there was much ado about nothing.

I regard the proposals before this House as being the minimum change necessary to bring some honesty — a much disrespected word — into the 1979 Act. The 1979 Act was defective in a [770] number of respects and has been clearly seen to be so with the passage of time. I have it on the best of authority, that the Act was defective, no lesser authority than two former Ministers for Health. I refer to Deputy Haughey and Deputy Woods, both of whom have said publicly in the recent past, that the 1979 Act was defective and should be amended. It is like a race — when you come up to the wire, you are not quite sure whether you have the courage to continue or not. What happened to Fianna Fáil in this case was their lack of courage when it came to facing what appeared to be another major clash between the Church and State.

The 1979 Act is defective for a number of reasons, of which, I will name just a few. First, because it relies on concepts which have never been defined and which are in the eyes of many incapable of a satisfactory definition. The main concept which arises under this heading is that of bone fide family planning, whatever that is. Secondly, from a medical point of view, it places an onus on the medical profession to involve themselves in an area of prescription which was, in the strictest sense of that phrase, none of their business. Looked at from the point of view of a general practitioner, it makes no more sense to ask him to prescribe condoms than it would be to expect him to write a prescription for toothpaste. Thirdly, the 1979 Act imposed unnecessary costs on anyone who wished to purchase non-medical contraceptives. Indeed, the irony of the 1979 Act derives from the fact that a 13 year old who had the money and could afford it could more easily under the 1979 Act meet the requirements of the law than a married woman who could not afford it.

There has been evidence that some of the opponents of this Bill were prepared to go to any length to secure the defeat of this legislation. The poison that was allowed to enter into the debate will remain in the memory of some who have experienced it long after the vote has been forgotten. Some of this poison, will be found to be [771] counterproductive as this debate develops into other social areas in the times ahead. But that does not remove from any of us the obligation to condemn it. We can condemn it all the more because much of what has happened in the last few weeks has apparently been done in the name of some perverted view of Christianity. It is fair to put on the record of this House that some members of the Catholic Hierarchy have been fearless in condemning some of the outrages which have occurred. However, it is also fair to put on record that some members of the Hierarchy said that our task as legislators was to make Roman Catholic laws for a Roman Catholic State.

Many questions have arisen over the last few weeks concerning the relationship between Church and State. It is important that we address these questions now, at least in part. In any programme of legislative reform which concerns itself with some of the issues likely to be addressed in the coming months, relations between Church and State will come up again and again. Therefore, we should attempt to deal with the issue as honestly, openly and rationally as possible.

We who are legislators in a country, the majority of whose people profess an allegiance to a particular set of beliefs and practices, must ask ourselves a number of questions. Do the Church and State have any common interests as opposed to conflicting ones? What is the Church's position in relation to legislative development and what is ours? If those two positions are in conflict, whose position must dominate and why?

Let it be said from the outset that the Church has not adopted any double standard in this area. For instance, it is quite clear that the Church's view on the issue of religious freedom, particularly as promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, is written in such a way as to be intended to have universal application. Although the document on religious freedom is written from the perspective that there are many countries where Catholics are in the minority and some where they [772] are a persecuted minority, there is no suggestion anywhere in the document that the Catholic Church is interested in religious freedom for Catholics only. There is no suggestion of freedom for the Church when Catholics are in the minority, privilege for the Church and intolerance for others when Catholics are in the majority. Because it has this consistency, the declaration on religious freedom has particular relevance to this debate. It has relevance also to the examination of some recent pronouncements by individual Bishops, made in the heat of their concern over the legislation now before the Seanad. Two of these pronouncements are of particular concern because they have focused in a particular way on what is seen as the duty of legislators. The first can be summed up by a phrase from Archbishop McNamara's recent statement when he said:

It is impossible to say, in relation to this issue and others, here I am a Christian, there I am a politician and a legislator.

The second is the injunction of Bishop Newman of Limerick. He said:

Politicians have a duty to follow the guidance of their Church where the interest of Church and State overlap.

In relation to those two statements from those two clerics we have little doubt where they stand with regard to any clash between the Church and the State or between legislators and clerics. Clearly these two statements are out of tune with the general approach the Church has taken in these matters. The declaration I have already referred to states:

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility, that all men be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth. Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on [773] with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue. Government is to assume the safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by appropriate means. Government is to see to it that the equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common welfare, is never violated for religious reasons, whether openly or covertly, nor is there to be discrimination among citizens. In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties towards others and for the common welfare of all.

I have not quoted the declaration in full but rather passages which make a very important point about the difficulty of legislating in this area. It is not necessary for us to have a debate about whether there exists a right to contraception. None of us can fail to agree with the point made in the declaration that there is a right on the part of minorities not to be discriminated against and an obligation on the part of majorities and on Government not to discriminate. The search for truth must be free. If the truth I have found is different from the truth as it appears to other, my only obligation is to live with the consequences of my search and my solution.

There is one more quotation from the declaration I should like to mention. Some of our Bishops, particularly the Church of Ireland Bishops, have been making much the same point that this quotation makes:

It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man's response to God and faith must be free.

There is only one conclusion possible from this statement. In so far as we believe as individuals that we have a pathway to God we must accept the obligation to find our way along that pathway ourselves.

No one can pass a law that obliges [774] anyone to save his soul. No one can prevent us from losing our way. This is particularly the case in the area of private sexual morality. It is for this reason that the Church has argued in the past that there are sanctions which the moral teachings of the Church regard as sinful but which are not forbidden by the laws of the State. Archbishop McNamara has produced other reasons for the difficulty of legislating in this whole area. Among them he has listed the extent to which particular items of legislation can be enforced, the necessity to maintain personal freedom and the need to take account of the climate, among the general public, for change and reform. It would seem, therefore, that the Church has not merely adopted a position of “it is up to the legislators to legislate”, they have gone further, accepting the difficulty of legislating in response to some of these most troubled human questions and pointing out the extent of individual responsibility.

All of this is very clear, so clear that it appears to some that it is the recent statements — particularly of the two members of the Hierarchy to whom I have referred — that have clouded any understanding of the Church's position rather than the Church's position itself. I can only describe their recent pronouncements as uncharitable and unhelpful. Many of us have tried to understand the motivation behind them. It seems that they may have emerged from a concern on the part of some of the Bishops involved that now was the time to take a firm stand and not simply against relatively minor legislation on an issue which has not previously provoked the same level of concern on their part. It is significant that the 1979 Act did not provoke such a response. I am not about to accuse the entire membership of the Hierarchy of being card-carrying members of Fianna Fáil but it strikes me as a bit strange that their reaction to the legislation put forward by this Government should be so ferocious when they were so ferociously quiet when the 1979 Act——

[775]An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  It is a good job I am in the Chair.

Mr. Magner: Information on Patrick Magner  Zoom on Patrick Magner  Whether you are in the Chair or on the floor of this House I am sure that above all you are a democrat. Whether you are there, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, or on the floor of the House would not detract me one iota from what I wish to say.

I want to make sure the record carries it correctly. I am not accusing, nor am I saying, that all members of the Hierarchy are card-carrying members of Fianna Fáil. It simply strikes me as strange that their reaction to similar legislation is so markedly different. Perhaps they feared that the legislators were about to embark on a wider programme of reform. In fact they are right because we are about to do so. It is one which might represent even more of a slippery slope from their point of view. If we can make some attempt to understand and come to terms with the position of the Church in this debate, it is even more important that we understand, firmly and openly, where we, the legislators, must stand. It has been said that democracy is not the touchstone of morality and I have no wish to challenge that view. There are absolute truths which no amount of wishing or indeed voting will change but in a number of areas there are no absolute truths and it is in trying to legislate in these areas that we come into conflict with anyone who feels that there is only one solution which is acceptable. In many such areas — the area of private sexual morality is one — we must seek or endeavour to seek a consensus that informs us where the public good lies. In any attempt to arrive at a consensus, we must take into account the views of many outside the legislators, including the leaders of all the Churches. But ultimately it is we, the legislators, who must decide. It must be our view of what the common good is that must prevail. That is how democracy is defined and limited. We are chosen precisely for the purpose of defining and upholding the common good. Nobody else is entrusted in our democracy with that task. That is not to say that religious [776] values should never be allowed into public affairs. We try to create our public morality through a consensus and, in this country, that consensus reflects to some extent the religious values of a great many people. It is the community through which elected legislators, and not any part of the community, which must decide how the common good, which is synonymous with public morality, is to be served.

When a proposition such as this comes up, the community must decide if what is being proposed is better left to private discretion rather than public policy. Does it restrict freedoms and, if so, to what end and to whose benefit? Will it yield a good or bad result? Overall or in the long term will it help the community or damage it? The right answers to these questions could be difficult but the wrong answer can often be only too easy. One of the wrong answers seems to be found in any assertion that it is not necessary to seek a consensus because this is a Catholic State and our laws must reflect only a Catholic ethos.

Many of our laws already reflect such an ethos because in many areas there is no difference between the views of the Catholic Church, the other Churches and the community at large. In this area where the Churches do not agree and where opinion is divided among some sections of the community, the Legislature would be doing a gross disservice to slavishly follow the wishes of any one section of the public. It would be doing a disservice to itself, the Churches and, most of all, to the democratic process.

If we are to have a Catholic nation we had better ensure that everybody knows it so that we can say to people who are not of that persuasion that there is no room for them. The Bishops have said that they do not want such a Catholic nation. I accept what they say in this matter. It is part of our job to listen to what they say and also to watch what they do.

This legislation has been introduced because the Government are satisfied that there is real need for the relatively small changes proposed here. It is not [777] an attempt to legislate for the private exercise of conscience, since to do so would neither be wise nor desirable. This legislation offers individuals a choice whereby they can meet an individual need. It is up to each and every one of us in our private lives to exercise that choice in accordance with our own values.

I sincerely hope that in the months and years ahead, as this Government seek to introduce into the areas of social reform much needed changes, those whose task it is to process legislation will not lose their nerve and will not be as craven as Fianna Fáil have been during this entire debate, where they have disgraced themselves as a national party, where they have denied their own brand of republicanism and where they have accepted that the authority given to them by the people properly rests in Maynooth.

Mr. Lynch: Information on Michael Lynch  Zoom on Michael Lynch  In his speech to this House and the Dáil, the Minister said that this Bill was limited amending legislation. If we look back at the controversy that this amending legislation has caused throughout the State and think of the enormous repercussions that it has had on the political parties, the divisions and friction it has caused within the parties and between the Church and State, it will be realised that the Minister's statement that this was a small piece of amending legislation is the understatement of the year.

Senator Magner took a very narrow view of the legislation, which the Government parties have adopted throughout this debate, and said our party are the tools of the Church and implied that members of the clergy are carrying cards for Fianna Fáil. If they are, I am proud of that fact and that they realise that our party's approach and attitude towards the implementation of legislation would be in line with the traditional values that we have cherished down through the years. We must ask why a Bill that has been described as limited amending legislation caused such division, dissension and bitterness among politicians and grave concern to many parents rearing teenagers? People have said that we should change with the times. Times are changing fast [778] but what benefits have we reaped from that? We are living in a world where nations are starving. Here at home there is an air of social unrest, social deprivation, the like of which has never been witnessed in living memory and there is a lowering of moral standards.

We should look at this Bill from a national viewpoint. Ireland and its people, in the past, maintained a strong Christian tradition in spite of all the odds stacked against it — through invasion, persecution, poverty, famine and pestilence. There were times when the nation was on its knees and could be described as economically penniless and socially on the verge of bankruptcy. But, at all times, there was inbuilt into the Irish people a strong moral fibre that acted as an incentive to carry on despite the difficulties that were facing them. People had values that they cherished and protected and were proud to do so. One of the greatest and proudest traditions of the people was the preservation of the family and the family way of life. I am here to protect the family way of life which I recognise as the basic fundamental and primary unit of society and of the Constitution. In the Constitution the State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of marriage on which the family is founded and to protect it against attack.

This legislation would be detrimental to family life. I am concerned for the social life of the country. We have, unfortunately, allowed ourselves to be dominated by outside influences, especially those we witness through the medium of television. I am greatly concerned that if we allow these outside influences to guide us we will live to regret many of the decisions that have been taken here and in Dáil Éireann.

Freely available contraceptives will encourage permissiveness and will create a climate in which it will be encouraged and allowed in society. In other words, an atmosphere would prevail where it would be easier and more attractive to be permissive and more difficult to be morally well behaved. For the young single people growing up with freely available contraceptives, sex would be [779] seen not as a sacred act within the bonds of marriage but as just another commodity used for self-indulgence and pleasure. This would leave the innocent open to exploitation. There has been talk of freedom, freedom of choice and the individual's right to choose. Is it this freedom that should be given ad lib at the expense of society as a whole? What is freedom? For some, liberty may mean licence but licence has to be checked and curbed in the common interest in accordance with the common law which we are here to uphold and protect.

The implications of this Bill would have a detrimental effect on the social fabric of Irish life. I oppose this Bill and I do not have to be whipped through any lobby to vote against it which I will do.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  I respect the viewpoint of the last speaker. I respect the viewpoint of Senator Fitzsimons. I respect their right to examine the proposed legislation on its merits. What I do not respect is the fact that the leader of their party did not show them that respect. He did not allow members of the main Opposition party to weigh the pros and cons of this Bill, to examine it and see what impact it might have on the fabric of society on this side of the Border or what impact it might have on the relationships between societies on both sides of the Border.

Senator Magner attacked the Hierarchy or at least challenged what they have done. It was wrong of them to interfere with us in our role as legislators but it is equally wrong for us to attempt to interfere with them in addressing their flocks. It is not the bishops who have let us down but rather the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition, in his craving for power and in an attempt to embarrass the Government of the day did not allow a free debate within his own party. He did not allow that party or the people within that party who are conscientious objectors to make objections on the grounds that they should be made. Nor did he allow those who might have supported the Bill to make their case. He [780] acted in a dictatorial fashion, to which we have become accustomed. He decided the policy of the Opposition. He decided what stand they would take even before the spokesman on Health took that stand. The Leader of the Opposition craves for power.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Senator can make only a passing reference to any Dáil Deputy.

Mr. Lynch: Information on Michael Lynch  Zoom on Michael Lynch  Perhaps he might refer to his own party leader.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  I will rule from the Chair. Senator Loughrey to continue, please.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  The Bill proposes to regularise the position. The Opposition were not allowed to examine the proposed legislation in any depth. What saddens me most about the Opposition's attitude is that it is the same as their relationships and attitudes to Northern Ireland. To go back some years to the so-called arms crisis, people then were prepared to use the Northern Ireland situation to advance their own positions vis-á-vis the leadership of their party. Is any person in politics or associated with politics foolish enough to believe that the Deputy from Donegal or the Deputy from Dublin or the Deputy from North County Dublin were genuinely or sincerely concerned about Northern Ireland when they involved themselves in the issue at that time?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  I again ask the Senator to address himself to the Bill. I appeal to him to deal with the Bill before him.

Mr. Lynch: Information on Michael Lynch  Zoom on Michael Lynch  He is side-stepping the issue.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  In as much as this Bill has a bearing on relationships between this side of the Border and the other side of the Border, I believe my contribution is in order.

[781]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The Senator cannot argue with the Chair.

Mrs. Bulbulia: Information on Katherine Bulbulia  Zoom on Katherine Bulbulia  The Senator has touched a raw nerve.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  It is not to embarrass the Opposition that I say these things but merely to point out that the Opposition have reneged on their responsibility in Opposition. If the Opposition, particularly in their leadership, continue on the road that they have embarked on the electorate will no longer have them in the main parties of Opposition but will relegate them to third or fourth place. Let us examine what they have done. They have dictatorially decided that the Bill was bad even before it was published. One person for that party decided that the Bill before us was bad because he saw that as a method of embarrassing or attempting to embarrass the Government of the day. He did not argue the merits or otherwise of the Bill any more than he argued the merits or otherwise of attitudes to Northern Ireland when he had sidekicks making speeches on Northern Ireland before and during 1979 with one thing in mind — to bring down the leadership of a man who was prepared to look at all aspects of society North and South. I refer to the then Deputy Jack Lynch.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  What has that to do with the Bill before us? With due respect to Senator Loughrey, let him put down a motion on the Adjournment and tell us all about it.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  I think the Senator knows all about it.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  I do.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  In case others might not——

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  This is not the place for the Senator to tell us.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I do not think it fair to mention names of people who are not [782] here to defend themselves. I would ask the Senator to refrain from that.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  He finds it very hard.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  Inasmuch as the Bill deals with attitudes north and south of the Border let me refer to the reaction to the Forum. When members of the nationalist population in Ireland got together as a group and invited members of the non-nationalist tradition to attend, some attended to make contributions to that debate. The Fianna Fáil Party, the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the SDLP invited and received submissions from all groups interested in the welfare of this country as a whole. When they agreed a report from that Forum that report was reneged on and jettisoned almost within minutes of its being published. Why? To try to seek and to grasp at a so-called republican vote with the European elections in sight. We have had the strokes and the deals; we have had them criticised within the main Opposition party but we have them again——

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  What about “Jim will fix it”?

A Senator:  He will fix it.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  He will be around long enough to fix it. During this debate, in an attempt to embarrass the Government, promotion was promised to a Deputy who is not a member of the Opposition party simply to whip him into the ranks. The Leader of the Opposition did not see the one weakness that was exposed in this debate on the family planning Bill.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  If the Senator will stay with the family planning Bill we will be all right.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  A then member of the Opposition party saw truth as it was. He saw what was being done by the Opposition party as a result of the introduction of the Bill as drafted and that the Opposition were merely trying to embarrass the [783] Government. The Leader of the Opposition misses no chance to embarrass the Government. When the vote was taken in the other House he immediately used that opportunity to have a scapegoat removed from his party in order to try to placate other factions within the party.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I do not mind the Senator making a passing reference to the other House but he is not entitled to make references to the extent he is making them to individual Deputies. The Dáil and Seanad are two different Houses. I do not mind him making a reference to what happened in the other House but I do not want him to develop it.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  I respect the Chair. Unfortunately, in this debate we have had a mixture of genuine opposition from within the ranks of the main Opposition party, genuine concern among some of the population, and genuine concern among some of the legislators. It is a pity that the Whip could not have been removed from both Government and Opposition. Then those like Senator Fitzsimons and Senator Lynch who had fears about the Bill could speak of those fears and vote accordingly, and those on our side of the House who had fears could do likewise. I was annoyed very much that the Whip was applied to the Opposition for purely political reasons, that no effort was made to study the Bill, that the only effort was to vote down numerically not the Bill but the Government of the day.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Stay in this House.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  There is lack of concern within the Opposition party about feelings genuinely held.

Senator Magner thinks the Bishops were wrong. I do not think they were wrong on that day. As bishops they are entitled to make their views on contraception known to their flock but not necessarily to influence us as legislators. The basic fault that I saw in the whole debate was the attitude of the main Opposition party. They did not examine [784] the proposed legislation on its merits. They attempted to embarrass the Government of the day. They were not concerned about the viewpoints of other legislators, or of the young people. If anything is almost equally as damaging to the Opposition as their reneging on their duty to be in Opposition, it is the way they have turned their backs on the young people. They have said to the young people, “We do not trust you but you must trust us. We know what is right for you but we will not allow you to make up your own minds. Put your heads down and listen to us. We will keep you right”. I cannot accept that this attitude of the Opposition, particularly of the Leader of the Opposition, will do any good. If this attitude continues in the Opposition and particularly on the part of their Leader, then after the next election he will not be Leader of the Opposition but probably a leader of a minority party.

Mr. Kiely: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  I hope that my contribution will be reasonable. This Bill is completely unnecessary at this time. It is divisive and there is no demand for change in the legislation as it exists. I have spoken to many people in my area, including young girls, who are members of the Fine Gael Party, and they feel that this Bill is not necessary, especially when so many young people are unemployed and in need of some security of an ensured future in an Ireland that they can be proud of. The Bill provides that condoms be made available to everybody over the age of 18 years irrespective of marital status. It also provides that condoms be made available to family planning clinics, health boards and chemists' shops, so that they can be available without a doctor's prescription. There are many anomalies in the Bill. It may be argued that condoms are available in the North and that they should be available in the South. I do not think that is a reason why the family planning laws should be amended. We should be strong enough to legislate for ourselves without looking over our shoulders to see what others are doing. We should be capable of legislating for our own without being influenced by alien [785] ideas or suggestions that we soften our attitudes or sacrifice our traditional values. I do not know whether it is that I am not important, but I did not receive even one letter from any individual concerning this Bill. I received literature from the ICA and other women's groups opposed to the Bill.

