Ireland’s new coalition looks set for a collision course with the Catholic Church after agreeing upon a program for government that will see a raft of liberal social reforms, including proposals on same-sex marriage and reducing the Church’s influence in education. The document, Towards Recovery: Program for a National Government 2011-2016, also contains an oblique but ominous plan to “regulate” stem cell research, which some activists are reading as a “green light” for experimentation with embryos.
The center-right Fine Gael (Irish for Gaelic Nation) and the leftist Labor Party agreed upon the document after no party won an overall majority in the February 25 general election. The plan will see the two parties take power for the first time in 14 years. The last time the parties were in government together, a constitutional referendum narrowly overturned the country’s ban on divorce. However, a later Supreme Court ruling found that the government had misused public funds to influence the vote in favor of a change.
The new program for government proposes holding a special constitutional convention to redraft the Irish Constitution, including plans to introduce same-sex marriage and remove the crime of blasphemy. Some activists fear that all references to God will also be removed from the document.
Ireland is in the grip of the worst economic crisis since it won independence from Britain in 1922. The outgoing Fianna Fáil (Irish for Soldiers of Destiny) party, which many people blame for lax financial regulation, suffered heavy losses, seeing its parliamentary representation shrink from 78 members to just 20. The main victor was Fine Gael, winning a total of 76 seats. However, Fine Gael fell just seven seats short of a governing majority, forcing it to coalesce with a resurgent Labor Party, which was buoyed up by a swing to the left that brought its representation from 20 to 37 members of parliament. While the Fine Gael party is traditionally socially conservative, economic policy has trumped social issues in the program for government negotiations. Labor has been forced to accept unpalatable fiscally-conservative policies, and in return, Fine Gael has acquiesced on most of Labor’s liberal-leaning demands on social issues.
The election campaign was dominated by the economy, with little debate on family and life issues. With unemployment stubbornly resting at 13.4 percent, many voters concentrated solely on the parties’ economic proposals. Even the country’s Catholic bishops chose only to mention the defense of traditional marriage on page 19 of a 24-page pre-election pastoral letter, while abortion and the right to life were relegated to page 21 of the document.
But Labor didn’t get everything its own way, at least for now. The issue of abortion, which Labor promised to legislate for during the campaign, has been placed on the back-burner for the time being. An “expert group” will be established to bring forward proposals on how the issue should be addressed.
Currently, abortion remains illegal in Ireland. However, disagreements over a controversial 1992 Supreme Court decision establishing a right to abortion when the life of the mother is at risk has never been resolved. In December 2010, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Irish government must clarify the matter.
Read the entire article on www.CatholicWorldReport.com...