The road to hell in Northern Ireland is paved with good intentions. It must be for the people of the Provence to decide on abortion not Westminster

27 May 2018 at 15:41

That the Republic of Ireland voting by a majority of nearly two thirds to allow abortion is of enormous significance, but is not as remarkable as it might seem.

For years the Republic has been drifting away from the iron fist of the Catholic Church, who for an unconscionably long time had a symbiotic relationship with the government.

They worked hand in glove with each other to the detriment of the human rights and freedoms of the Irish people.

And then the horror stories became horror truths about the abuse of children and unmarried mothers which began to seep out after years of cover up and deception. Faith in the church and the trust worthiness of the bishops and priests were shaken to the core.

First, there was the sensible victory of people voting to allow same sex couples to marry. After this it was inevitable that a vote to overthrow article eight would be carried.

This was not a result of weeks of clever campaigning. It was more a radical shift in mind set that had been happening over a very long time.

This referendum was merely a formal acceptance of what people had been thinking for many years.

The sad and uncomfortable truth is that Ireland has tolerated abortion for years. Just not in Ireland.

There was a stinking hypocrisy that failed women in their very own homeland, sometimes forcing them to give birth to babies that would die in their arms within minutes of them entering the world.

And the hypocrisy? If you had the cash, a short flight to the U.K. could sort out your problems. And the church would turn a blind eye

Yesterday’s vote ended years of misery, hurt and guilt and dragged Ireland into the 20th century.

But across the invisible border alarm bells are beginning to ring in the north.

It should not be forgotten that Donegal, which is almost indivisible with Northern Ireland, was the only constituency to vote NO.

I spent three happy and instructive years at the Northern Ireland office in the nineties. And if there is any lesson any politician should learn about the Provence is that the moment you think you understand what the hell is going on it is a sign that you understand very little.

So a word of warning to those women with good intentions, like Penny Mourdant, who want a free vote in the Commons that abortion should be legalised in the North. Be careful what you wish for.

Her proposal seems eminently sensible at first glance.

After all it is a disgrace that a part of the United have laws that are rooted in Leviticus and Calvinism. Abortion is forbidden as is same sex marriage.

If there is going to be change, and there will be, it must be made by the people of Northern Ireland and not the British Parliament. These matters are rightly devolved to Stormont.

The trouble is that government in the North is in suspended animation. Officials are just about keeping the show on the road. But all of the serious decisions have been put on hold until they appoint ministers.

And at the moment there is not much hope of that in the near future.

In normal times this would be a disaster. But with all the uncertainty over Brexit and what could happen if the there is a hard border, this is a potential catastrophe.

And there is the added problem of the faint possibility of a United Ireland. Recent border polls have rocked the government. And the DUP and Sinn Fein are dangerously close in the polls.

Now Sinn Fein are campaigning for abortion.

There is a perfect storm brewing which could bring back the bloodshed both in the Provence and on the mainland. This is making the government feel very jittery indeed.

Do we really want to pick the scabs on the old wounds of gay marriage and abortion? And that’s just in the Tory party.

Do we really want to light the fuse of sectarianism?

Of course, both laws need to be changed. But now is not the time for a debate no matter how just and well intentioned.

The road to hell in Northern Ireland is paved with good intentions.

It’s time for those with the finest and most honourable intentions to keep calm, carry on and look at the big picture.

And it doesn’t look very rosy.

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