Some might say that the Church should not have become involved as it did. It is most unfair that the Church should be criticised for having an interest in their flock and in the Bill. When amending legislation or new legislation is introduced in areas such as agriculture, social welfare and so on organisations will lobby Members of the Oireachtas to speak against it or for it. I would not like to equate the hierarchy with any pressure group. They have a right to speak out from a moral point of view in connection with this Bill. It is a moral issue. I recognise that the function of the State is to legislate but the clergy have a right to point out the anomalies and its possible ill effects. It also might be argued that the provisions in the Bill will help women. I have grave doubts about this because it has been proved that contraception encourages sexual activity but there is no female contraceptive that controls VD, and the highest VD rates are in the countries where contraceptives are freely available. It is argued that contraception will prevent pregnancies but American data published in 1981 indicated the cumulative risks of pregnancies in teenagers who use current contraceptive methods. About 7.5 per cent were pregnant after one month on contraceptives, 22 per cent became pregnant after 12 months on contraceptives and 35 per cent were pregnant after 24 months on contraceptives. Deputy Proinsias De Rossa in the Dáil said that if a person is capable of using a condom then surely it should be made available to him if he so desires.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The Senator, will have to stay in this House. He is not at liberty to quote from the Dáil.

Mr. Kiely: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  I bow to your ruling. I am quoting from the Official Report. If it is [786] wrong to do something then a person should not be provided with the facilities to do it. If a person desires to jump into a car and go joy-riding, perhaps causing death, he should not be provided with the facilities to do it.

I am also worried about the law in this respect and the control of contraceptives. We have been told that the law is being flouted and that there are shops in university colleges in Dublin where condoms can be bought with ease. That is surprising because they are being sold illegally, and this will continue when this measure becomes law, as it will. Is there also a danger that family planning clinics can become referral units for young girls who become pregnant and who want abortions? The Minister should copperfasten the legislation to ensure that contraceptives will be sold only by those licensed by him to sell them and should introduce a Bill providing that where family planning clinics refer young girls to England for abortions they will be penalised and put out of business.

The values of young people and their mutúal respect for each other are being undermined in this Bill. I trust that the Minister will make the necessary amendments to ensure that these values are not undermined.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  This is the second time that I have had an opportunity of speaking at length on the question of family planning in Seanad Éireann. On the Family Planning Bill that was debated in this House in 1976 I made a number of comments as to the literature that we were receiving at that time from interested groups and parties. At that stage we had a very valuable debate and I do not intend to rehash all of those old arguments again except in so far as they are relevant to the present debate.

A number of changes have taken place in Ireland, although listening to some people one would imagine that no changes had taken place. A few fundamental jaundiced views of the world remain and a particularly jaundiced view of the role of young people. They were regarded in the seventies as prone to [787] being misled. I referred in the seventies when I discussed this matter to the previous debate in the thirties on the Intoxicating Liquor Bill when someone pointed out that liqueur chocolates which were not controlled by that Bill would be passed like reefers around the dance halls of Ireland. Apparently analogies were being drawn between the condoms that would become available as a result of the legislation being introduced in the seventies and liqueur chocolates.

I do not believe in theories of imminent moral collapse. I am not moved by images of sluicegates, floodgates, downpours, collapses and so on. Indeed, I sometimes ask myself, while listening on the monitor to speeches in this and the other House, whether people were mixing up the Canals Bill with the Family Planning Bill or with the Capital Punishment Bill or whatever.

Mrs. Bulbulia: Information on Katherine Bulbulia  Zoom on Katherine Bulbulia  Or the scrub bulls.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  We need to take language more seriously and above all else —I am not being flippant and I can assure, the speakers who seriously hold views opposing this Bill that I will turn to a more serious examination of their position in just a moment — we need to take our young people and ourselves more seriously. It is a most monstrous suggestion that you must hold young people within the grip of legislated private sexual morality if they are to exercise responsibility in relationships towards one another. It is an extraordinary view of human nature, historically quite specific. Some cultures would reject it out of hand as a most monstrous trampling on conscience but there are other views on it. Senator Fitzsimons probably put it in the most colourful language, and I quote him in the Official Report of 27 February 1985, column 531, Volume 107:

But all can recognise a steady decline in sexual morals expressed in corruption of the young and the breakdown of marriage. The graph of decline grows steeper over the decades until the [788] hollow globe of a society without values cracks and breaks into chaos and barbarism.

Mr. Fitzsimons: Information on Jack Fitzsimons  Zoom on Jack Fitzsimons  I would like to point out that I was quoting from the press at that point.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Senator Fitzsimons is right. In the same column he acknowledged that he was using this passage from a letter published in The Irish Times on Friday 15 February from Father Denis Faul, St. Patrick's Academy, Dungannon, County Tyrone. I do not think I am wrong in assuming that the Senator quoted the paragraph with approval.

Mr. Fitzsimons: Information on Jack Fitzsimons  Zoom on Jack Fitzsimons  I would love to have the capacity to be as eloquent as Fr. Faul in that quotation.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I am grateful to Senator Fitzsimons. I am very anxious that I would have the quotation correct so that the reference to Fr. Faul's eloquence will go to the correct source. As the theologians of that school used to say to me a long time ago as a student, it is eloquent but wrong. It might be eloquent but it is unimpressive historically. It is untenable sociologically. In so far as it is frequently offered with an authority which does not exist, it is quote arrogant.

I have been amazed during the current debate at the ease with which people have assumed an authority in matters in which they have very little training and have offered their opinions for public consumption. There is a debate within theology at present as to whether it was a mistake to loosen the role of authority that was based on orthodox, natural law theological teaching or whether they should have gone for a negotiated form of authority that accepts concepts of justice, the conflict between, for example, orthodox Roman Catholic theology and liberation theology. It is a respectable debate in many ways but if we were to intrude into that and say that we know every element of it, we would be very quickly told that perhaps we do not.

I find amazing, a decade and a half [789] after I spoke previously on this issue, the ease with which people are suggesting the collapse of society. They have been doing it since the end of the Roman Empire and before it but what is interesting is the manner in which the connections are established between contraception, sexually transmitted disease, divorce, abortion, illegitimacy, homelessness, the unending chain of disaster that is being loosed on society. I challenge it historically. I challenge the sociological basis of every one of these connections. I did so in 1976 and no evidence was forthcoming; it was simply a matter of opinion but what was interesting was that people were removing an authority that they claimed in one sphere of life and shifting it neatly over to claim authority in another aspect of life. They say that you can ignore all these lay people who have mere lay evidence, mere empirical evidence, mere human evidence, evidence merely dealing with man and women because they say these are the facts. It is reducing theology to the level of fortune telling and bad fortune telling at that, and it is beginning to get its answer from the public.

A number of issues arise in relation to the Bill. They could be addressed under the heading as to whether the reforms proposed in the Bill are in the interest of public health. I have listened carefully to the debate on both sides. I noticed with interest that this dimension to the debate is not being taken up by the opponents of the Bill, apart from the sluicegates, dam gates argument of what is down the road for us all. They are not saying very much about the immediate effect of defeating the Bill on health grounds. I think that they realise that there is a distinction between what is happening on the ground and what the law says, and they are accepting a kind of a nod and a wink version of legislation in the area of health. Let us get on with the present business of all these tens of millions of condoms that are available around the country and being used by a small number of people. Listening to the debate in the other House and this House one would think that there was an enormous amount [790] of sexual activity between so few people. The argument is, “Leave the law alone. Let us continue to flout the law”. How can people argue for respect for the law? How can they say that it is good for young people whom we are protecting morally from themselves to continue to break the law? Some confused young person might ask how we are going to do it, and then they hear references to traditional values. Traditional values have a role to which I will turn in a moment. I shall refer also to the manner in which they have been used and what they have been used to justify. Nobody in either House has offered convincing arguments that these are but small, necessary, good amendments to bad legislation. They make two small amendments which are realistic in so far as they bring, to some degree, existing practice into consonance with what the law will be. Of course, they do not do it fully, mainly because the Bill is but one reform in relation to what I regard as basically defective law.

There is the question, which I dealt with already, of the sociological impact of the passing of this legislation, the question of what will happen in society. I believe very little will happen except that we will have restored our self-respect slightly but not completely. Do we envisage, for example, a massive increase in the purchase of condoms or in their use and by whom? We have not been told about this. I could go into the whole public health argument that the availability of non-medical contraceptives in itself can make a contribution to the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and that it would be in the public health interest to do so. I am very interested in what is now surfacing as one of the more focal points of the debate, the Church-State intersection, the Church-State implications of the debate on this Bill and the political response to existing Church-State relationships.

Mr. John White's book Church and State in Modern Ireland, published by Gill and Macmillan in Dublin 1971, has been quoted in the other House as one of the books which discuss the connections [791] between Church and State. He handles this by looking at the influence of the Church in three historical periods. The next question he takes is the issues on which the Church chose to speak. Then he argues again about which party were in power. Quite frankly, in the early days of the State the character of the State was a basically restrictive one, in which it was assumed that we needed censorship, we needed control of our drinking patterns to intoxication and we needed control of our entertainment through the Dancehalls Act. A whole series of legislation, all in the area of private sexual morality, were put before the Dáil.

I have often looked back at the Dáil and Seanad records to see what was said on those occasions. They were usually passed without much fuss because people did not want, I think, having spoken to some of the survivors of that period — to really discuss what was happening. For example, what would be the effect of the changes that were represented in the Dancehalls Act and so forth. There was a tradition early on of the Fianna Fáil Party, for example, distancing themselves more than other parties from the Church in relation to some issues.

It would be wrong to think that this was always the case. There was the case of the unfortunate Trinity librarian, Miss Dunbar Harrison, appointed by the Local Appointments Commission, which had been established to stamp out some of the corruption in the Irish State early in relation to local appointments, recommended to a position as Mayo County Librarian and rejected by a committee of 14 who ran the library service and which had two lay persons on it. In the debate which ensued the question arose as to whether you could have a Protestant putting books into Catholic hands.

I remember reading the debate and people said we are not hiring a washerwoman, we are hiring a librarian and if she is going to do her job properly she must go out and tell people what books to read, take recommendations for the purchase of books and so on. They [792] refused to appoint her. The county council was abolished. Mr. de Valera in 1931 in the other House said that he agreed with the people of Mayo of which over 95 per cent were Catholic that they had the right to have a Catholic librarian. Later on there were to be discussions in the other House as to whether people should have the right to hire exclusively Catholic dispensary doctors so that some one of their own faith would be near them at their last moments.

There were times in the history of this State where there was a wrong intersection between Church and State. It is relevant in this regard. It came to its point of most immediate conflict in 1951. Members of all parties in the House, looking back at the history of Church-State relations cannot be very proud of the occasions when they allowed that intersection to stray in the direction of establishing in law something that was very much less than anything like a fair democratic — I say “democratic”, not to speak of pluralist — version of the law.

We suffered as a result of that. It was an example of our inward lookingness and it was an obstacle to looking at our divided community in Northern Ireland. It gave us a version of ourselves that was bad for us and bad for them. At the present time what is happening — this has been strongly pointed out — is that the Church were not at one in the most recent controversy. You had a view represented by the newly appointed Archbishop of Dublin, a fellow Clare person, who offered a view which could be regarded without too much unfairness as a natural law view of this legislation. I quote him from The Irish Times of 8 February 1985. He said:

No one with the interests of young people at heart, no one who is concerned for the moral welfare of the rising generation can abdicate moral responsibility, can stand aside or remain silent at the prospect of contraceptives being made legally available to unmarried people, a step which would certainly lead before long to their availability to even younger age [793] groups. If we now decide to sew the wind can we be surprised if we soon reap the whirlwind?

In an earlier quotation from his speech he said:

Proposals of this kind confront our people, particularly parents and in a special way politicians with problems of conscience of the very gravest kind.

They confront us with problems of conscience. On that issue of conscience what do we mean by conscience? Why not say straight out that the informed conscience in Dr. McNamara's view is a Roman Catholic informed conscience, the Roman Catholic informed conscience of a Roman Catholic legislator, legislating in this House within those terms alone.

That was said in the 1970s when we debated this issue previously and when a distinguished former Senator, Michael J. O'Higgins, said he believed that civil law was derived from divine law and the final authority was God. He argued for that. He did not subscribe to the separation of Church and State. With the greatest respect to the Archbishop of Dublin this is stopping short of having the courage to say what Senator M.J. O'Higgins said in the 1970s. We must take up this issue that he invited. I quoted “no one with the interests of young people at heart, no one who is concerned for the moral welfare of the rising generation”. That has an unspeakable arrogance to it. The suggestion is that those of us who have favoured changes in the law like this over the years are somehow or another less concerned for young people than other people are.

Who can best serve the young? Someone who would tell them to go on breaking the law, allowing one reality to prevail at the level of fact and another reality to prevail at the level of law? Is that great moral example? I challenge the issue of conscience. I challenge it on the basis of its history within Irish writing and Irish theological writing. It goes way back. The notion of conscience was developed into whether in fact you could interfere with the thinking of another person who believed [794] genuinely that they were right. You believe you were in the possession of some truth. Which was the great wrong, that you should go ahead and impose your truth on them and in doing so ignore their right to believe what they said they believed in?

It was in that context that the concept of conscience was developed. It was developed in the context of respect for the other person's integrity as a person and you could move on from that to the integrity of a tradition, the integrity of people who believed truthfully in what they are saying and truthfully in what they are doing. This version of saying that you can take a denominational concept of conscience so as to trample on what might be the expressed opinion of the minorities I speak of is a distortion and close to a perversion of the concept of conscience. I say that very carefully. It does not hold up. It is also sly — I use the word carefully — in so far as it stops short of saying directly to legislators what is asked of them, unfairly and without justification but it insinuates it equally in relation to the other views which were awkward. The views, for example, of Father Simon O'Byrne which are well known, I quote here from the newspapers of Friday, 8 February. The Irish Times has a host of headlines: “Dr McNamara attacks planned Contraception Bill”. The Irish Independent had the headline: “Family Planning Bill Meets Strong Attack”. By ten o'clock RTE were in a total frenzy interviewing anybody who was available to know what was going to happen to the Bill and so on. Before lunchtime people were giving interviews about the collapse of society.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  That was organised confusion, if the Senator knows what I mean.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  The Senator missed my speech on that day. It was the famous sluice gates speech. Father Simon O'Byrne was inviting people to note well those who support or oppose this Bill. May I say my respect for the Hierarchy and members of the Church is sufficient to say that this is an isolated opinion. [795] Many members of the Roman Catholic Church approached me to say that he did not speak for them in saying this. It is an eccentric bullying opinion: “Note well what they say so that you will know what to do when the time comes.” Cowardly, bullying, intimidatory. Of course, he has the right to do it and I have the right to describe it as I just have.

It moves on to the question of Church and State on this issue. We have to realise historically what it is we are in fact doing. Legislators have to ask themselves the question: for whom do we legislate? Do we legislate for young and old? Do we legislate for Protestants and Catholics? How far on are we from the thirties arguments as to whether the dispensary doctor could be a non-Catholic or not? It is 50 years ago and more. We have had the New Ireland Forum report. That is an important contribution to peace, hope and understanding.

We have had so many of our fellow Irish people killed, maimed and brutalised in the name of one denominational excess or another. One can go through it from the foundation of the State. Is it responsible to be asking for a bout of this fundamentalism again? That is one aspect of the Church-State character to this legislation that should be surfaced. I am glad that it is being alluded to because it is a matter of public concern. There are decent, honest people, like Senator Fitzsimons, who holds his own views which I respect. He argues them in a curious way which is close to the logic of former Senator Michael J. O'Higgins, because he believes you should operate from an absolute base point of Catholic moral teaching. I respect him because I know from the way he says it that he believes what he says. Equally, if I disagree with his view of the world in doing that, there is a view of the cosmos of order in all of that that goes as follows. From a divinely instructed order you have a Church with a special mission which is saying special things and legislators are very far down the line and you legislate strictly within that.

It is on that basis that Galileo found [796] himself out of the Church, for suggesting, for example, that the earth was not at the centre of the universe, with the greatest respect. While I reject it now, I think it simply does not hold. It is a form of authority that has been rejected. It had as its centre point in private sexual morality at one stage the suggestion that sexual behaviour activity between male and female was entirely for the purpose of reproducing children. Later on a debate that challenged that, established the right of couples to have sexual relations together other than for the primary or sole reason of reproducing children. It represented a very significant shift. Let there be people who accept that particular view of the world. I respect them.

There is another reason for using the Church-State intersection, that is in fact opportunist, the hope that you can garner from a mixture of inchoate ignorance, fear and some kind of reactionary ultra conservatism, enough opposition to try to put together some kind of political force. That is tragic at this stage in an island that needs reconciliation as much as we do. I am not making the offensive remark that we need this Bill so that it will be available when the Northern Ireland community join us. We need this legislation, and amending legislation like it, to restore our own self-respect and our own version of humaneness in the world so as to remind ourselves that we are living in the twentieth century in relation to our views of what happens in the relationship between men and women. I strongly support the speakers from both sides of this House who say what is required is an education in the responsibility of relationships, the fullness of relationships, the sensitivity of relationships and so forth. That kind of advice and these kind of facilities are a far better and more cogent offer to young people than suggesting that traditionalism in itself is some protection.

Let me dispose of traditionalism. Traditionalism has offered no panacea. It is traditionalism that has sent lonely women on the boat to England and has encouraged irresponsibility in paternity. It is traditionalism that has stopped us amending [797] the illegitimacy laws and has stopped us, for example, having facilities in hospitals and medical centres where women have looked for them over the years. It is traditionalism that has sent us the spectacle of a woman in the west of Ireland wondering how far she would have to travel to find some form of contraception and wondering whether she would find a medical doctor or whether, having got the prescription, she could find a pharmacist to accept her prescription. What is wonderful about that?

It is equally traditionalism, I believe, that has given us such an appalling coldness in our relationships with each other, that has filled the alcoholic wards in the mental hospitals and has affected all these people who are suffering from depression, from the guilt-laden versions of relationships between men and women that have been inculcated in them over the years. It has filled the emigrant boats. It has provided all those battered people who are on the fringes of society in London, Manchester and Liverpool, who carry with them the burden of this mixture of voodoo that was called traditionalism. There is an older tradition than that in Ireland, one which was based on humanness and generosity and not narrowness, bigotry and prurience which is the back drop for all of this.

In the Bill we are saying it will be suitable practice for a doctor, who has taken our taxes, well spent in his or her preparation, seven years at least, other years in practice, studying illnesses and medicines of different kinds, to take out his pen or pencil and write a prescription for a condom. I would ask Senators to think about the years not only of taxation. It does violence to a profession and to the idea that you train yourself for something, with respect for the complexity and intricacy of life, that you treat people, you provide remedies for them, that you identify with your patients, and that then you find yourself in the seedy business of writing out prescriptions for condoms. There were those who suggested that we should issue some kind of certificate that you carried around with you from a certain [798] age, or a pass card that you would hang around your neck as you went to the dance or disco, to show that you qualified to buy condoms. It is the most incredible suggestion I have read in years. Perhaps it is well meant but it conjures up such an image of life in this island that it would drive people to the travel agents at a rate of knots.

Of course, I have not touched on it because it was the centre of the debate in the 'seventies, that is, the implications of all of this for women's health. Thankfully, one of the great developments that has taken place is the greater awareness there is now for our responsibility towards each other, an awareness that has not been assisted by us in a male self-examination of attitudes. In the discussion of the amendments that are taking place here images of women were conjured up, the idea of the passive woman with all these young men who had provided themselves with condoms, all flying at the woman and so on. It is a disgraceful reflection on our relationships towards one another.

Someone has said the game is only beginning. May it be so, because I want to place it on record that I am in favour of responsible relationships and full and comprehensive sex education. The sooner it happens the better, particularly in relation to the responsibilities of young male adults with regard to social practices in sexual matters.

I was reared in a culture that looked at an unwanted pregnancy as a woman who “got into trouble”, and when I was a teenager, as a woman who was regarded — I hope I do not offend anybody — as being “up the pole”. Then the woman disappeared to England and the child went to an institution. They all went on, traditionally happy ever after. It was monstrous, this deception that you could, on the one hand, have some kind of moral vessels in the cupboard and, on the other hand, that you would allow young people to behave with such irresponsibility.

Always, in the account of these things, there was a suggestion of where did the woman go wrong, what happened her, what kind of home was she from? There [799] was never the idea, what about this young barbarian who is irresponsibly involved in relationships? Who was the more moral then? Was it the people who wanted to defend all this duplicity in the name of tradition and who would set their hands, eyes and their whole moral purpose against ever having family planning available in this country? I suggest that there is a strong dimension of hypocrisy to it at times.

I am reluctant to make any party political comment, but it is a sad day for the Fianna Fáil Party that they are opposing this Bill. I am not commenting on the position of any individual member of that party. Members of that party know me very well and that I rarely do that. It is not my interest.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  We have a right to do it.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Of course, members of the Senator's party have a right to do it. The Senator's party are making as tragic a mistake as was made in those 1930 speeches, that the Catholic people of Mayo were entitled to get a book only from the hands of a Catholic librarian or that people should have only Catholic dispensary doctors close to them when they were dying. It is as bad and as tragic as that. I hope I am wrong in thinking that it might be opportunist also. I have heard sentiments expressed that I know are well held. I wrote in a paper called “Hot Press” on 15 March, 1984 on page 15 regarding a statement issued by the Erskine H. Childers Cumann, the Trinity College branch of the Fianna Fáil Party. They make ten points. Statements for branch and cumann press releases are not often written with eloquent and convincing language but this one was. It said:

(1) The Erskine H. Childers Cumann supports the general import of the Family Planning Bill.

(2) We believe that the law in this area must reflect the reality of Ireland in 1985.

[800] (3) We believe it is not the role of the State to impose the moral teaching of any one church in this particular area of private sexual morality.

(4) It is cynical for politicians to proclaim hope in the youth of Ireland and at the same time to imply that they are irresponsible in this area.

(5) The Erskine H. Childers Cumann believes that there should be a free vote in the parliamentary party on this issue.

(6) Ogra Fianna Fáil at its last youth conference in 1984 called for a complete review of the legislation in this area and a blanket no to reform is an unsatisfactory response to this.

(7) Fianna Fáil loses credibility when, on an issue of such importance, they must vote against their stated beliefs.

(8) Fianna Fáil must continue to be inspired by what can be called the spirit of the “Hot Press” interview, that is, if the country is divided on this issue Fianna Fáil must be on the reforming progressive side. Fianna Fáil's present tactics should not prejudice future action on social reform.

(9) The timing of the Bill is doubtless a diversionary tactic by the Government but Fianna Fáil should not play the political game. If we force a general election on this issue we will be creating an electoral rebate of reactionary forces and those are the forces of the past.

(10) The report of the New Ireland Forum called for a non-denominational Constitution for a new Ireland. Why not begin building that new Ireland now?

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  What about poor Deputy Prendergast?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Let us take these points. I do not intend to debate them. I have spoken in somewhat similar vein in support of many of them. They are brave [801] young people, trying to face up to the realities of what I should have hoped by now would have been uncontentious legislation in the social, family and health area.

Notice what they are saying. They are saying “We want to make up our own minds. We are young people who discussed the issue. We have arrived at a position and we believe you should listen to us”. They are rejecting people assuming they know better than they what is in their interests. It is similar argument, rather like the minority of bishops and archbishops who can assume that they know better whether our consciences are informed or not, which makes nonsense of the concept of conscience itself.

There has been — it is one of the reasons I have decided to reply to it in this way — an extraordinary heat of emotion built around this issue. Note, for example, the language of the Bill which says something like “availability”. The idea is you go to specified outlets and you acquire non-medical contraceptives.

The opponents of the Bill have written about widespread distribution, the idea being that you will have them waving down your car as you drive to Heuston Station or they will be like the newspaper vendors, standing in the middle of O'Connell Street saying, “buy one from me”. I wrote somewhere else about the poor lady with the matchboxes underneath the gaslight glitter. Nobody would stop and buy one. Are they trying to suggest, that the whole Department of Health will be out all over the country saying “condoms today”et cetera? It is a kind of nonsense that discredits politics and politicians.

The Bill speaks about availability. It specifies availability. It specifies what is available. There has been a debate for years as to what is going on. Now widespread distribution is suggested, and, following the widespread distribution, rather like an attack of flu, all the moral casualties will be collapsing. It is like one of the “Apocalypse Now” film scripts. They will be collapsing in the streets, they will be collapsing in the strings, collapsing in buses et cetera. Before we know it, as [802] Father Faul put it, the horror centre of the globe will have caved in and we will be over. It is like a script for a post-nuclear film, the way it has been written.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  God be with the day of St. Flannan.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  God be with St. Flannan, if the Senator wants to put it like that, who did not hold the views of the later St. Flannan——

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  What about Monsignor Hamilton?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  This is the whole point. We are talking about a man older than all of us, Ireland's oldest and most renowned international philosopher, the man on the £5 note, John Scotus Erugenis, probably the original contributor to the concept of conscience itself.

I take up the Leas-Chathaoirleach's point, going back to that point in my own life, I do not regret having shaken off the fears of much of that orthodoxy. I like to feel that if a person wanted to discuss spirituality and religion with me today they would do it rather on the basis of convincing me of how I might exercise compassion and responsibility to other people rather than threatening to stick me to the ground or turn me into a cabbage or rather than suggesting — as was suggested in the 1980s — that my child will not understand spirituality until he or she has dragged themselves into a musty confessional box. I am not sorry to have got beyond that and my sympathy goes out to all those tragic figures who have not. There were people who did not question anything but there were other people who did question things and paid an enormous price for it in terms of the kind of life that they went on to carve out for themselves.

I deliberately made this the kernel of the debate — what is authority and what authority do we have? We have an authority that goes beyond popular satisfaction, for example, even though the surveys show that there is widespread [803] support for reform of the legislation. But we have an authority which is beyond that, an authority to legislate properly in each and every area and in that we have to give leadership. If we do not exercise that authority properly we are the subversives — that is what we should be called — who want to tell people to go along with a wink and a nod version of the law in this area, who say that we will legislate some time in the future.

It is a mockery of the argument to say that we should be talking about jobs at this time. Fifteen years ago people used say that I was a materialist because I used to talk about the economy. There is no Marxist who would suggest that we simply talk about the economy as if it has no reflection on any other aspect of behaviour. Of course, we are concerned about jobs and let us be concerned about jobs and let us say so to all the people who place obstacles in our way of State planning. Why were the words “State planning” not used in relation to our documents in the late 'fifties and 'sixties. The reason surfaced in 1951 in the debate on the mother and child scheme — because it offended the principle of subsidiarity, the idea being that the economy and the family provided everything and then when you had the most destitute of children and the most chronically poor, the State could step in and thus there could not be a free health service because it would have to be means-tested. We had a distinction at that time between Catholic moral teaching and Catholic social teaching.

We need to ask ourselves questions. If, at the end of the eighties, we want to build a caring, compassionate society — it is a tautology to suggest that it is modern — we must accept authority for the State that we have, authority for our actions and for our legislation. That is a good way of building a bridge to other parts of the island. Equally, it is most important that we have not lost by having public debate. People have the right to say what they like in the same way that I have the right not to listen if I do not wish. I will listen; I like listening but I [804] have the right to disagree. I am in this House to provide legislation for everybody, believers and non-believers, people of all religions and people with no religion. The day that we accept that, in this part of the island, we will be making a much better contribution towards bridging the gulf that exists between us and the people of Northern Ireland. I regret not having made more of a contribution by now in trying to understand the nature of the divided communities in that part of the island. But, when we start talking about an authority that is unquestionable, that will express itself in separate education and in decisions about confirmation and non-confirmation, that will have people with different versions of health, different views on the nature of the State, are we building peace? How much can you trample on human intellect and reason and build peace? What we need is not cold reason but reason and rationality that is informed by compassion, that takes advantage of modern empirical evidence of what is happening in social and health matters. What we need least of all is an outbreak of fundamentalism in this part of the island.

If that should happen, I would appeal to those who are responsible for it to try to undo some of the consequences of what they are doing because sectarian tendencies are not limited to the Republic that we are in at present; they spill over. If people go through life saying something that they do not really believe in, when they really believe in something else, they make no contribution to the youth of the country. We are at a time where everything is being re-negotiated. It is wrong to view matters from the perspective of those who immediately followed Nero. Young people are more interested in peace than my generation or the generation before them were. They are equally interested in development; they are interested in the Third World; they are interested in music, creating forms of entertainment and a culture of their own. They deserve our respect for it. If we are to go through the hypocrisy of saying that it is their society tomorrow, why should we take our worst [805] yesterday and turn it into their tomorrow, which is basically what the opponents of this Bill are doing?

Equally we need to look at not only how the laws might change but how the institutions might change. The health clinics and boards and the forms of health institutions that young people would want to interact with in the next decade or two will not be the ones that we were happy with — these bureaucratic and personal affairs overridden by little professional jealousies of one kind or another. Senator Honan will know how people spoke about the dispensary in Newmarket-on-Fergus. We need, not to take a leap back into the dark ages but to be responsible and to give example.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  It is fair to say, at this stage in the debate on this Bill, that everything that has to be said, has been said. It becomes more difficult to make a useful contribution as the debate is prolonged. The debate has swept like a gust of wind throughout the nation for the last two weeks; the gust is dying down even before the Bill is passed. We will be doing well if we get about one and a half paragraphs in any of the national papers tomorrow whereas this day week we were grabbing television programmes by the minute; we were having special programmes prolonged into the early hours of the morning. The performance of introducing this Bill was the greatest camouflage act ever performed by any Government in the history of the country, not for the contents of the Bill but for the timing of it. One has to make that remark when one recalls what has happened. Just after the budget, I read headlines in the Irish Independent and in The Irish Times suggesting that the Taoiseach and his party, with the Minister for Finance and other senior Minister, were going on a crusade around the country to explain the benefits of the budget. That was on a Thursday morning. On the following Friday evening it was discovered that unemployment had increased beyond all bounds. The following Tuesday morning we discovered this Bill on the agenda of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Everything [806] about that budget and everything about the real issues in the country have been forgotten in this gust of political wind that has blown across the nation. It is sad that the real issues of the State, the real problems confronting the ordinary person, be it at his place of employment, or at school or in the employment exchange have been forgotten in the last two weeks. It appears they will continue to be forgotten for some more weeks — how many I do not know. That is the reason why this Bill was introduced at this time. It is surprising not alone to the Fianna Fáil Party, but also to the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and to many Independents in both Houses. I want to advert to one particular issue that especially concerns me and that is the created issue of this alleged Church-State conflict.

Senator Michael D. Higgins and many others in this House and in the other House have made very long and deliberate statements on this issue. I believe in freedom of speech. I believe that whether a person is right or wrong he should be allowed to speak, to express an opinion. Minorities are entitled to make their opinions heard. Majorities are entitled to have their opinions heard. It has been stated or implied by many parliamentarians and by some outside the Houses of Parliament that the Church has twisted the arm of the legislators. The Church and the bishops have a right to express their opinion. I saw a programme on a Sunday morning, the name of which I cannot recall, on which Senator O'Leary, the Secretary of the Labour Party and Archbishop McNamara spoke for approximately one hour. It was an interesting programme, a good programme. Since Archbishop McNamara has been mentioned — if that would be the appropriate word — in the national press as one of those who have been twisting arms it was he who rounded up the position of the Hierarchy of the Church that morning. He said to the parliamentarians: “It is your job to legislate and I grant you the right to do that. It is our job to bishop, to act as bishops, and I hope that you grant us the right to do that. You cannot [807] stop a bishop from bishopping.” Those were the words used. I think that was fair comment. He did not twist anybody's arm that day. He pronounced his religious beliefs in a very simple and understanding way. He was entitled to do that. I listened to him and I did not feel that he was twisting the arm of any legislator. He was propounding the religious beliefs of the Church of which he was a bishop.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I thought Senator O'Leary was good.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Yes, I thought he erred on a few occasions but I am not going to talk about him. I was commenting on the programme from the point of view of the arguments that have been made that there was a Church-State conflict. I have not actually seen it. I watched the Archbishop of Dublin. I have listened to clergy, ordinary priests doing their day's work, speak in my locality. They have a right to do so; it is their job. It is their chosen profession. I have not seen any of them actually twisting the arm of any legislator. I just want to make that simple point. If one were to take the newspapers, in particular the Irish Independent in many an issue, one would think that the bishop was standing outside there with an UZI gun pushing the Government and the Ministers. He never gave me that impression.

When clerical leaders of other denominations made their pronouncements I accepted that they had an entitlement and a right to do so. I have never seen them twist the arm of anybody. I have never known them to do other than propound their own philosophy and their own views. They have that right. They must do that job: that is the fundamental task of their calling. I accept this in the case of any religion. Even if an atheist wanted to make his views known through the public media, he is entitled to do so. We have to accept that. We must also accept that the Catholic Church has a right to make a statement. I have not seen them do anything else.

Listening to Senator M.D. Higgins, who gives such a very fine performance [808] with his phraseology in this House, and listening to some of the Fine Gael speakers in both Houses, they gave the impression that they felt the Church was leaving them, that the Church had gone away from them, they were trying to find reasons why this had happened. Senator Honan, in her contribution, rightly said it — they were the people, if allegations are to be made about the past, who had the Church in the palms of their hands. If they feel that they have now lost that position it is their own fault. We did not steal them away nor did we try to. It is just something that I noticed and I am sure that the Senator——

Mr. FitzGerald: Information on Alexis J.G. Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis J.G. Fitzgerald  They must have been impressed with the Hot Press interview.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  I am not too worried. I would just like the Senator to know that I am a Catholic and a responsible one. My father before me was a Catholic and was excommunicated from the Church. So be it. He may have been wrong. He may have been right. But he had his belief. I cannot see why the Senator would make such a remark to me about the Hot Press. We have never had the link in the history of our party; we have never had the Church in our hip pocket. The Senator's is the organisation that had the Church in their hip pocket all their life. That is common knowledge. Let us not get hot about that matter. I am just observing that I feel that the Senator's party and the Labour Party and particularly Senator M.D. Higgins feel a cold breeze, as though the Church was walking away from them. I do not think that is the case. I have dealt with that matter because I wanted to express my own personal opinion on that aspect. I have expressed it in the best way I can. I am a family man. I have eight children, ranging in age from 17 years to two years. It is a difficult task these days in this world to rear such a fine family of which I and my wife are very proud. This Bill does not help us very much to rear the family in the way we would like. It is an obstacle we will have to overcome. We also have to overcome other problems which we [809] are in the process of overcoming. In recent years the thinking in Ireland seems to have gone away from the family as a unit. This is the real situation.

Take, for example, the tax-free allowance per child. We get an £800 tax-free allowance for having eight children: that is all it is in 1985. Consider that concession; take it as you like. Take the situation, which I think is a new one, in regard to grant-aiding families in the community for third level education. It had been the practice until recently that the calculation of the grant was made on the basis of the number of dependants within the family. It was based on the family unit. That is gone; it is now calculated up to a figure of five in family and above that it does not matter whether you have five, six, seven, eight, nine or ten in family, you will get the same allowance as if you had five. It is a relevant point. I believe the country is slipping away from the basis of the family unit — a drastic thing to do. I would always try to stop it happening but it is a fact of life. There are many other fields one can mention in that context.

I am a Catholic — yes. I am not an outstanding Catholic. I believe that in difficult times I can turn to my Church and to prayer to help me. That is a nice thing to have. I had a serious car accident and I came out of it quite well but it was a shock to me. That is an example of what my religion means to me. The first thing that came into my head was to say a prayer of thanks that I was alive. There is nothing wrong with that. To be a Catholic, you do not have to be an extraordinarily great one or an extraordinarily bad one. You can be a nice, middle-of-the-road Catholic person. I am sure in any other religion it is the same way, it is a nice thing to feel that you have the God that you believe in close to you. In a difficult moment, he is there. That is a real situation.

As a Catholic concerned with this Bill I will listen to what my Hierarchy say. My job is part of the political party to which I belong and which gave me and my parents a good deal in this world. I may not have given half as much back to [810] it; I suppose I never could. I have been a member of that party since I was 16 and a rather diligent one. There are rules and methods within that party by which we come to a decision. I have always abided by the democratic process of that party. There were times when it was difficult for me. I remember occasions dating back to 1969 where I saw things being done that I believed were wrong. I made my point; I declared my views——

Mr. Donnellan: Information on John F. Donnellan  Zoom on John F. Donnellan  They certainly made it difficult for the Senator at times.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  I accepted my party; I never left it or embarrassed it. I did my best within the party to change it and improve it. If the majority of that party decided at any given time that they were doing something another way I certainly abided by that decision. If I did not do so, I could not have and would not have a party.

I know that not only was difficulty created within our party but there was great difficulty within the Fine Gael Party. We saw three expulsions of admirable public representatives. It seems to be forgotten in the media of the day that we lost three fine people. Fine Gael lost from their party the longest serving parliamentarian in Europe, Deputy Oliver J. Flanagan, and that must be a tragic thing for him and also for his party. If someone thinks he can nominate a person in political life today who has served a longer term than Deputy Flanagan let him tell me his or her name. I was honoured by this House to be selected to serve on the Council of Europe and in the 21 nations of that council it is a known fact that Deputy Flanagan is the longest serving elected parliamentarian. It must be a hard time for him. There is political propaganda to be made from it if one was to go into it. Deputy Tom O'Donnell is a very respected man. Those names speak for themselves.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on John F. Donnellan  Zoom on John F. Donnellan  They can certainly take a lot of credit from what the Senator is saying.

[811]Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  I do not know Deputy Alice Glenn. She seems to be a person of integrity, as is the Minister of State, Deputy Donnellan. We can have our battles about matters relevant to us at home but when we talk about people who have served loyally and faithfully for a long time there must be some compassion. It must be a heartrending problem for the individuals and the party concerned.

Senator Higgins adverted to the problems created in the Fianna Fáil Party. He read us an illustrious document by some cumann in the university. He would know all about that because he served for many years as secretary or chairman of the Fianna Fáil Cumann in University College, Galway. He would know the internal workings of our organisation.

Senator Honan mentioned his education in St. Flannan's. There was a response which lasted for almost half an hour to that remark. I said to myself that they almost made a magnificent man out of him. I am sure his party feel the loss of their members — the rights and wrongs of it is another question. Deputy Seán Treacy is a long serving and respected Member of Parliament. We do not know what has happened to Deputy Prendergast; he seems to have been put out on a cloud. One would think that we were the only party affected when all we had was one problem.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  What about Deputy O'Malley?

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  That is not a problem.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  I make those remarks as we are coming to the close of the debate. I make them not about the Bill specifically but about matters arising from the application of the Bill. I think we should look at it in the coolness of the day. A lot of unhappiness has been created across the whole political divide. Green herrings have been drawn into it. I respect Senator Robb for his contribution. Taking all the statements into account, one could say that this Bill is good, that [812] it will substitute for a new idea and a new initiative on Northern Ireland to resolve the horrendous problem there. The Bill was on the Order Paper; it was dealt with in Dáil Éireann last week and we saw how much of a bearing it had on the continuing atrocities in Northern Ireland. What happened last week has been unparalleled for many years. In any of the comments made in the national media there was not one saying that the Members of Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann were bringing in legislation which would show new openness and help resolve the problem. It has no bearing on Northern Ireland.

I heard Senator Michael Higgins speak on humanism a few moments ago. He compounded humanism with traditionalism. I had my notes written before he said that this Bill will be the answer to many of our problems. I remember when traditionalism and humanism were indefinable. I remember when one could leave one's bicycle or car unlocked and when old people living alone would be visited not once but many times by their neighbours. I remember a time when raising a large family was a great effort and a great responsibility. It still is. The humanism that was attached to it then is gone now. When a family was in difficulty through the loss of a father or mother the community gathered together and helped the family. That is what I call humanism and traditionalism. I am sorry to say that does not prevail today.

Our old people are being attacked in the most unscrupulous way at different hours of the day and night. One could not dare to leave one's car unlocked in many of our streets and towns. Rearing a family in excess of four or five children has become a very lonely and difficult task for many people in the community. This Bill will resolve all this; our youth will be re-educated; illegitimacy will vanish — if one were to listen to what Senator Higgins said. We know for a fact that illegitimacy will not vanish. I can see the adoption boards becoming null and void. Young girls will not have any problems [813] as a result of this legislation. Let us review the situation this time next year and see what has happened.

Anybody who tries to preach such optimism is far removed from reality. There is no question or doubt that we will be vandalised in this city and in other cities throughout the next 12 months and, in all probability, it will get worse.

In my ways, working, ideals and efforts in public life, some of which were good and some not so good, I never reached the perfection I would have wished for. I am voting against this Bill because, as a legislator, the Republic comes first. Many people have played their part in the foundation of the State, sometimes by error and sometimes by trial and error and many times by great foresight and ingenuity. They came from all spectrums of the political divide. They gave us a nice island and a nice Republic, a place to be proud of, no matter how we decry it ourselves. They gave us a great democratic system. Many believe it could be much better. We play it through the political process of joining political parties without coercion. I do not think there is a man or women in political life today who was coerced into any political party. Political parties have the right to make their own democratic decisions and I shall always cherish that right. If we do not have that political system, what is the next best one? It may be slow at times but it has built a Republic for us and a place of which we can be proud. We try to make it better. This Republic is good enough for me. Minorities have a right to express their opinion as have majorities. I have a right to express my opinion. Every religious sect has a right to express its opinion. I have not seen any coercion in this debate other than some scrappy headlines, always with a question mark, suggesting that there is. I heard Senator Higgins quote the headlines on that issue but when one reads the meat of the reports one could not see the coercion. I believe in this Republic and I believe in my rights within the Republic. For the simple reasons that I have outlined, I believe that I have the democratic right to vote against this Bill.

[814]Mr. McGonagle: Information on Stephen McGonagle  Zoom on Stephen McGonagle  I should take up the Northern Ireland issue quickly before speaking about the Bill. I have a word of warning for the people who are looking at Northern Ireland, its problems and the possibility of finding some way forward and some solutions in legislation: do not do it. You must legislate for the democratic values that our people hold, to satisfy human rights standards and to satisfy liberal conduct, full stop — not necessarily and not specifically to satisfy the North of Ireland because if you try to navigate that road you will probably flounder. If you were to introduce all the legislation that the Northern Ireland sectarian loyalist leaders want, you still would not have consent. That is the reality. It is a dubious and questionable road. It is as dubious as the phraseology used in the consent written into the 1973 Act of Northern Ireland.

Therefore the legislation should reflect what the Irish people want. Dr. Paisley and his ilk, the Smyths and all the clergy and politicians tell us we are priest-ridden. I ask, how can the Reverend Smyth of the Orange Order, the McCreas and Paisleys tell us that we are priest-ridden when they are in politics? Who is priest-ridden? Do they tell us that the Catholic Church has too much influence in the Republic? In this case the answer is “no”. If Catholic clerics use their influence, that is different. They probably did in this case and they got their answer. They got the answer from the Government who said “We are the legislators. We legislate for the common good and take everything into consideration — the kind of society that we are trying to govern for — and we are operating in that specific area. We are not operating in the area of moral judgment.

I suspect when Dr. Paisley saw the result, 83 to 80, despite all the talk, emotion and abuse, he was sorry. Dr. Paisley would have preferred to have seen the Government defeated because he could say: “Did we not tell you so for years. Have we not told you?” He can say that many Catholic clergymen tried to use their influence too. That is true. Is he saying that he does not use his Protestant [815] influence on his congregation or that the Smyths of the Orange Order and the McCreas and all the other clergymen do not do so? Is that what he is saying?

We are very tough people in the North and we use rough words some times and that reminds me of the kettle calling black arse to the pot, with respect to the Chair. We must treat very delicately the question of legislation designed to attract the Northern Ireland people. I have this message about framing legislation which might suit those in Northern Ireland and those in the Republic: there is only one place that can be done and it is inside an Irish Parliament, set up on a 32 county basis with the Northern Protestants taking their rightful place in it. We will never get perfect legislation for them. What we should be saying is: “Why do you not play your part and come here and help us to frame the legislation that you think is democratic and non-discriminatory?” Why do you not help us? Why did you not sit with us in Dáil Éireann, Armagh, Belfast or wherever?” That is the warning and that is the message. They can come with us and help us. We can use their vigour and skill in the Republic. They are hardworking, industrious people. They are good people. We did not deserve what is happening in the North at the moment. This is not republicanism. It is republicanism gone mad. It is not Wolfe Tone-ism in any case.

I compliment the Minister for introducing this minimal amendment to the 1979 Act. It is a mini-step forward, contrary to press statements and television coverage. The Minister had courage — there is no doubt about that—but he was not bringing in earth-shaking legislation. The Opposition were right to say the Bill should have been more comprehensive. I look forward to the day when there is real, comprehensive family planning legislation. The Opposition were not right to oppose the Bill. If too much time and too many words have been used about this minimal legislation, then some of the blame must attach to the Opposition. I am sorry to say that. I wondered at the powerful emotional responses, the [816] abusive exercises and the downright misinterpretation of this Bill in the newspapers and on television. This Bill should have gone through without the accompanying hell, thunder, bluestone and damnation, as if we were charting a road to hell and beyond.

Debate is good — Senator Killilea said this — providing it is carried on rationally. This debate was not carried on rationally. Europeans must wonder what kind of people we are, and what kind of priorities we have. We have our fair share of pseudo-moralists and knockers. They are not always right. Public debate, to retain any value that is worthwhile, must be rational. The effect must be seen to enrich the body politic. It must satisfy democratic standards and human rights.

One of the arguments made against the Bill was that there was no demand for it. That is a lie. We imported 30 million condoms since November 1980. Is that not indicative of a demand and a demand satisfied? That figure does not include personal importation. Are we hypocrites? There is a measure of hypocrisy about saying there is no demand. A survey was carried out by the Health Education Bureau and this showed conclusively — if these surveys show anything — that there was a demand.

Another objection to the Bill was that we have too many other problems and that the time would be far better spent talking about unemployment. If Fianna Fáil come up with a solution that works I will break ranks and vote for them. I know damn well I will not have to do that. That is more hypocrisy. Of course, we talk about unemployment and of course we know there will be no solution at the end of the day in the foreseeable future. All we can hope to do is to legislate to get things moving. Unemployment is a European problem. World recession and oil prices have combined to produce this situation in Ireland.

There is no instant solution and there is no point in mesmerising anybody by saying that we should be talking about unemployment and youth problems instead of condoms. There is a time for everything. The fact that this measure is [817] going through and the time that is spent on it, wherever the blame lies, does not implicitly exclude discussion of all other measures, as was implied in the complaint about discussing this issue rather than other matters. This debate does not exclude discussion on other matters. Other matters are being discussed: State planning, private enterprise, the national corporation board and so on. These are all underway.

I should like to remind the Seanad, the press, pressure groups and others that it is the responsibility of the Government to bring in legislation, as required from time to time, in the interests of the common good. The legislation should satisfy democratic and human rights considerations and values.

Minimal as the proposed legislation is, it has assumed some importance in the context of Church-State relations. Both institutions have responsibilities in somewhat different areas. It is true to observe that the demarcation lines became blurred now and again. Catholic teaching on the matter of artificial birth control is that it is immoral to practise it inside marriage and to have sexual activity outside of marriage. I do not know where all the misinterpretation comes from. Members of the Catholic faith, as I am, volunteer to follow the rules of that institution. We know the rules. The legislators are not dealing with morality. This is the difference. The legislators are saying that it is a question for the individual but that the legislators have to legislate for the common good. In the context of the kind of society in which we live, this is what they must do. The bishops' statement in 1976 clarified the issue when they said that it is not the official view of the Catholic Church to have their doctrine or official language of the faith imposed on people who are not of their faith. That was a collective statement, not one made by an individual Bishop. This was reiterated at the New Ireland Forum: it was made plain that the Bishops did not want a confessional State. The legislators have to legislate for the common good and must not adopt the stance that they are moral judges.

[818] Individuals will have to consider this matter for themselves. Those concerned are the people involved in youth education — adults, teachers, parents, those involved in the whole educational system, especially in the areas of religious knowledge. This is what is involved. I have stated what the Bishops have said. I have tried to explain that the legislators must legislate for the common good. All that is being done is ensuring that condoms are available in controlled centres for people over the age of 18 years and not in doctors' surgeries.

People have stated that they were satisfied with the 1979 Act. I was not satisfied because a doctor was made a moral judge. Doctors have said that they simply handed out condoms to whoever asked for them. Did they give them to single people? We do not know. Did they give them to married people? Yes. In all probability they gave them to everybody. Did they give them on a family planning basis? Nonsense. Was a doctor going to tell a married couple that they were not going to get contraceptives? Rubbish. Of course, he gave them out to all married people and he did not act as a moral judge. The doctor knew that if they were Catholics they were not allowed to use condoms inside marriage, on moral grounds. He refused to become a moral judge. This is where the Church teaching and the doctor's dilemma made itself felt. This has to be brought out. Was the doctor then aiding and abetting immorality according to the Church's teaching, especially if he was a Catholic? Under the 1979 Act the onus was on the doctor to hand out condoms. Perhaps he handed them out to single people. This is the demarcation between the Church's teaching and legislators bringing in legislation. The question can be blurred and misinterpreted unconsciously but sometimes the misinterpretation is deliberate. The moment deliberate misinterpretation is used, this sensitive area becomes a political football in the Republic. This is not right in anybody's language.

I commend the Minister for his courage, his forthrightness and his enhanced [819] status in standing up to all that was hurled at him.

Mr. Ellis: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  It is only fair that no-one should be in a position to say to us later that we did not express our views one way or the other. As legislators we are duty bound to express our beliefs and the feelings of the people whom we represent in the House.

The Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979 has served the purpose for which it was introduced. It would have served us in the years ahead. I am not saying this from a political point of view. The vast majority of people do not want any change in the 1979 Act. That Act was introduced for health reasons.

What purpose does this Bill serve? The people do not want it. Some very small section of the community feel the Act should be changed. No legislation passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas without a small minority believing that it should not have been introduced.

It is important that other problems which are facing us should be dealt with before this. I refer to the problems that are facing the health service in general, the problems of the people who have lost their medical cards and the problems of the people who are on waiting lists for hospital treatment. These are much more urgent problems. The people who want contraceptives, irrespective of the law, will get them. Everybody in the House agrees with this.

On the question of an age limit being introduced, are we going to have people going into chemists' shops and producing their birth certificates? This is what is involved here.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  If Senator Ellis thinks this is not so important why is he taking up our time talking about it?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Senator Ellis is entitled to speak.

Mr. Ellis: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  I am glad Senator Ryan is present to listen to me because we know he is a man who likes to air his point of view. I hope that he will listen to my [820] point of view. Some of the media coverage given to this Bill was totally wrong. We saw different sections attack each other publicly. It is time we retained the right of free speech and the right of any section to express their views to the general public. I am referring to attacks that were made from all sides because it is time—I am sure everybody is in agreement with me—that people outside were allowed to express their views without being told that they were either pro or anti-Church or one side or the other. Legislators are also entitled to cast their votes in whatever way they feel the people whom they represent would want them to cast them.

I was pleased to hear Senator McGonagle speak with regard to the Northern Ireland interpretation of this Bill and to hear him invite the Unionists of Northern Ireland to come here, sit in these Houses and express their point of view. If they want to do that, I have no doubt the people in the South will be prepared to listen to them without attacking them or becoming aggressive towards them. Let us be fair about it, we are all Irishmen and we are entitled to have this nation as one where everybody's interests are served by the one Government and where minorities will be safeguarded as the majority are safeguarded. For too long our country has been divided. Let us not use legislation to divide it further, as certain people seem inclined to do in the case of this Bill. I hope that when the votes are cast people will not say that the votes were either pro or anti-Church or pro or anti-Republic. We all want to have the country united. Let us have common laws. If the people in Northern Ireland think that the laws that are being passed here are not suitable for them, let them express their views here or in public, and not from the pulpits of their churches. There is no need for amendment of the 1979 Act and I will cast my vote to that effect, not from a political point of view. I believe the people do not want any change in the legislation. The existing legislation is adequate.

Mr. FitzGerald: Information on Alexis J.G. Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis J.G. Fitzgerald  I would like to start my [821] contribution on this family planning Bill by congratulating in particular Senator Michael Higgins on his tremendous contribution to the debate today. It is the best contribution I have heard in this House in my relatively short time as a Member, full of cut and thrust. It represented the real Ireland rather than the camouflaged Ireland that we have been hearing about from other speakers and notables both in this House and elsewhere.

I would like to deal first with the contributions that have been coming from the other side of the House which start by telling us that there is no demand for the Bill.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  We are not all the same over here.

Mr. FitzGerald: Information on Alexis J.G. Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis J.G. Fitzgerald  I appreciate that. The Senator has made that clear on many occasions. If they could not contain Deputy O'Malley in the Fianna Fáil Party, I do not for a moment believe that Senator Ryan could be contained there. Perhaps that is a comment I should not have made. We frequently hear from the Opposition that there is no demand for the Bill. That is extraordinary. Either they are far into representing old Ireland and forgetting about modern Ireland and what the young people require, or they simply do not prepare themselves for a debate of this kind. They are not in touch with the young people. They certainly do not listen to the evidence.

The Minister for Health in this House on Second Reading, mentioned that in a poll of some 700 adults aged between 18 and 50 years, 50 per cent were dissatisfied with the existing legislation due to restrictions on the availability of contraceptives, 64 per cent thought that condoms should be available without a doctor's prescription, doctors, health board clinics and family planning clinics were seen as acceptable outlets for contraceptives in addition to chemists' shops, and 89 per cent supported the establishment of family planning clinics by health boards. I find it very difficult to understand how people can come into this House when [822] evidence of that kind is available and claim that there is no demand for the Bill. The demand is also shown in the fact that since 1980 some 30 million contraceptives have been imported. I would like to put finality to that argument, to remove it as far from the House as I possibly can. It is complete nonsense.

Senator Ellis spoke about the importance of free speech. We know of the recent occurrences in his party relating to the speech of one of their former members to whom the Whip no longer applied. When that Deputy decided to abstain on a Bill, the party decided in their own fashion to expel him from membership. The Whip was withdrawn from him by his own party. When he made a contribution in the other House, that contribution, embarrassing as it was to the Fianna Fáil Party, was enough to have him expelled from the party. That action would seem to be contrary to the principle of free speech.

Senator Michael Higgins spoke of the librarian in County Mayo. This Bill will be seen in the future as a very historic step, as a milestone in the political maturity of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Up to now the prestige of these Houses, their legitimacy almost, and their rights in dealing with certain matters have been very much questioned by persons outside. Thousands of the electorate regard these Houses as being removed from the issues of the day, as not being mature enough to handle the sensitive issues concerning public and private morality, as being unable to cope with these matters and not showing ourselves to be politically mature. This measure, some 60 years or so after the State has been established, is a major step forward in the maturity of the Oireachtas, and it will be interpreted as such historically in future.

As has been clearly demonstrated on earlier occasions, the Bill came into effect because of a commitment made by the Fine Gael and Labour Parties when they came into Government on this occasion that a review of the operation of the existing family planning legislation with a view to providing full family planning advice and facilities in all cases was [823] needed. The Bill was introduced for very solid reasons relating to the demand for facilities of this kind. Regarding the question posed by Senator Ellis and many others as to the demand for this measure, one might ask how can there be a demand. This supports my argument in relation to the polls that have been taken. How can such a demand arise when contraceptives, especially in the urban areas, in Dublin city, Limerick, Galway and other places, are available in abundance? That is not to say that there are not gaps in the service and that there are not major reasons for changing the legislation.

It is perfectly clear that this is a reasonable measure. What is being decided is that the general practitioner is no longer a necessary part of issuing non-medical contraceptives. It is being decided that those of 18 years of age are mature, whether married or otherwise and for that reason we will provide them with contraceptives as we provided them with the franchise. As we said in relation to a release from the Department of Justice recently in regard to the Age of Majority Act, this will make a practical difference for people between 18 and 21 years of age, and under 18 if married, who want to enter into hire purchase agreements, buy a house, obtain a mortgage and who generally could not independently do so because they had not the legal status of an adult. When a person reaches the age of majority and acquires the legal status of an adult that person has the full capacity to enter into such agreements and to mortgage property and can take or defend a legal action without the intervention of a third party. As well as acquiring the legal capacity of an adult he or she also becomes subject to legal obligations which can be enforced. For example, if he or she borrows money, takes out a mortgage or enters into a contract to buy, lease or sell property, he or she is legally obliged to repay the money or to complete the contract or may be sued and is liable to be compelled by the court to fulfil the obligations.

How can this House pass a Bill in relation to the eligibility of 18 year olds to [824] cast a vote in an election or how can we pass an Age of Majority Act which deals with possession of property and the undertaking of commitments at the age of 18, and maintain that people aged 18 are not mature enough—and that is the implication of those who oppose this Bill —whether they are married or otherwise, to decide for themselves that they do or do not want to provide themselves with contraceptives? This Bill is essentially about choice. It is about giving the adult population and even the young adult population a choice that is open to the people in every European country, which is required here in a much more expressed fashion, and which the 1979 Act does not provide. We are very necessarily updating the law dealing with difficulties that were patently obvious when the law was passed in 1979 and should have been faced then. We are facing them now. That doctors should be involved in prescribing non-medical contraceptives is nonsense, and difficulties arise in some parts of the country in the provision of non-medical contraceptives. We have widened the availability of distribution channels in areas where contraceptives have not been readily available.

I wonder about the territory in which the Opposition have found themselves in the debate both in the other House and here. They stand for a Bill which they believe answers everything in relation to good family planning practices. They passed a Bill in 1979 concerning bona fide family planning. I have yet to be told what that stands for, and quite a number of people are better qualified than I to give an interpretation of bona fide family planning. The result of the 1979 Act has been a very free availability of contraceptives in many parts of the country, much freer than this Bill would tend to provide for. Access to contraceptives has been much easier since the Minister for Health in 1979 introduced his Bill than will be the case when this Bill is passed. This is not legislation developed out of an attempt to create a sense of security for some who oppose and in the other direction for those who are in favour. The Bill deals whole-square with the issue.

[825] I do not understand the hysterical reaction to the Bill. I do not understand why I have been met at the gates of these Houses on a number of occasions in the last week or ten days by a lady who told me that if this Bill was passed the next thing for Ireland would be a nuclear holocaust. This lady is well known. She is photographed in the media regularly. She bears a cross and her cross is not necessarily totally understood. Many people will oppose this Bill and write letters about it. A number of them have talked to me. It is amazing how many of them do not realise that we had a family planning Act in 1979. How many of them are ignorant of the fact that the party who purport to oppose this Bill introduced a Bill in 1979 that, as was patently obvious at the time, was an unsuitable Bill, that did not come clean with the electorate and that now has to be amended in the fashion that we are amending it?

I said that this Bill indicates a maturing of the Oireachtas, of our system and of our legislative process. Some of the people who write and telephone Members about the Bill and people who are not on an even keel, represent a group who have caused great distress and misunderstanding and do not help to attain the long term unification of the country. If would be statesmanlike of us all here in these Houses to root out all of those loveless religious prejudices that have been obvious in recent weeks and which I believe come from a significant minority. We must root out that kind of prejudice and make a very clear decision to pave the way for a more frank exposition of Christian principles rather than, as so often happens, falling down because of the kind of opposition and the way it is exposed which brings great discredit on us all. Why was the Bill opposed? Some people have said that it was opposed for opportunistic reasons, that the other side of the House decided that it would be the most suitable political tack for them. It is very strange, when one thinks of the principle of free speech, how that decision could have been taken, as is evident it was, before the party in question had a chance of meeting to discuss it. The Bill [826] was published and there was an immediate stance of opposition to it from a party who could be guilty over a period of time of turning themselves into a gerontocracy.

I do not mean that that represents the entire Fianna Fáil Party. There are many young and thinking people in Fianna Fáil. My concern is that the dominant control of the party is by a group of relatively old men who are dragging this Parliament, their own party and the views of young Ireland into being old in their attitude and older still in their perception. They may, in the fall out of this Bill, consider that an unsuitable way of conducting themselves. It is reasonable to ask that in the foreseeable future that party might begin to co-operate with reasonable measures of this kind in the private or public morality area and in due time, when we are in a position to respond, we can respond to measures of a reasonable kind that would require co-operation from our side of the House. That is the way a mature parliament should operate. It should not operate on the basis of crass opportunism, which is the predominant feature of the Opposition on this Bill.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  When this Bill was debated in the Dáil two weeks ago, one Deputy concluding his speech said that as a Republican he could not oppose the Bill. I consider myself a Republican, too, and I will vote against the Bill but not because I am a Republican. I cannot understand why the word “Republican” has been mentioned in both Houses by people from both sides of the House. It is the same as in the North. The word “Republican” has been abused by a number of Oireachtas Members in both Houses. It is not because I have Republican views that I am voting against the Bill but because the Bill is in conflict with the teachings of the Church and it is morally wrong. My upbringing and my conscience tell me that it is wrong. Statistics, experience and well-documented sociological patterns from other countries indicate that the availability of contraceptives does not bring about the desired effect of reducing unwanted pregnancies or abortion [827] amongst teenagers and the unmarried.

We have been told that this Bill if passed will help to reduce the number of abortions. Have we any proof of that? I am sure all Senators received a circular last week from the Children's Protection Society from which I quote:

The Minister has said that contraception will reduce abortion.

— the British Minister —

This has happened nowhere — the Minister's supporters quote ripples in statistics from very high abortion countries. Thus, the Soviet Union, pioneer in contraception, now has the world's highest abortion rate — 6 per woman. Dr. Judith Bury, who sells contraception to singles in Britain, and who is an author on birth control said in 1981: “The overwhelming evidence is that, contrary to what you might think, the availability of contraception leads to an increase in the abortion rate.” In 1980, Dr. Gerard Vaughan, then British Minister for Health, was asked why contraception had not reduced abortion. His face registered despair. “It hasn't worked, has it?”

It had not worked in Britain, but will it work here? The Bill is irresponsible in that it makes available only the most ineffective methods of contraception. The Minister will find before long that if he is logical he will have to make all forms of contraception available to single people including teenagers. The age limit is a red herring and the Minister must realise that it is unworkable. It has proved to be so in the case of alcohol consumption, cinema attendance and anything else to which it has been applied. It seems, therefore, that our Government are passing this legislation and are quite happy to make contraceptives available to young children despite the disastrous results of such politics in other countries.

This Bill is anti-constitutional. It is a direct attack on the family and in no way complies with the interpretation of the [828] Constitution in the Magee case. Why the Title of the Bill should include “Family Planning” I do not understand because it has nothing to do with family planning. It is interfering with family planning.

In the minds of many young people fornication will now be seen as permissible because what is legal is gradually assumed to be right. I have heard it said in this House and outside that if this Bill is not passed we will be set back 50 years in finding a solution to the problem of the North. I have great respect for the people here from the North who have expressed their views and opinions and I am sorry that I must differ from them as regards this Bill. Whether we pass the Bill or not, it will have no effect whatsoever on the Unionists of the North. It is over 60 years since the Border was established and during that time we have made a great effort to be agreeable to the Unionists and they have only laughed at us. If we were to give up our Catholic religion, and become members of the Unionist state, we would still have a Border. I am convinced that those people have a policy of “not an inch, no surrender.”

We are not passing this Bill just to please those people but the contrary allegation has been made in this House. Members have alleged that if the Bill is not passed we will be set back 60 years in our quest for unity. If the Bill is passed, how many years forward will it bring us? Not even one day. I could not agree with those who say that we must have a permissive society if we seek unity with the North. The attitude is that if they have contraceptives we must have them; if they have divorce we must have divorce. What greater insult could we offer to the people of Northern Ireland than to brand them with permissiveness? Everyone knows that society in Northern Ireland, where contraceptives are freely available, leaves much to be desired. Are we going to destroy our society to be on a par with them because, as some politicians say, we want to help unite the North and South of Ireland?

Divorce, contraception and the possibility of abortion will never be issues in [829] the problem of the North. They tell us that our teenagers and schoolgoing children must have contraceptives simply because they say it will be one step towards helping the Northern situation. We should be endeavouring to raise the moral standards of young people in the North as well as in the South, instead of trying to pull them down in the South. We should teach them the value of the family and human life, and the danger of taking human life. The destruction of human life cannot contribute to peace and stability.

Is any Senator seriously suggesting that if this Bill is passed and contraceptives are freely available to teenagers and school children we will be any nearer to solving that problem in the North? Some politicians answer yes; I say, never. It is very wrong to associate good living, honorable people in the North, many of whom differ from us in religion, with permissiveness. Many such people condemn the free availability of contraceptives. There are no more loyal family people than the Protestants of the North. They love and care for their families. I do not know why they should be used as a stepping stone to permissiveness. These people deeply appreciate their traditional values. That is why I ask is this House going to sell out the real moral values of young boys and girls and single people?

Senator Bulbulia last week mentioned that the lady Members of the Fianna Fáil Party in the Dáil were not allowed to speak on this Bill. That is far from the truth because we all know what happened. The Bill was rushed into the House by the Government and our party had to agree to a certain time limit. At one stage the Government wanted to get it through in one day. We made quite sure that when the Bill came to this House that would not happen. Every person who wanted to speak from our side of the House was allowed to do so. If certain people on the other side of the House had their way that would not have happened because the Government wanted to rush the Bill through last week. If the Bill had been allowed the proper length of time in the Dáil all Members of our party could [830] have taken part in the debate.

The night the Bill was passed in the other House, the Taoiseach, in a television interview, described it as a victory for the Government over the pressure groups, in other words a victory for the Government over the Catholic Church. What a statement to make about a country such as ours. The only other countries in which such a statement has been made in recent times are the Iron Curtain countries, such as Russia, Poland and the Balkan States. Even in those countries the communist governments have not succeeded in silencing the Church. Let us hope that what has not succeeded in Iron Curtain countries does not succeed here.

Mr. Durcan: Information on Patrick Durcan  Zoom on Patrick Durcan  The only group in this country who tried to pressure anybody are the Fianna Fáil Party.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Senator Ryan, without interruptions.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  I did not hear what the Senator said.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  It is as well.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  The Church did not act as a pressure group. It merely pointed out to the Government and to the Oireachtas that the sale of contraceptives to all and sundry was against the teaching of the Church and left it to individuals to abide by their consciences. The Church has always taken an interest in the laws of the State but this is the first time I have heard an objection from any Irish Government.

Senator O'Leary spoke here last week. He went so far as to say that it was wrong for the Hierarchy to align themselves with any political party. He as much as said that the Hierarchy are now aligned with the Fianna Fáil Party. I do not agree with that at all. This is the first time we have had objections, especially from the Fine Gael people, to Bishops speaking their minds. Strangely enough, it happened often before in this country and I [831] never heard a Fine Gael person talk about it.

Senator Killilea spoke about people being excommunicated. That happened in 1922-23 when the Church excommunicated the Republicans.

Mr. Durcan: Information on Patrick Durcan  Zoom on Patrick Durcan  That only happened to Deputy O'Malley. He was excommunicated.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  I will come to Deputy O'Malley later. Let the Senator not jump the gun. Years later when I was told about that I thought it was very wrong of the Church but the Church felt it had to do it. It did not stop at the civil war. I can remember the thirties; I can remember when Fianna Fáil were elected to power in 1932. Even after they were elected as a Government we read pastoral letters from Bishops denouncing the Fianna Fáil Government. I remember one man who described the great Republican, Wolfe Tone, as cut-throat Tone. That appeared in our papers. Did the Fine Gael people of that day interfere? Did they tell the Bishops it was wrong to say this about the Fianna Fáil Party? The Fianna Fáil Party did not criticise the Bishops for saying it. You could go on for years afterwards. We had the Blueshirts.

Mr. Durcan: Information on Patrick Durcan  Zoom on Patrick Durcan  They arrested General Eoin O'Duffy in my town.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Senator Ryan, on the Bill.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  It is a pity the Senator had to be prompted by the Minister about that.

Mr. Durcan: Information on Patrick Durcan  Zoom on Patrick Durcan  I was not prompted.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  The Minister's people sat at this side of the table at that time.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on John F. Donnellan  Zoom on John F. Donnellan  I was not born then.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  Some of the Minister's family were there.

[832]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  It might be better if the Senator kept to the Bill.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  With all due respect to the Cathaoirleach, I am only replying to things that have been said over the last three days about my party. I want to stop that.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I did my best.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  I know. People speak about pressure groups. One would imagine that all the pressure groups were on the one side, that they were all against the Bill. I know there were as many pressure groups on the other side. Senator Ferris spoke about a women's group in Clonmel who had got about 1,300 signatures. We know the reason why a pressure group were suddenly set up in Clonmel. It seemed at one time as if South Tipperary was one constituency where the four Deputies would vote against the Bill. So, something had to be done. A lot of pressure was brought on the two Deputies from Fine Gael and Labour. In spite of all the pressure brought on Deputy Seán Treacy — he told me about the pressure and the threatening letters he got — he kept to the view he thought was correct. When the Taoiseach talks about a victory over pressure groups he should think of the pressure groups that were on his side. There were quite a few of them. There is no doubt that a few of those pressure groups compelled a few Deputies to vote with us. I am convinced that if all the Fine Gael Deputies were left to themselves there would be at least 20 of them who would have voted against this Bill.

We heard rumblings about the Bill coming in but nobody expected it so suddenly. An attempt was made to rush it through the Dáil. An attempt was made in this House but it did not succeed. I hope that we do not have a motion for an early signature of the Bill when passed.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  The debate is open-ended by agreement.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  A number of days have [833] been spent discussing the Bill here — I will not say they were wasted — and also in the other House but there is a lot more important legislation that we should be talking about now. In the Dáil at the moment there is a Bill going through giving votes to disabled persons and others. Senator Ferris asked at the council meeting on Monday that the register would not be printed until that Bill went through. The register of voters has to be printed by 15 April. So it would have been more appropriate if they had brought in that Bill a month ago so that we could be discussing it now instead of the Bill we are discussing.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  We are discussing the family planning Bill and I would like the Senator to keep to it.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  There are many other matters to discuss. There are 250,000 people unemployed and I am quite sure that they are much more interested in getting jobs than they are in talking about contraceptives. We had one of the most important Bills for many years, the Criminal Justice Bill. There was no rush whatsoever as far as the Government were concerned about that Bill. We have the crazy situation in Dublin where law and order has completely broken down, through no fault of the Garda Síochána of course. At least 50 cars per night are being stolen in Dublin. What is being done about this? We were asked to come here two weeks ago to pass a very important Bill. If the Minister asked us tomorrow to come here to pass a Bill that would prevent what is happening in Dublin every night I am sure we would all come and pass it straightaway. Nothing is happening about this situation. There is a drug problem in Dublin and very little is being done about it, either.

By bringing in this Bill now the Government are distracting the minds of people from the budget and other problems of that kind. Since the Bill was introduced the newspapers and the news on television and radio talk about nothing [834] but the family planning Bill. The Minister for Health has a lot more problems on his plate at the moment than a contraceptive Bill. We know that severe cuts have been made in all the health boards and that one of them is in danger of being abolished. We know a number of new hospitals throughout the country cannot be opened because there is no money provided to staff them. A few years ago if we were told about all the health cuts and what would happen at the hands of a Labour Minister we would not have believed it.

I want to refer to remarks passed by Senator Loughrey attacking the Fianna Fáil Party in particular our Leader. He went on to say that we just had to vote against the Bill and that it was not even discussed by us at party meetings. That is not true. The Bill was received by our Front Bench at very short notice. They discussed it and then put it before the party. We had a long discussion. Quite a number of people were in favour of contraceptives. In the end it was decided by a majority that we would oppose the Bill. The Senator referred to 1970 and the arms trial. He must have been short of something to say when he had to bring that into it. The arms trial has nothing whatsoever to do with this Bill.

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  In fairness to the Chair, he did his best to stop that.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  Senator FitzGerald seemed to be very worried about the expulsion of Deputy O'Malley from the party. He did not mention, of course, that Deputy Seán Treacy is meeting a similar fate at the hands of the Labour Party.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  On a point of order, I did not say a word about the expulsion of Deputy O'Malley.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  I did not say the Senator did.

[835]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  He said “Senator FitzGerald.”

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  I do not know what rules they have in Fine Gael but we have our rules and people should leave us to mind our own business. We have an expulsion rule. I do not know if Fine Gael have such a rule.

Mr. Durcan: Information on Patrick Durcan  Zoom on Patrick Durcan  The Senator's party talk about their business publicly. We keep ours to ourselves.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  I do not know if Fine Gael have a rule of expulsion but we know that they have a rule where they send fellows to Coventry. Senator FitzGerald might know more about that than I do. Senator FitzGerald talked about all the Bills we are passing for the benefit of youth at the moment, the Age of Majority Bill and so on. He could not understand why we were not opposed to those Bills when we were opposed to this one. We were not opposed to those other Bills because we know their benefits for young people. There is a big difference between certain matters in the Age of Majority Bill and the family planning Bill. We are all in favour of helping youth in every way possible but we will not help them as far as this Bill is concerned.

I was not in the House when Senator Ross spoke but I listened to him from afar. He made an onslaught on the Fianna Fáil Party. I do not know why he did. Only for the fact that I recognised his Oxford accent I would have thought Dr. Paisley was speaking. The Bill has already been passed by the Dáil and I know it will be passed here tonight. I regret the passing of the Bill. I sincerely hope that we do not regret its passing in years to come.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Senator Rogers.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  On a point of order, could I inquire what way the Chair is ordering the list of speakers because I have being sitting here for two days? The last day when we adjourned I was ready to move the Adjournment but instead [836] Senator Lanigan did. I certainly did not give way to anyone. I have been out of the House for only half an hour this afternoon.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  There have been five Government speakers and I thought it right at this stage to call Senator Rogers.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  During my last hour in the Chair I called Senator McDonald over to show him where I and the Cathaoirleach had his name. I had Senator McDonald on that list before his colleague Senator FitzGerald. Senator FitzGerald came to the Chair and indicated to me that the Senators had agreed between them to allow him to go before Senator McDonald. He indicated again to me later that both Senators had allowed Senator McGonagle to take a Fine Gael Member's place. I just want to clear with Senator McDonald, that there was no question of either the Cathaoirleach or myself as Leas-Chathaoirleach downing him on any list. That is not my form. I want to clear what happened. If there is a misunderstanding the Senator should talk to his colleague, Senator FitzGerald.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I was on the list last Thursday after Senator O'Leary.

Mrs. Rogers: Information on Brid Rodgers  Zoom on Brid Rodgers  It is clear to me that there has been general agreement among the legislators of all parties in recent years that the 1979 family planning Act is unsatisfactory and needs to be amended in order to deal with some of the existing anomalies. The present situation, as I understand it, is that non-medical contraceptives are easily available in some areas and not in others. That, to me appears unfair. It places doctors in the invidious position of being moral arbiters, or deciding what is or is not bona fide family planning. Worse still, it obliges married couples to get permission from their doctors on a matter which is and should remain something entirely their own private and personal decision, based on their own consciences and their own moral beliefs.

[837] As the situation is, contraceptives are freely available to 18 year olds, or perhaps to under 18 years olds in places like UCD and Trinity College, where they can be obtained freely. There is no age limit there. They are available to those who live, for instance, in Border areas. They have only to nip across the Border. If one lives in Pettigo, County Donegal, one has only to go to the other end of town. That is not to say that the whole student population of Ireland or, indeed, all the inhabitants in the Border areas are flocking to avail of those contraceptive devices. It is clearly a matter of choice for them. Nobody is obliged to buy contraceptives. The fact is that some do and others do not.

Some Catholics accept totally and abide by the Church's teaching, whether it is on contraceptives, extra-marital sex, pre-marital sex or whatever. Some Catholics do not accept it. They reject it. Protestant teaching on extra-marital sex is the same as Catholic teaching. Again, some members of that Church accept it and some reject it. That is the reality. It is the duty of the Churches to preach the ideal. It is the duty of the legislators to deal with what is the real world and to legislate for it. That is the difference between the role of the Church and the role of the State. Therefore, it is not for legislators to make laws which attempt to force people to abide by the moral standards of any particular Church. They must legislate for the needs of all the people, for the situation as it is and not as indeed we might wish it to be, or worse still, as we might wish to pretend it is.

In my view the amendment to the family planning Act is an honest and sincere attempt to deal with a situation which at present is not honest, satisfactory or fair. It will eliminate the present irregularities and it will impose what I see as enforceable regulations on the sale of non-medical contraceptives. It still will not oblige anyone to depart from the moral teaching of their Church or indeed to act against their own personal consciences. That is the reality.

Concern has been expressed about the possible abuse of the law. I do not think [838] that we can rule out abuse of any law. Abuses arise no matter how much one tries to tighten things up. Those are things that can be dealt with by further amendment if they are becoming a problem. At least the amendment which is now proposed will allow those abuses to be dealt with. It is infinitely better than the present situation where the law is not merely being abused but is openly and systematically flouted.

The only argument that I have heard against the proposed amendment is the argument which has been voiced by a number of people of the dire consequences for our country if this legislation is passed. I am a little disappointed to note that some people talking about our country seem to be talking about the 26 counties. I would have hoped that our country is the 32 counties of Ireland. That is how I see it. There have been suggestions that it will open the flood gates to sexual immorality and licentiousness. That is what we are told. Such statements might well have caused people to panic into a strong reaction, demonstrations and so on, but they did not, as far as I can see.

The only thing that I can deduce from that is that the ordinary people of Ireland have much more faith in themselves, their young people and in the strength of their own convictions than some of the legislators have. If the moral fibre of the people of this part of Ireland is so weak that they have to be restrained from sexual depravity by the non-availability of artificial contraceptives then the Churches have failed and parents and educators have failed. The cherished values no longer exist and no amount of legislation will change that or make it slightly different.

People cannot be legislated into being moral. One of the most distressing aspects of the debate has been the implication that young people in this part of the country are so weak willed and so inclined towards promiscuity that they will rush head long towards sexual depravity once the choice of contraceptives [839] is open to them. That suggestion is grossly insulting to our young people.

This House recently debated the report of the National Youth Policy Committee. It is clear from the surveys which were referred to in it that our young people have a very commendable set of priorities. High among them are world peace and a more equal distribution of wealth. They also express a belief in and a reliance on the family unit. It seems they have in some areas, particularly in the area of the belief in and reliance on the family, the traditional values of Ireland as we have known them and on the question of the equal distribution of wealth, a more highly moralistic approach than some of their elders have. They are very idealistic. Politicians spend a lot of time praising our young people but it seems that when it comes to this Bill we think very little of them. That is unfortunate.

The contributions in this House, on the whole, have been less hysterical than some of the contributions which I heard in the other House. I acknowledge that there is a genuinely felt concern among a number of those who have spoken about the possible effects of the proposed legislation on the moral behaviour and on the health of young people. Senator Fitzsimons gave a long list of statistics from other countries which might or might not show a relationship between the free availability of contraceptive devices and abortion and so on. I listened to him very carefully. I accept that he was genuinely concerned in everything he was saying. But, with respect, I do not think those statistics prove anything. The highest abortion levels in Europe in the seventies were in Italy and Hungary and contraception was illegal in Italy while in Hungary it was actually promoted. What does that prove? It proves nothing.

It has also been argued that free availability of contraceptives will lead to an increase of births out of wedlock. To what, then, are we to attribute the increase of such births in Ireland over the last number of years? It cannot be due to the free availability of contraceptives. [840] Statistics can be very misleading and you cannot deduce anything. We are not legislating for Italy or Hungary or Sweden or Germany; we are legislating for a part of Ireland. It seems that the obvious yardstick with which to measure the possible consequences is the other part of this country, Northern Ireland. After all we are all Irish; we live in the same country although it is divided against the wishes of some of us. The people of Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant, have lived with unrestricted availability of contraceptives for decades. Anyone who has been to the North and is familiar with it will agree that we are not a sexually deprived or debauched lot. Is it suggested, for instance, that the Northern Catholics have a stronger moral fibre or are better able to resist temptation than those in the South, or is it on the other hand suggested that they are a degenerate and promiscuous lot? Is it any wonder that Northern Catholics have looked on during this debate with a mixture of puzzlement and a little bit of anger? Does anyone seriously think that the Catholics of Newry, Derry or Newtownbutler feel less bound by the teaching of their Church on matters of sexual morality than their counterparts in Dundalk, Buncrana or Clones? Do those on one side of the line which runs through the diocese of Derry, Clogher and Armagh require legislation in order to ensure that they abide by the moral precepts of the Church while those on the other side of that line can be depended on to do so by their own free will? The experience of Northern Ireland in these matters must surely prove that the passage of this legislation will have no effect one way or the other on the moral behaviour of the young and the not-so-young.

The moral standards of the young in Northern Ireland in other matters were referred to earlier in the debate. One of the saddest things I have seen in my time in Northern Ireland has been a 17 year old youth in court yesterday weeping because he was taken in on a charge relating to the awful atrocity in Newry last Thursday. His solicitor said if he was involved it was peripheral.

[841] We are living in a country where young people are being drawn into situations in which they are involved in the most fearful and awful atrocities, where the respect for the most sacred human right of all, the right to life, is non-existent. We spend so much time worrying about possible deterioration in sexual morality which I think is not going to happen. I would have expected, or thought, even hoped that the pressure groups and the clamour that would have arisen after the events of the recent week or two in Northern Ireland would have drowned out any of the clamour about these other matters. Whether we like it or not what happened in Newry last Thursday, as I was on my way through it returning from this House is an indictment of all of us.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  There is a division in the other House to which the Minister has gone. If the Senator wants to continue she is at liberty to do so. If she wishes to wait for the Minister to come back she may do so.

Mrs. Rogers: Information on Brid Rodgers  Zoom on Brid Rodgers  I would prefer to continue. The murder of the nine policemen in Newry police station was carried out in the name of Ireland and in the name of all of us sitting in this House and in the other House. That is something which ought to make us more concerned, if that is possible, about those murders. You cannot be more concerned about one murder than another, but the fact that it is done in our name ought to bring us all out on the streets to clamour about it. It gives me cause to think of the clamour there has been about some matters of social legislation which are not all that relevant in comparison with the relative silence about the total immorality of these atrocities.

Another issue which arises from this debate and which does concern me is the effect which the failure to pass the Bill would have on the process of reconciliation between our two traditions on this island. Let me begin by quoting Bishop Cathal Daly during the hearing of the New Ireland Forum a year ago. He said:

[842] Those working to bring about a reconciled society in Ireland will not find the Catholic Church an obstacle in their path.

The Catholic Church in Ireland totally rejects the concept of a confessional State. We have not sought and we do not seek a Catholic State for a Catholic people. We believe that the alliance of Church and State is harmful for the Church and harmful for the State. We have repeatedly declared that we in no way seek to have the moral teaching of the Catholic Church become the criterion of constitutional change or to have the principles of Catholic faith enshrined in civil law.

These words are in the spirit of the Bishops' statement of 1976. I feel bound to say that certain aspects of statements made by individual Bishops recently do not entirely accord with that commitment. It is accepted by most people, and ought to go without saying, that the Hierarchy should at all times, as a matter of duty, give clear, moral guidance to their own flock. It ought not even be necessary to state that. It is their right and duty. As a Catholic I would expect it of the Church. I would be disappointed if my Church were not to speak out on issues of faith and morals, if my Church felt they had to bow to the feelings of the time and make certain changes because there are certain things that are right and if they are right they cannot change to suit the mood of the times. I would be disappointed if my Church did not speak out on those issues.

The statements of some individual Bishops received a disproportionate attention in comparison with the measured and balanced statements of, for instance, Cardinal Ó Fiaich whose diocese straddles the Border and of Bishop Cassidy who indicated that he was putting forward the official view of the Hierarchy. The statements of the latter were totally in accord with the commitment given at the Forum. They indicated what the Catholic view on contraception was, which was their right and duty, and at the same time made it clear that legislation [843] was a matter for legislators and they must legislate for the common good according to their consciences.

Perceptions are all-important in Northern Ireland, much more important than the reality. People often believe not so much what they see but what they want to see or what they want to believe or what it suits them to believe. For instance, I do not think that it is generally perceived by Northern Ireland Protestants that the 1979 Act does not, in fact, accord with Catholic teaching on contraception. Many are of the opinion that all legislation in this State is in accordance with Catholic teaching. Despite the commitment of the Bishops at the Forum there is still a perception in the North that Home Rule is Rome rule. That is a perception which is deliberately nurtured and encouraged by extreme Unionist politicians for their own ends. I am talking about politicians who have no interest in reconciliation and indeed who would feel threatened by reconciliation.

The suspicion lingers that politicians here will always legislate according to the Catholic beliefs, either because they want to or because they are afraid not to. That is the perception amongst many Northern Protestants. The perception of this particular debate was that the Catholic Hierarchy were seeking to dictate to the legislators. I have already stated that that is their perception: I am not saying that that is the fact, lest I be misconstrued, with the exception of some individual Bishops who, in my view, clearly seem to be indicating that. Nevertheless, the official view and the stated view and the view in the Forum was not that, Therefore, the failure to pass this Bill would have confirmed these suspicions among the Northern Protestants.

I do not subscribe to the view — and I think it would be naive of anyone else to subscribe to the view — that if we have certain changes in social legislation down here all the Northern Protestants will suddenly want to join a united Ireland. That is a naive view, and I agree totally with Senator McGonagle when he said that legislation down here should be enacted [844] because it is the right thing here. I note, and I think that Northern Protestants will also note, that there is a minority Protestant ethos in this part of the island also. However, it would be naive to think that changes in legislation down here would cause a big upsurge of feeling for a united Ireland among Protestants because those Protestants and Unionists who did come to the New Ireland Forum made it very clear that there are other considerations which weigh very strongly with them and those are the considerations of identity and of political allegiance and so on. At the same time, I would say that it is up to those of us on this side of the island who want unity — and we are the ones who want it — to create an atmosphere wherein it would be easier for the John Robbs of this world who come from the Protestant tradition to try to convince fellow Protestants in the North that there is merit in looking at the idea of Irish unity or a new Ireland by agreement. Those are the people who are isolated if they see any evidence of the State down here seeming to legislate for Catholic values and for Catholic teaching. Therefore, I am very pleased that the Bill went through the other House and I hope it will pass in this House, because I agree with what is in the Bill; I think it is right for this country; I think it is right in dealing with the minorities that are in this country and I think that the young people of this country be they Catholic, Protestant or dissenter, have enough backbone and enough moral rectitude within themselves not to be pushed headlong into the depravity we were told about.

If the Bill is passed it will not make Ian Paisley want a united Ireland; it will not make a lot of people in the North want a united Ireland but failure to pass it will certainly be used by the Ian Paisleys in the North as another stick with which to beat us every time that we talk about our dream of a new Ireland and our hopes for a new Ireland. That is a consequence and an implication of a failure to pass this Bill which would also be of concern to me.

I have said already that I agree with the change in the law. I think it is right. [845] I think it is honest. It deals with a need and that is what legislation should be about. I do not think that there is any reason for the terrible fears that have been voiced because if there is, either in the North we are all degenerate or else we are all particularly strong, and I do not think we are either. We are ordinary Irish people like the rest.

Apart from all this, the passage of the Bill allows us in the North of Ireland, as we try for reconciliation between our traditions and try to explain to the Northern Portestant and Northern Unionist that there is no attempt to force them into something against their will and that a new Ireland would be an Ireland which could accommodate them, to refute the old argument that Home Rule is Rome Rule. Twenty five years ago when I first went to live in Northern Ireland I remember meeting people who said — and in those days there was not much political talk because one was supposed to stay quiet and say nothing — that it was Rome rule down there and they brought up the Mother and Child Bill. I remember saying to them then that that could never happen again because people are more mature now; people accept the rights of minorities. Things are different and the Catholic Church accepts that its role is to guide its flock and the State accepts its role to legislate for all the people. Those were the kinds of things I was saying and I was backed up by the statement of the Hierarchy in 1976 and later on by Bishop Daly's statement, and it is good to be able to say these things.

When this debate started some of those very same people were saying to me that I had said this could never happen again. The only answer I could make to them was that it has not happened. There is a debate going on but nothing has yet happened. I am glad, therefore, to be able to go back and say to them, “What has happened in the Republic is that there has been a debate; the legislators have looked at all the aspects of the matter; they have taken into consideration the views of all the people and the rights and needs of all the people; the Church has officially made it clear, as they did in the [846] Forum, that it is the job of legislators to legislate and it is the job of the Church to give moral guidance”. That is precisely what has happened and I think we are moving into a different atmosphere, a new atmosphere, an atmosphere which can only be helpful to reconciliation on the island.

It is up to the people in the Republic to make sure that that sort of atmosphere is maintained. Do not change your legislation just to bring the Northern Unionist into a united Ireland because it will not happen. But, at least, if you are serious about bringing about reconciliation on the island between the Northern Protestants and the Catholics on this side of the island and people of no religion, you must continue to legislate from a point of view where you look at the common good and the needs of all the people, and that can only lead to a better atmosphere all round from the point of view of those of us who are working for reconciliation within the North and within the island.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Before Senator McDonald begins, I would just say that the last time you questioned my calling, Senator, there had been five Government speakers prior to Senator Rogers and my information is that you gave way to Senator McGonagle and Senator FitzGerald and if you had not, you would have been called around 4 o'clock. I just want to clear the Chair's position on this.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I did not give way to anyone. That is a misunderstanding and it is of no great importance at this stage.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Certainly I would not want you or anybody else to think that the Chair was not being fair.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I would like to speak very briefly on the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill, 1985. Many speakers over the last two or three days have criticised both inside and outside the House the Title of the Bill. I should just like to say that since the Bill sets out to amend the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979 which was introduced by the Fianna Fáil [847] Government, there could be absolutely no other name attributed to it because it sets out to amend parts of an Act that is already on the Statute Book.

This afternoon Senator Killilea spoke of the nature of the democratic system we have. Now I, too, believe that our party have every right to expect all of our colleagues to support the Government's legislative programme because all our Deputies publicly signed a party pledge on nomination day before the last election and before the political organisation and the party, on the strength of that solemn undertaking, expended £20,000 or £25,000 securing the election of each of those Deputies. One might ask is there no immorality in taking the benefit of thousands of pounds worth of expenditure from the party coffers and at the same time not living up to the responsibility and the undertaking given in order to get on the ticket.

This amending legislation is not being rushed through the House. This Second Stage is open-ended and every Senator has the right to speak for whatever length he or she may desire. This is how it should be and there is absolutely no rush that I can detect on the part of the Minister or the Leader of the House to have it otherwise. I believe that many persons both inside and outside the Oireachtas have adopted a holier-than-thou attitude to this amending Bill, which does no more than remove the requirement on married couples to obtain a doctor's prescription to purchase non-medical contraceptives from a chemist.

This Bill, as I see it, does not give unlimited access to contraceptives. It limits access to specific outlets, that is, chemists, health board institutions, family planning clinics and certain hospitals. All will be under an obligation to limit sales to persons over 18 years of age.

It may be asked how effective will this limitation be. Some people have pointed out that drink is sold in pubs to people under the legal age, which is also 18. I would submit that the two situations are and will be entirely different. First of all, [848] there are thousands of pubs concerned exclusively with the sale of drink and the outlets for non-medical contraceptives will be limited, as I have just mentioned and, clearly, the vast majority of chemists and hospitals, et cetera will act responsibly and will apply the law. It will be relatively easy to identify any small minority who might break the law in any respect. Moreover, there is a major difference between the licensing laws and this proposed law. Under the present licensing law the publican can be convicted of selling drink to someone under age only if it can be shown that he did so knowingly. It is indeed very difficult to prove that a publican knew that a young person to whom he sold drink was under age but this amendment that is before the House to the family planning Act contains no such limitation. It will be no defence in law for chemists or a family planning clinic to say they did not know that somebody was under 18. The onus will be on them to satisfy themselves that the young person is not under age and if they fail to do that they will be committing an offence for which there are quite considerable penalties. For a first offence, I think it is true to say there is a fine of £500 and/or imprisonment of six months and for a further offence a fine of £5,000 with imprisonment for up to 12 months.

The Bill does not extend for the first time availability of contraceptives to unmarried people. The Act, passed in 1979 provides that a doctor can prescribe or authorise contraceptives not only for bona fide family planning purposes — a phrase that many speakers have pointed out has never been defined nor has its definition ever been attempted and it has not been established to mean married people, as Senator Robinson last week so very clearly set out — but also for adequate medical reasons without reference to marital status or, indeed, age. By contrast, access, under this new provision, is limited to people of 18 years and over.

Many speakers say that there is no demand for this amendment. If people believe there is no demand I do not see [849] any great danger because if they accept that there is not a demand then I am sure that the stock would be left on the shelves and there is no compulsion whatsoever on people to purchase supplies of non-medical contraceptives if they do not want them. The question of whether there is a demand or not is irrelevant except that, as many speakers have said, there has been significant importation of contraceptives over the past number of years. Of course, these are not available in all parts of the country. There are many towns, especially provincial towns, in which there are no stockists at all.

Senator Cassidy last week treated the House to some international statistics and I should like very briefly to refer to a survey carried out by the Health Education Bureau last year covering a random sample of over 700 people aged between 18 and 50. The survey showed that 50 per cent of those surveyed were dissatisfied with the existing legislation due to the restrictions on availability of contraceptives and that 64 per cent felt that condoms should be available without a doctor's prescription.

I also read in the public press last month that the chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation stated that he believed that doctors generally would welcome this Bill.

Like many other Members of the Oireachtas, I have received an amount of correspondence over the past few months and I am indeed indebted to all those people who took the time to pass on their views, all of which I have read and reread. One such letter which gave me considerable food for thought, from which I will quote without giving the name of the school or the names of the people who signed it, states:

Dear Mr. McDonald,

At our Parents School Council meeting on Monday, 26th November, it was decided unanimously to write to you, our public representative, regarding the forthcoming Family Planning Bill. [850] On behalf of the parents of...Council, many of whom belong to your constituency, we ask you to request your party to allow a free vote.

As parents, we are deeply disturbed by the present trend with regard to the availability of contraceptives as we believe that this will have a corroding and detrimental effect upon the morals of our young people. We, as conscientious parents and voters, eagerly look forward to your views and observations on this important matter and we would appreciate an acknowledgment of this letter.

The letter is signed by the chairman of the parents advisory council, the school principal and the secretary of the council.

There are three distinct points raised in this letter. The first is the question of a free vote. As many Senators have pointed out, a free vote is meaningless unless all parties in the House agree to it. If the Government parties allowed a free vote but the Opposition did not, then we would have a one-sided view. A free vote can operate only when all parties are in agreement with it.

The most disturbing aspect of this letter, if I read it correctly, is: are the school authority saying they have failed in their task and are unable to perform the duties for which they are paid, that is, passing on a sound education incorporating a true Christian ethos, to the children entrusted to them? Are some of those parents saying — I hope that they are not — that they, as parents, are unable to give their children the example, instruction and guidance that they will require to lead responsible lives in the Irish Catholic tradition? Are those people saying in their letter that they want the full force of the criminal law to preserve our Christian heritage? In reading the newspapers over the last number of weeks I have been amazed at the clerics who want to rely on the force of criminal law to replace sound Catholic teaching.

The question of whether contraception is right or wrong is irrelevant to this Bill. It is not possible to legislate for morality. [851] Speaking as a husband and parent, I accept my church's teaching on contraception. I accept that intercourse outside of marriage is irresponsible but I believe that unprotected intercourse outside of marriage is doubly irresponsible. I have great faith in our young people. They have greater educational opportunities than any generation in the history of the State. This cannot be denied. I regret that so many people who should know better — some clergy, teachers and parents — expressed such a lack of confidence in our youth. I do not share their apathy. In my dealings with young people and indeed with my own family who are teenagers — my oldest son is 21 years of age — I admire their developed thought process and what education has done for them. I have every confidence in them to take up the values that we, as parents, have worked to pass on to them. The example of the home will carry young people safely on the road through life. The coming generation will make up its mind on this and every other measure that comes before it. They are better equipped than any generation that went before them to do this. I have no hesitation, from this point of view, in saying that I support the Bill.

I am confident that this measure will facilitate countless thousands of young married couples in planning their families by enabling them to purchase non-medical contraceptives with the minimum of fuss and embarrassment. On the other hand, no-one, of any age, will be obliged to purchase anything that they do not want. As a Member of the Oireachtas, I do not wish to take it on myself to advise people on this issue one way or the other.

The first attempt to legislate for morality was in 1935 with the introduction of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill. The Bill before us seeks to amend a measure which was introduced in 1979. It has been clearly shown that there are towns in rural areas where people genuinely find difficulty in identifying outlets in which to purchase non-medical contraceptives. The Minister's decision [852] to make contraceptives available through medical clinics and chemists' shops will facilitate such people.

I pay tribute to Senator Honan. She is the only lady Member of the Opposition to have expressed her views. I admire the Senator for her views which she expressed very clearly. The second last speaker said that Fianna Fáil lady Members of the Oireachtas did not contribute to the debate. Practically every Member of this House has contributed to the debate clearly and fearlessly. While we have this kind of debate in the Seanad, democracy will stay healthy. When the smoke from this legislation has cleared and the Bill is put into operation by the Minister, the debate will appear, in a year or 18 months' time, as nothing more than a bottle of smoke. At the same time, I am confident that the Bill will be beneficial to young married couples.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  I have no objection to the Catholic Hierarchy expressing their views on how legislators should look at legislation. In the long run, it is a question of conscience. Conscience is merely making a judgment and deciding, having weighed all the arguments, that one is voting in the correct way. Unfortunately when the Catholic Hierarchy, with the great power they have, speak out on an issue like this, a very emotive one, it inevitably introduces hostility. It raises some very stern questions. I do not mind such questions as long as they are stripped of hostility. The people opposing the Bill, in the main, have not been able to shed that hostility, possibly because of the pressure that has been put on them from outside apart from internal pressures. One of the difficulties is that in claiming to be knowledgeable one cannot be unkind. If one is not kind in one's argument, as has happened in this debate, to those who differ from one, that means that one is allowing fanaticism to take over. Fanaticism is knowledge without commonsense. It is sad that because of pressures put on us we get into this kind of situation and accuse our opponents of moral inertia, indifference and egotism. If we do not actually spell [853] it out we imply it. In their contributions the Opposition seem to pose questions rather than resolve problems. The purpose of legislation is not to pose questions, it is to use the art of commonsense to resolve problems. The law is being broken and this problem must be tackled.

Senator McDonald mentioned the question of a free vote. There might be circumstances in which a free vote can be allowed but it does not make sense for a political party to allow a free vote when the law is being breached.

I can understand the hostility. As I see it, it comes from other pressures. In this area the love of God is no less a matter of the heart than the love of one's wife or girl-friend. It is very emotive. While there is mind love, the fact of the matter is that heart love takes over. I do not claim to know it all. However, the reality is that the law is being broken and that has to be remedied. We are deluding ourselves if we think that we do not have to rectify the position.

The other difficulty in dealing with problems of the heart is that, we seem to try to embellish everything. The real difficulty arises when, in the process of embellishing, we fail to differentiate events and see which category they belong to. What has to be set aside is not the question of whether you are for or against contraceptives but whether you can live with your conscience and if you want to rectify the law. That is the basis I proceed on. That is how I tried in my own tin-pot way to differentiate between what is right and wrong.

The 1976 debate in this House was a very serious one. It was a very emotive debate and reached a stage where people saw trees but thought they were silhouettes of assassins who were out to tear down the moral fibre of the nation.

Abuse of any law has to be tackled. No matter what way we go about it we must do the best we can. I see the Bill as rectifying a position that has to be rectified. We have heard all kinds of arguments. Someone said that we were imposing sorrow on society but that sorrow already exists. It exists for more reasons than sexual ones. It is there for [854] social reasons. There is a de facto situation that people want to use contraceptives. They are using them illegally and the law must be put right in this respect.

We have not dealt with the social concerns in our society. We must check that sorrow by making sure that there is no further abuse of the law. When we consider the level of importation of condoms and that they are on sale in UCG, UCC, UCD, Trinity College and various other places it is obvious that we must do something to rectify that position. Somebody said the Bill would give unlimited access to contraceptives. It does not because, as Senator McDonald pointed out, there will be specific outlets — chemists, health boards and institutions. Therefore, the argument that it will give unlimited access does not stand up to examination.

Senator McDonald mentioned the sale of alcohol to those who are under age. There are two different laws. The law is that a publican can be convicted if he knowingly sells alcoholic drink to someone under age. It must be shown that he did so knowingly. It is very difficult to say that a publican would know somebody was 17 or 18 years of age. He would be rushing around, attending to many other things in his pub.

Under the Bill a chemist or family planning clinic must satisfy themselves that a person is over 18. Otherwise they are committing an offence if they sell that person contraceptives and will be charged. There is a fine of up to £500 for a first offence and a jail sentence of up to six months. For a further offence there is a fine of £5,000 together with a fine of £250 per day for a continuing offence or a 12 month prison sentence. The difference is that it is possible to give real effect to the law under the Bill.

One would think that this issue was a new one. Those who reside in Northern Ireland and the millions of Irish people who are resident in Great Britain live within a system where full family planning services are available. Up to 1935 there was no prohibition on the sale of contraceptives in this country. I went to work in a chemist's shop in Parnell Street in 1932 when I was 12 years old. I recall [855] that it was possible in those days for people to purchase condoms in chemists' shops, whether they were getting them legally or illegally. My understanding of it is that the law was not changed until 1935. I happened to be around at the time so you can see how long I am dealing with the subject. I am not saying that in a vulgar way. Listening to some of the contributions one would think we were introducing something new, that the problem did not exist before and that nobody had access to contraceptives before. The fact is that for 13 years after the State was founded there was a law permitting the sale and importation of contraceptives.

Only the State can command obedience and ensure that laws are not flouted through the instruments at its disposal, for example, the Army and Garda. We are not out of the woods with this social legislation. Other items will arise. There will be common ground on many of them and it would be a pity if we allowed the debate to remain hostile instead of extending some kindness to one another in the course of our arguments. From my experience of holding clinics, I know that there is need for people to have contraceptives. People are doing their own thing and they will not change as a result of this Bill. I cannot see how one can conquer the impossible or get people to behave to a certain moral standard. People behave in a certain way. The majority of them I trust and have great confidence in but there are a vast number of people who are, de facto breaking the law and have been doing so for a considerable length of time.

About 12 or 13 years ago there was great heart-rending, suffering and agonising among women as a result of a papal encyclical. Most women made up their minds that it was a matter of conscience for themselves. Unfortunately there were people who did let it affect their attitude to the Church. There was a lot of hostility. It led to some people becoming Jehovah's Witnesses. That was taking the easy way out. Possibly they did not understand the situation. Quite frankly, I would not [856] have been driven to join the Jehovah's Witnesses. Most of the older women had regard to what was said in the encyclical and agonised over it for a long time but, in the final analysis, they did their own thing.

The point has been made that a fellow could have access to a condom when he is as young as 13, 14 or 15 year old and girls could be available to him. Young girls are inclined to relate to older boys of school going age. Through education we can change that situation. The vast majority of young people are quite responsible.

Do we trust our young people? Only a few weeks ago we passed the Age of Majority Bill which provided for 18 year olds the right to purchase property and to enter into hire purchase agreements. They now can be sued. We have passed a law which allows young farmers to borrow on the basis of their land so that they can work it. Under the 1965 Act, I understand young people are entitled to make a will.

I do not think that this Bill will change the position in the North but its passage will show the Unionist minority on this island that we are sensitive to all people's rights. I remind the House of the observation by the New Ireland Forum that public legislation must have regard to the conscientious beliefs of different minority groups. Not even that will bring about a united Ireland but it demonstrates quite clearly that we are sensitive to all people's rights. We as politicians are at a low ebb at the moment and we will be even further down the scale in the opinion of the young if we continue to treat them as lightheaded and feather brained by retaining as it is the 1979 Act which works against people who are dependent on public services and who are outside the major urban areas where access to condoms and so on is easy.

I did not wish to speak about the Bishops but I thought it necessary to do so and I referred to them at the beginning of my contribution. If their approach was considered intimidatory, let us be quite clear that to be told that you will lose the Whip or be withdrawn from committees is [857] also intimidatory. The intimidation game was being played on both sides. There was no leeway to give people a free vote but, in the final analysis, intimidation was on both sides.

Somebody said that the Minister did not look for much discussion on the Bill. I understand that the Credit Union of Ireland, which has about 350,000 members, made a submission, as did FLAC, the National Youth Council and the Eastern Health Board. I cannot say whether the Billings method is good or bad or whether condoms are better. I am trying to deal with the law as it stands and whether we should support it or not.

As a former trade union official, I see change as something which is inevitable. We have been asked to accept all sorts of innovations over the years which have made life far easier and better for some of us. Inevitably changes have taken our jobs away from us. The technology which we have accepted does not seem to be an enduring thing; it seems to become obsolete when we get it. That may be an argument for another Bill. This country has been exposed to change over a very long time. The late Seán Lemass played a wonderful role in bringing about change. I attended many trade union seminars to which he brought experts from Holland and various other places. He did a wonderful job. He was responsible for the setting up of Aer Lingus. With the introduction of television the world has come closer to us. We can not weave a cocoon around ourselves and think that nothing is happening elsewhere. Every second or third week in the Dáil and in the Seanad we talk about the implementation of some EC directive. We just cannot be unaffected by the world but we can keep control if the laws are right. It is difficult to assess whether the abortion rate will increase or decrease and whether the availability of contraceptives will give rise to more unwanted pregnancies and so on. If the undesirable should happen, we will have to examine whether further availability of contraceptives is the cause or not. There may be other reasons. People are careless and others are promiscuous. We can keep the [858] situation in control and the Bill will help us to do so.

I remember my Confirmation, I was afraid of my life going to the church because I had to answer questions from the Bishop. The whole preparation was one of fear. That day I went into the church a very scared person. What kept me alive was the thought of the few shillings I would get when I went out in my gansey and my little red ribbon to my friends and relatives around the town. That has changed. It is wonderful now to see children prepared for Confirmation, with books and illustrations, better communication and more contact with the parents. However, it does not extend beyond that, and that is the problem. The children get great encouragement from the nuns up to this point but once they go into secondary school education of the proper nature in this respect seems to cease. Some responsibility apart from parental responsibility is attributable to the educational system. Let us hope from now on we will see a follow-up on this.

The arguments which were made, although emotional, were genuine, but the pessimistic tone of some of the contributions and the tales of woe and misery are unwarranted. The Bill is designed to regularise a situation in which the law is breached very widely. We must have laws and punishments we can enforce to ensure that the matter does not get out of our control altogether. The Bill will not change the attitude of the nation one way or another and I believe that in another three or four weeks time we will not hear another word about it.

Mr. Durcan: Information on Patrick Durcan  Zoom on Patrick Durcan  The Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill was published a month ago today. At that time I read the Bill and I also read the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979. I did not decide to speak on the Bill then. It did not strike me as a Bill I would address myself to for the simple reason that it did not seem to be a Bill which would, in any way, affect or change Irish society as we know it. It did not seem to be a Bill that would change the existing situation. It seemed to me, on reading it, to be merely a Bill [859] which recognised the de facto situation existing in the country and was an attempt de jure to remedy that. However, the debates which have taken place in the country and in the Houses of the Oireachtas over the past month have changed my mind, and I feel compelled to speak briefly on the Bill.

The debate over the past month has raised principally the issue of freedom of speech, and secondly, the role of a legislator. What really compelled me to speak was the speech made in this House by Senator O'Donoghue which I listened to last week. He spelled out very clearly what the role of the legislator was and the pressures being brought to bear in various ways on legislators. He indicated that these pressures have the effect of making our role as legislators less than what it should be.

Another reason why I decided to speak was because of the spate of correspondence I received. I received about 20 letters from people, from organisations and from parent councils involved in the welfare of their children at school. Every one of those letters exhorted me to speak against this Bill. Various people in my own constituency of Mayo West said to me, “Be wise and do not speak on the Bill. We know that you are compelled by party Whip to vote for the Bill, but if you wish to achieve your objective and the objective of your party in trying ultimately to secure election to the Dáil”—which I have tried to do three times in the past —“then you and your party would be best served if you kept quiet”.

I have to be true to myself. There are times when one must say things and take decisions which may not be wise politically. I support the Bill fully. I want to put on record that what I will be doing with my feet by voting for it is exactly in accord with my views. I do not think the Bill does anything. It simply recognises a situation existing in the country. The Bill has given rise to a debate over the past month which has done much damage. Those people who have used this Bill as an attempt to create political diversion and to embarrass the Government will not be [860] thanked by history or by those who are suffering because of the dire situation, economically and politically existing in this country. When we read of nine members of the security forces being blown to pieces in another part of this island we ask ourselves if the attitudes of political diversion and clever political tactics being adopted by certain people in relation to their approach to this Bill, help to resolve that problem. I think they do not.

I would say to my friends in the Opposition that it is extremely important for our democracy that the principal Opposition party in this country be a strong and healthy party. If they are not and are perceived not to be so by the young people and by thinking people they will be damaged but our democracy will also be damaged. The people will have an opportunity at an election to change Government. I stand by a Government who have a proud record of two years and three months of good achievement. Should that Government lose office at a future date I would like to see them replaced by an alternative who will win support.

On Wednesday night last, 27 February I addressed in London a political group of young people who were committed to my party. It was the night of the vote on Second Stage of this Bill in the Dáil. Their main concern was that the Bill should be passed for the purpose of allowing us to have some political credibility with people in other countries. For that reason they were very glad that it was passed. Our friends opposite in addressing themselves to this Bill and in making any decision as to how they should approach it, should do so in a very full and wide manner, bearing in mind their responsibilities as legislators and also their responsibilities as trustees of a major political party. If they decide wrongly they are doing a disservice to their party, to the country and to our parliamentary democracy.

The Bill simply amends the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979, in relation to the control and sale of non-medical contraceptives, allowing sale without prescription at five outlets, namely chemist [861] shops, doctors' surgeries, health boards, by persons making available a family planning service and by hospitals providing a maternity service and allowing sale to persons over the age of 18. That amendment must be construed against the background of the 1979 Act, section 4(2), which, in effect, allows the sale of a contraceptive to a person of 12 or 13 years of age, provided a doctor's prescription is available and that the prescription is given under certain circumstances. I will read a portion of that subsection, which sets out the position quite clearly:

A registered medical practitioner may, for the purposes of this Act, give a prescription of authorisation for a contraceptive to a person.

There is no mention of a person over 18 and there is no mention of a person who is not a minor or who is not an infant, and these are phrases which we considered very carefully in this House and also in the other House in recent weeks when debating the Age of Majority Bill. We also defined very clearly what “a person” was when considering an amendment to the Constitution in both Houses of the Oireachtas last year. The Act of 1979 allows sale to a person. The subsection goes on:

if he is satisfied that the person is seeking the contraceptive bona fide,

What does bona fide mean?

for family planning purposes or

and this is the alternative

for adequate medical reasons and in appropriate circumstances....

The alternative would clearly suggest that it is something other than for family planning purposes and so an intelligent reading of section 4(2) of the 1979 Act clearly specifies that the Government of the day and the Minister for Health of the time, Deputy Haughey, provided legislation which would make contraceptives available by purchase to a young person of any age for purposes other than family planning, provided the prescription was [862] available. So we come to the role of the doctor, the moraliser in Irish society, because he is not only the person to prescribe for family planning purposes but he is also the person to prescribe for good medical reasons, and the view of a doctor of what is a good medical reason can change. Doctors have been charged under the 1979 Act. People have expressed concern at the attitudes taken by certain members of the medical profession. It is extremely important that we appreciate that background and that those who have been criticising the Bill in the way that they have been criticising it should be aware that that background exists. We have heard a great deal of foolish talk by foolish people and I will read a paragraph from a letter that I received from a well-meaning person in my constituency, but he makes a foolish comment:

I hardly need to point to you that the passage of this measure would constitute a moral and social calamity for this country. It would cause an increase in permissiveness, promiscuity and unwanted pregnancies and consequently a concerted clamour for legalised abortion. Inevitably, it would also lead to an increase in venereal diseases, the treatment of which would make further demands on an already overtaxed health service.

I do not mind hearing that argument from a foolish person but I resent it and I become very sad when I hear that argument from intelligent people holding responsible positions within our political process. I become very sad when I hear that type of argument being made from the Opposition benches in this House. Fifty years ago in this House a motion was debated dealing with a decision by the censorship board to ban Eric Cross's book The Tailor and Ansty. Certain Members of this House on that occasion read passages from the book and that led the Seanad to pass a special resolution to expunge from the record of the House those passages which had been read into the record. In his foreword to Eric Cross's book, Frank O'Connor said that reading [863] the Seanad debate of that time was like wading through a bed of sewage. I am not being disrespectful but I hope that people who made foolish comments were fools. I hope that they did not abuse their position in making foolish comment in this House but I am sure something similar will be said about these comments by writers and historians of the future. If the people who made some of the speeches along the lines of the comment made by my correspondent are not fools then they have brought to this House a measure of insincerity that history will judge them very badly for.

I support the Bill also because we recognised in this House a short time ago that a young person achieves majority at the age of 18. I remember when we were debating that Bill joining forces with Senators on the other side and asking the Minister for Justice why the unfettered age of marriage should not be reduced to 18 and why our young people should not have the right to seek election to the Oireachtas when they were 18 years old. On the first issue I got support from the other side of the House and I feel a sense of disappointment that the people who gave that support should adopt a totally different view when it comes to accepting the responsibility of our people generally to deal with their sexuality at the age of 18 or over. I concur with the view expressed by Senator Rogers that we have much to thank our young people for. I am not going to engage in “clichéism” but I can say that in my experience in my own town the young people of 16, 17, 18 and 19 play a very important role in looking after the old, the poor, children and those who are unable to participate in society because of infirmity. They have taken on to themselves major responsibilities and we in the Oireachtas have accepted that they should have these responsibilities with the passage of the Age of Majority Bill.

This Bill is important also because it recognises the privacy of an individual, the privacy within a relationship which somebody should be free to experience, [864] the privacy that one cannot legislate for or within but a privacy that is constitutionally guaranteed and should be recognised. Above all, it recognises that there are certain areas within which, for certain categories of people, interference by the State should not be tolerated. I agree with the point made by other speakers that various groups in society have the right to talk and help. The Church has the right to speak and to assist. I disagree with speakers who have been critical of the role of the Church in this area. I am not surprised at the attitude the Church adopted in relation to this Bill when the State and successive Governments have shown themselves so totally negligent in dealing with the family. Here we are in 1985 with our children unprotected, with a Children Act passed at the beginning of this century still on the Statute Books, with those involved in our social services trying to protect very young children finding that the legal machinery to do so is inadequate. Here we are in 1985 accepting the constitutional prohibition on divorce with a succession of Governments who have done nothing about the civil law of nullity. Is it any wonder that the Church should comment when the developing theology of the Catholic Church has done so much in this area and has brought relief to people troubled by marital problems when the State has done absolutely nothing? The State is giving no guidance to people who are preparing for marriage, no help to people who are faced with marital breakdown and yet we have a Church which provides all of these services. The State gives no help to the unmarried mother but the Church has the CURA agency to help and which is operating very successfully.

Is it, therefore, any wonder that the Church should over-react when the history of the State in dealing with these matters has been so negative since the foundation of the State? I do not in any way support the view of certain churchmen who have tried to dictate to legislators as to how they should legislate, but I can understand why the Church should be wary and why the Church should feel [865] that the legislators might not carry out their duty. A discussion on this Bill gives us an opportunity to point out all of the social areas where the politicians and successive Governments might not carry out their duty.

The Bill gives us the opportunity to point out all the social areas where politicians and successive Governments have abysmally failed. I hope we will conclude this debate with a greater determination to tackle the issues speedily. I hope, when these issues come before the House, the politicians on both sides will face them honestly and squarely and not in the manner I described in the early part of my speech.

I want to conclude by complimenting the Minister for Health, Deputy Barry Desmond and his junior Minister, Deputy John Donnellan, for bringing this measure before the Oireachtas. I want to compliment them on having the matter debated quickly when the opposition to this Bill was of such a damaging nature. If this debate were allowed to continue indefinitely the damage already done to the country would be exacerbated. I want to compliment them above all, for their efforts to improve our health services, for the capital investment they are providing in certain parts of the country which is much needed in relation to the health services and, above all, for introducing this Bill which recognises a reality.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I am happy that the House has succeeded in conducting this debate in a calm and relaxed atmosphere, unlike the debate in the other House. It appears that for the most part, with respect to the representatives of the media who may be behind me, the debate in this House has been forgotten about. It is on the record but there is little attention given to it compared with the attention given to the debate in the Dáil.

I regret that there was not more discussion with the interested parties before the Bill was introduced. A great fault lies in the quality of the debate during the past month and particularly a fortnight ago, when many people mentioned to me that [866] they would not turn on their radios any more in the morning if this public debate did not end. People were fed up listening to the debate on radio and reading about it in the newspapers. This is a very important Bill, worthy of a lot of attention but the clamour for mileage and for column inches in the newspapers and on radio was too sudden and too great, after very little preparation.

We have been told from the word “go” of the great demand for the Bill. I have listened to as much of the debate as I could both in this House and in the Dáil. I was forced to listen to it on my car radio. I read as much as I could about it in the newspapers. I have to say that I am not convinced of great demand for this Bill. I have to say, of course, there is demand for any legislation but how great is the demand? We were told the demand for this Bill was out of all proportion to the demand for any other legislation.

I do not know if some public representatives have been selected to be bombarded with letters and phone calls. I have to say, and I have been a public representative since 1965 and a Member of the Oireachtas since 1970, I have got less correspondence on this subject than I got in the last few weeks on the need for tax relief, the handling of crime, the problem of unemployment and the housing needs in my area. I have got far fewer letters on this Bill even when it was going through the other House and all the attention was on it. I suppose the most I got were two letters a day on this Bill. That was for only a brief period. In the last five, six or seven days, in building up to this vote here tonight, I have not received a single letter.

I would like to have been told in greater detail by the Minister where this demand came from. We have at this very hour tonight thousands of people going to their beds in fear of their houses being broken into. We do not read about all that crime in the newspapers. In the last week there were two such attacks in my home area that did not hit the newspapers. I am sure there were thousands more throughout the length and breadth of this land where [867] people going to bed at night time are in fear that their houses will be broken into and their lives will be in danger.

There is a demand for us to deal with that problem, the unemployment problem and the problem of drugs. I have read with interest the suggestion that the demand for this Bill was great and I have tried to replace the words “drugs and drug taking” for “non-medical contraceptives and condoms”. I believe the very same speech could be made by Deputies and Senators in relation to drugs and drug taking.

I will take a sample from the Dáil debate. I am quoting from volume 356, column 356 of the Dail Official Report.

An Cathaoireach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Who is the Senator quoting?

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I am quoting Deputy Taylor.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The Senator is not at liberty to quote what Deputies say in the other House. He can quote what Ministers say, but not what Deputies say.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  Very good. I probably do not have the Minister's speech, I had it here earlier today and I think I left it in my office. If I had it now I could just as easily quote from it. The Minister, Deputies and some Senators have made the case that there was a great need for this Bill because there was evidence that ten million condoms were used in this country over the past 12 months. I have never seen that statistic. I do not know where it has come from.

Many speakers have gone on to say that if this Bill gives legislative honesty to the situation it will have done what it set out to do in large measure. At present there is widespread abuse of the law. That is accepted by prosecutors in every town and county. Can the same not be said of drugs? Is it legal to trade in drugs? Are we turning a blind eye to that situation?

If this Bill is passed by this House to night and it is signed by the President it [868] will become law. If in 12 months time this law has been broken by a sufficient number of people will we have a further Bill here permitting the breaking of that law? It is a new way to handle legislation. I do not believe in my 15 years as a Member of the Oireachtas and 20 years as a public representative I have heard such nonsense spoken about any Bill going through the Oireachtas.

A fine of £500 is enshrined in this Bill for those who break this law or imprisonment for 12 months. There is also a maximum fine and a prison sentence for those engaged in drug peddling. We could find in 12 months time or five years time, that this law is being broken because there is no guarantee that the condoms permitted to be sold under this Bill will be confined to over 18 year olds. There is no way of controlling the use of condoms bought by over 18 year olds with people under 18 and maybe well under 18 years. This Bill will make the quality of life in Ireland poorer. We have a great tradition of family life in Ireland but it seems to be disappearing rapidly. I am sorry that politicians assist the rapid disappearance of that tradition. We have heard much about the number of condoms that have been used in the State over 12 months and over three years. We have not had official figures. We are being bombarded by the figures as if they were official.

Little has been said about the vast majority of Irish families who practise family planning but by natural means. That goes for the vast majority of Irish people despite the fact that we have been led to believe that the opposite is the case, that it is by artificial means that family planning is done. Those families who are practising family planning by natural means are living happy lives, they are the backbone of this nation. Do we ever think of them when legislating? Are we prepared to rely on those families to carry us through without giving them true recognition?

I would like to look at this whole debate over this past month as seen through the eyes of those we are supposed to be legislating for, our young people. Many references have been made [869] to the age of majority, the age of voting, and people being permitted to raise loans and purchase houses at 18 years of age. I live in a part of this country where the proportion of these people is higher than in the areas of most of those who took part in this debate in this or the other House. I would like to think I am in contact with them.

Over the last month I made a point of meeting as many of them as I could at functions, football matches or wherever. The demand of those people, other than the demands that I referred to at the outset, was for leadership. Over the last few years Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been putting great emphasis on the young voter. A great deal of literature has been distributed throughout the country drawing the young voters' attention to the political parties on both sides asking them to play some role in the shaping of their country by joining those political parties. Let us reflect over the past month's debate in the Oireachtas and outside. Let us for a moment put ourselves in the position of those young people who, by literature, by word of mouth and by meetings are being encouraged into the various political parties. Some have joined, others joined and left, but the vast majority have turned the other way. We did not encourage them in this debate.

A fortnight ago, when the vote took place in the Dáil, great phrases were thrown around of victory for democracy, victory for the State, a victory over pressure groups. The Minister referred to it as victory for common sense. I cannot see that victory. I debated it with many young people in my area and they do not see it as such a victory. Let us have a look at the victory in the Dáil of 83 votes to 80 for democracy. We know the three who were referred to in the newspapers and in the media generally. We can refer back to 1981 to get our impression of one Deputy's idea of democracy. We all remember when a former Taoiseach made a trip on a Saturday morning to a certain area in the city to work out democracy for that man. I am referring to Deputy Gregory.

[870]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The Senator should not refer to him in that manner. He is a Member of another House.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I bow to your ruling but it is a pity you were not here during all the afternoon. There were many references made to Members of the other House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I have stopped it.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  It is unfair to tongue-tie me.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I let the Senator comment about it until he mentioned the name. I did not tongue-tie the Senator until he mentioned the Deputy's name. I was very generous to him.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  Could I finish that portion of my contribution by referring to the two people whom I shall not name? I do not think we have to go too far to find out what their idea of democracy is. I will leave it at that because of your ruling. This has been thrown up at me in my discussions with young people in my constituency and throughout this city. In the debate in the other House they saw much pressure put on Deputies, not from the flood of letters outside, not from those parading up and down the streets outside, but from within the parties.

It was also pointed out to me that there were many people, some of whom were referred to here today, who should have taken part in the debate in the other House but did not. They are notable members of the main Opposition party who did not take part in that debate. I was asked why they did not. Of course, I could not answer why but I was fairly close to the scene and I had a fair idea why. It was because they were not permitted. I am glad that at least we have shown greater responsibility in this House because I believe that everyone who wanted to take part in this debate had ample opportunity to do so. We are even sitting late this evening, I am sure to the annoyance of many Members, many officials and indeed many members of the [871] media because nobody wants to work late in the heated surroundings that we have here today. It is the genuine heat from the radiators I am referring to.

I have failed to see this great victory for democracy. Reference has been made to our being on the slippery slope to moral decay. I believe that with another debate or two such as we have had over the last month or six weeks in the media, on the radio and television, we are on the slippery slope to anarchy. I do not think that young voters will stick it much longer. Great play was made about giving them the vote a few years ago. What percentage of them bother voting? Have we done anything over the last four or five weeks to encourage them to vote? We have not. That comes straight from them.

I have great confidence in our young people despite the impression given by the media of young people using cars to chase around the city streets and out in country roads and ramming Garda cars. It is a very small fraction of our youth who are doing that and they get the publicity. In my own area I see they are organising themselves into committees to assist themselves and the less well off in our community. These people should be encouraged. The political parties should show their appreciation of them. We saw recently where one person who came into the Oireachtas and spoke his mind paid a very high penalty for that in political terms. He came in and made what was described as the finest speech of this whole debate. It was even hailed by the Minister for Health — I quote from The Irish Press of last Thursday week: — as “the finest he has heard in 16 years of Dáil experience.” It was hailed in the newspapers by the correspondents, spoken about in the corridors of this House and on the streets as an exceptional speech on what might appear to be a difficult Bill but certainly one gaining the attention of the media.

Young people were listening to that. What happened to him? He was thrown into the political wilderness. Is that encouragement to our young people to [872] join our political parties? This is a case of a person being thrown outside the party system for speaking his mind. There were many others in this debate who refrained from speaking their minds for fear of losing the party Whip. That is well known and is not confined to one side of the House. That is what our young people are looking at. Is that encouraging them to come into the political parties to play a part in shaping the nation's future, or their future and their families' future? If we have another debate or two like that which we have had on this Bill we are on the slippery slope to anarchy.

I would like to refer to the Church. We have had much criticism of Bishops regarding their Lenten Pastorals, which they issue every year on one subject or another. Sometimes they get more attention than others but all of us who are church going hear it. Many of them are printed in the newspapers and we can read them. Perhaps one would consider that little attention is shown to the pastorals except when they hit the front page of the newspapers. I do not hold that view. The majority of church-going people, and thank God we have a majority of those, read and heed the pastorals. I have known members of minority churches to read the Lenten pastorals of the Bishops. The Bishops have a right to issue their Lenten pastorals and they have a right to comment on any Bill that is introduced.

I have no time. A Chathaoirleach, for this bishop-bashing, as it has been described by some. Some people seem to glory in it. If we were passing a measure here which was as offensive to the farmers as this Bill might be to Bishops, would the farmers be silent? If we were passing a Bill here which was as offensive to trade unionists as this Bill seems to have been to the Bishops, would they be silent? Would we have a line of people waiting to be interviewed by the media to answer them?

Senator Jack Harte referred to the change in the Confirmation ceremony since the time that he and I were confirmed and he welcomed this great change involving consultation with [873] parents and children and priests and schoolteachers, as indeed do I, but he regretted that such consultation did not go beyond Confirmation. I have to disagree with him here because I think credit is due to the Church in Ireland for keeping up with the times.

I live in an area that has grown in population. In my 15 years as a Member of this House my home town has grown in population from 3,000 to upwards of 80,000 people and the Church has given more attention to that area than most other agencies, most Government agencies. Were it not for the Church in that area we would have very serious social problems. Not alone are they giving the services that it is normal for a church to give but, through the foresight of the late Archbishop Dermot Ryan, Lord rest his soul — we all regret his passing from this life so suddenly recently — we had in that fast-developing area social services, schools made available to local communities through the Church, church halls provided, meeting places which one would have considered were the responsibility of other authorities. The Church did not sit back and see the people neglected. Can you imagine what it was like to live in an area that grew from 10,000 to 80,000 over a period of 12 years? Can you imagine the problems in that area due to lack of services? The first person to assist those with problems in the area was the priest who was there and had bought a house in a new housing estate before the estates were occupied. The priests' concern was for everybody but principally for the youth who were suffering because they were lifted in their hundreds from the centre of this city and put in a place which was foreign to them, with nobody to turn to but the priest. Not even the doctors had arrived, or the dentists — those who could make money in the area — but the priest was there and was assisting the people. I do not think sufficient credit is given to the part played by the Church outside its normal duty.

We had on radio only this morning a representative of the Irish Divorce Action group who was brought on, I think, to answer something that some [874] Bishop might have said yesterday. One of her remarks this morning was that the Bishops had no right to influence legislation: they do not put themselves forward for election. That was her remark; they had no right to lobby. But, what was Jean Tansey doing? What has she been doing over the last few years if not lobbying? I did not see her name on the ballot paper. I might yet, I would be glad to see her name on a ballot paper, or the name of anyone of these groups who go about bishop-bashing.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  On a point of order, in fairness, Jean Tansey was not bishop-bashing. It is most unfair to talk about people who are not here to defend themselves. The Chair has been trying to control this debate all day. That is a most unfair comment to make about Jean Tansey and I object to it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I have adjourned the debate a few times.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I would ask Senator McMahon to withdraw the remark.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  It is unfair of people to seize an opportunity to go on the airwaves. It is unfair of RTE not to have had a Bishop on a programme in the morning——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I think the Senator has said enough about it now. We will leave it at that.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  ——so that the remarks which came over the airwaves could be replied to by more competent people than I. We have heard from Members of this and the other House but there is not much sign of those who campaigned in the recent pro-Life referendum. There were one or two Members of the Oireachtas among them. They were missing also when we had the famous baby cases in the paper, where children were born out of wedlock and did not survive and the cases hit the headlines. Again, in defence of those people who have been attacked, it is only fair [875] that I should be permitted to say in this House that they do not go around every day holding banners: they do not march up and down the street, because they have better work to do.

Cura — the Catholic agency which helps unmarried mothers — received in the last year, 6,591 calls either by phone or in person for assistance for pregnant women.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I thought you said——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The Senator, without interruption.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  Will this Bill reduce those calls? I should be glad to give the figure in the House in two years time for that year. I can safely bet it will not be less than 6,591 calls. One does not see that information carried on banners in O'Connell Street or Kildare Street. These people have not the time for that. They are looking after pregnant women and this is only one Catholic agency engaged in this work. Those opposed to this kind of work are much freer of tongue than those engaged in it. Those people are in my area, placed there through the priests whom I spoke of a few minutes ago and by the late Archbishop Dermot Ryan. Those people are in all our areas, if we want to see them.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  And we are all supporters of them. I should not like anything to be said by the Senator that would indicate otherwise. Nobody said anything about that wonderful organisation. There was support from all sides of the House for it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  No interruptions now.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  Many Deputies voted with their feet in the Dáil on this Bill and not with their hearts or their heads, certainly not with their hearts. They are caught in a free party democracy so that if they were to vote another way — and [876] there will be some doing it tonight, I feel sure — they would suffer the fate of the Deputy to whom I referred earlier.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  I have been lenient with the Senator; it is not fair to refer to people in the other House.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I do not want to go against the Chair but, respectfully, I suggest that the Chair is being unfair to me. The record of the debate here today, will show many references to Members of the other House. I am at a disadvantage.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Proceedings in the other House should not be commented on in this House. I am prepared to allow only a passing reference and I have allowed the Senator opportunities for this. On that line, I have been more lenient to him, for my time in the Chair, than to any other Senator.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  There are members of the political party which is part of the political system we have who will do things that they know in their hearts are not correct; they will do that simply to stay within the system; it is necessary and there are laudable reasons for it. I am not complaining about this. I do complain about the system that forces them to do this. We should have a thorough examination of ourselves, because we are losing the support of the new generation. I am not talking about party politics; I am talking about politicians in general who are losing the support of the youth. It is a pity to let this happen.

I urge the Minister to use his influence in the Cabinet when reflecting on the debates in this House and in the Dáil, to ensure that there is adequate consultation before a controversial Bill of this nature ever comes before this House again. If the same mistake is made again it may be one political side which will lose. That would make matters worse. The people on the opposite side would stand to gain, as the only alternative. I urge the Minister to reflect seriously on what has taken place in the last month. He should not [877] relax and say to himself, thank God it is over and I got it through. The Government will get it through but I ask, at what price? I am quite sure that the debate in the Dáil could have taken place as calmly as the debate is taking place here; that we need not have had those banner headlines morning after morning. People were fed up reading about condoms and contraception — ten million and 30 million——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  The Senator is repeating himself.

Mr. McMahon: Information on Lawrence McMahon  Zoom on Lawrence McMahon  I am concluding now. I shall conclude on the note that there is no victory here except for pressure groups on one side. I regret that all these pressures have been brought to bear on so many people and public representatives. I did not get the avalanche of letters that others have referred to — perhaps it is that I am forgotten; I do not know. I regret the pressure within political parties to get a measure through the House or, indeed, to defeat the measure, because the young people are watching us and they are not impressed.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Donnellan): Information on John F. Donnellan  Zoom on John F. Donnellan  The Minister for Health regrets that he is not here to reply to the Second Stage debate. He also regrets that he was unable to sit in on this debate in the Seanad to the extent he would like and listen to the contributions made by Senators from all sides of the House. He heard a number of the opening contributions and had an opportunity to read the contributions made by other Senators.

A number of Senators made the point that in this House it is possible to take a more objective and balanced view of the legislation coming before it than can be done in the other House in which the immediate political pressures are frequently of greater intensity.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  On a point of order, in view of the sincerity with which this House has debated the Bill and, with due respect to my neighbour, the Minister of State, Deputy Donnellan, could we not [878] have the Minister for Health present to reply?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  That is not a point of order.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  In fairness, let me say this is the attitude now being adopted: “The Bill is through the Dáil and we have the numbers in the Seanad.” This is wrong. I am not being disrespectful to Minister Donnellan. Minister Desmond is now free of the Dáil and could be present to reply.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  It is not a point of order — an tAire to reply.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on John F. Donnellan  Zoom on John F. Donnellan  Whether the Senator is being disrespectful or not, it has no effect on me.

Mrs. Honan: Information on Tras Honan  Zoom on Tras Honan  I am aware of that, Minister Donnellan. That does not make it right for you to reply.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on John F. Donnellan  Zoom on John F. Donnellan  The majority of the speakers have aimed at and have succeeded in being guided more by reason than emotion. I thank them very sincerely for their approach to what has been a contentious Bill. It would be impossible to reply to all the specific points made during the debate but there were a number of points made which were not covered in the Minister's opening address. I would hope to cover them now.

Senator Ferris was concerned that section 11 of the 1979 Act, which relates to persons who have conscientious objections to dealing with contraceptives, would continue to apply. This point was also made by the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator Honan. I assure Senators that there is nothing in this Bill that will in any way affect the operation of that section. In fact, section 11 of the 1979 Act remains exactly the same. All of those concerned with the operation of the family planning Act — and this Bill will be construed as one with the 1979 Act — will be entitled, if they have a conscientious objection to being involved in the provision of contraceptives, to ask to be [879] relieved of any obligation to provide them.

Senator Ferris also drew attention to the use of the phrase “free availability of contraceptives”. One would imagine from some statements that it was the intention that health boards, when the Bill is passed, would make available contraceptives, free of charge, to all types of people. This, of course, is not so. What this Bill does is extend the categories of persons who will be entitled to sell contraceptives. At present they may be sold by retail only by chemists. In future it will be possible for other categories of persons mentioned in section 2 of the Bill, that is, doctors, family planning clinics, persons employed in maternity hospitals and hospitals providing services for infectious diseases and certain authorised officers in health boards, to sell contraceptives without contravening the provisions of the family planning Acts.

One of the major purposes of the Bill, as I have repeatedly said, is to extend the outlets through which contraceptives may legitimately be sold. The Bill does not impose any obligation on any of the bodies named to sell contraceptives; it enables them to do so legally, if they desire to do so.

One question that could be asked is what would be the position if an application was made to the Minister by a person to open a family planning clinic. That application would be considered by the Minister and if it conformed to certain high standards and was supervised by the medical profession, probably a licence would be granted, if there was a need and demand for the clinic in a particular area.

I will now turn to the more general factors which prompted the Government, after long and careful consideration of the position, to bring forward the Bill which is now before the House. First, the Government were convinced of the necessity for a change in the law on the lines proposed. This necessity arose from a variety of factors to which the Minister drew attention in his opening remarks. The evidence of changed sexual behaviour, both within and outside marriage, [880] points to the need for a legal framework for family planning which makes a realistic response to the needs of people. In particular, I wish to remind the House of the very serious and tragic consequences to single women or girls which can result from unwanted pregnancies. None of us in this House or outside it would wish to advocate irresponsible sexual activity. None of us would wish to undermine the importance of marriage and the family. However, the reality is that, for a variety of complex reasons, many young people now enter into sexual relationships for which access to family planning facilities is desirable and, indeed, necessary. The frustration of such access may well be a major contributing factor to the appalling toll of human suffering reflected in the growing abortion figures for this country.

Further argument for the necessity for change was the difficulty experienced by many couples throughout the country in having access to their desired means of family planning. It is entirely undesirable that availability of contraceptives to those who need them should be frustrated because the only people in a position to provide services under the existing legislation are unwilling to do so in particular areas. The availability of a somewhat wider range of outlets will remedy this unsatisfactory position.

However, perhaps the greatest single argument for a necessary change in the law was the great inconsistency between what the 1979 Act provided for and the everyday behaviour of very large numbers of people. It is clear that the provisions of the 1979 Act regarding access to family planning were and are unworkable. They have been ignored widely by responsible citizens. This can only have the effect of bringing all of the process of the law and the democratic institutions which give rise to law into disrepute. The Government are convinced that it is necessary to restrict criminal sanctions to those areas of human behaviour where it is reasonable and possible and, indeed, necessary to employ them. Family planning of the type provided for in the Bill currently before the House does not come into that category.

[881] The Bill which I have brought before the House also responds to a demand for change, a demand which has been given expression in a number of surveys of public opinion, notably that conducted on behalf of the Health Education Bureau, which was referred to by the Minister in his opening address.

I must also have regard for the demand for change from the medical profession, who have always been unhappy with the obligations imposed on them by the 1979 Act in respect of non-medical contraceptives and whose representatives have clearly welcomed the measures now before the House. This responsible body of opinion cannot be ignored and should commend the reasonableness of the Bill to Senators.

Some Senators have suggested, in line with the gloomy predictions outside this House, that the passing of the Bill will result in a widespread decline in moral standards, a weakening of the family unit, a threat to the health and integrity of young girls. Such predictions cannot be sustained by evidence. I have considered all of the available statistical and other arguments on this point. I wish to repeat that the principal effect of the passing of the Bill will be to decriminalise the existing behaviour of many married couples and single people whose behaviour at present does not constitute a threat to the social order. There is no reason to believe that a change in the legal status of existing behaviour will produce any greater social effect. The evidence internationally shows that each society produces patterns of social behaviour which are unique. The evidence from Northern Ireland experience suggests that we have little to fear in social terms from recognising the rights of adults to make up their own minds about their behaviour in this important area and giving them the facility to give effect to their decisions.

The sale of contraceptives will continue to be in the hands of responsible individuals and organisations. The role of the family and the educational system and those providing religious and moral guidance in shaping the values of our [882] people, especially young people, will not be affected in any way by the passage of this Bill.

It is a disappointing vote of no confidence in our young people to suggest that the rather limited measures contained in the Bill will result in their headlong flight into modern depravity. Some of the contributions to the debate clearly indicate that what some Senators oppose is the act of contraception on moral grounds. This is, of course, an entirely proper view which would be respected. However, the issue before the House is not the morality of contraception but rather the appropriate role of the State in regulating the private lives of individuals and its duty to ensure that those who wish to plan their families in particular ways will have access to the means of family planning.

The Government are satisfied that in discharging their obligation to the community the State should provide freedom of action and decision for adults which is compatible with the real concerns of the community generally without undue influence on very young people. It is not the business of the State to determine for its people the morality of their own decisions. Neither adultery nor extramarital sexual activity are illegal. It, therefore, follows that measures which may avoid the most unfortunate consequences of such behaviour among adults should not be illegal. This is the basic premise upon which the Bill rests. It is relatively minor legislation but part of an important programme of social and legislative reform.

The determination of this House to give effect to the implications of current real patterns of behaviour will form a very appropriate benchmark for the further development of legislation and policies which will address the complex needs of our modern and modernising society. I cannot understand the attitude of the Opposition — it would be better to say the Fianna Fáil Party — to this issue.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  It would, because there [883] are more in opposition to it than Fianna Fáil.

Mr. Loughrey: Information on Joachim A Loughrey  Zoom on Joachim A Loughrey  Two Fianna Fáil parties.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on John F. Donnellan  Zoom on John F. Donnellan  There are but the Senator had an opportunity to express his opinion and he wandered off the track but I made no attempt to interrupt him. Possibly he will not interrupt me now. Fianna Fáil introduced the 1979 Bill, and passed it through Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. This Bill makes a very small amendment to the 1979 Act. It is hard to understand Fianna Fáil's change of mind since then. Do they think that as a result of their opposition to it the Government will fall or was it their intention to embarrass the Government, which I know without the slightest doubt it was? I was not surprised at their stance. It is exactly what can be expected from a party which has no idea where it stands, not alone on this issue but possibly on most other issues. Their party leader stated clearly in July 1984 that he thought it was time for a change in the 1979 Health (Family Planning) Act. He thought that it should be amended and updated. That was July 1984. Why did they change their minds less than 12 months later? This is the type of hypocrisy [884] that one comes to expect from him and his party, not alone on this subject but on all others. He is followed by his loyal band of toothless tigers who are fast becoming mice and very insignificant ones at that.

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  Withdraw that remark.

Mr. Fitzsimons: Information on Jack Fitzsimons  Zoom on Jack Fitzsimons  Shame, shame.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on John F. Donnellan  Zoom on John F. Donnellan  I respect the right of individuals to express their opinions but the hypocrisy that has been demonstrated by Fianna Fáil in Dáil Éireann for the past couple of weeks on this Bill and here in Seanad Éireann now is quite remarkable. Not only that but the propaganda exercise which they took part in and tried to encourage people to believe in is to their shame and nothing else.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Minister should not invite or provoke interruptions. I ask him to keep to the Bill.

Mr. Donnellan: Information on John F. Donnellan  Zoom on John F. Donnellan  The limited amount of courage that the Opposition had, as a party, has gradually evaporated and, I suggest, is due to disappear entirely shortly. I recommend the Bill to the House.

Question put.

Belton, Luke.
Browne, John.
Bulbulia, Katharine.
Burke, Ulick.
Connor, John.
Conway, Timmy.
Cregan, Denis (Dino).
Daly, Jack.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Durcan, Patrick.
Ferris, Michael.
FitzGerald, Alexis J.G.
Fleming, Brian.
Harte, John.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hourigan, Richard V.
Howard, Michael.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kelleher, Peter.
Kennedy, Patrick.
Lennon, Joseph.
Loughrey, Joachim.
McAuliffe-Ennis, Helena.
McDonald, Charlie.
McGonagle, Stephen.
McGuinness, Catherine I.B.
McMahon, Larry.
Magner, Pat.
O'Brien, Andy.
O'Donoghue, Martin.
O'Mahony, Flor.
Quealy, Michael A.
Robb, John D.A.
Robinson, Mary T.W.
Rogers, Brid.
Ross, Shane P.N.
Ryan, Brendan.

[885]Cassidy, Donie.
de Brún, Séamus.
Ellis, John.
Fallon, Seán.
Fitzsimons, Jack.
Hanafin, Des.
Hillery, Brian.
Honan, Tras.
Hussey, Thomas.
[886]Kiely, Rory.
Killilea, Mark.
Lanigan, Mick.
Lynch, Michael.
Mullooly, Brian.
O'Toole, Martin J.
Ryan, Eoin.
Ryan, William.
Smith, Michael.

Question declared carried.


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