Ireland’s new dissident conservatives

This originally appeared on Liberal Conspiracy

All of Ireland stood and stared in confusion last month when a backbencher MP stated that ‘fornication’ was the main cause of unwanted pregnancies, as a defence against bringing in legislation that would allow for abortion under certain circumstances.

Michelle Mulherin, A TD (MP) for Fine Gael, the mainstream centre-right party, said: “abortion as murder, therefore sin … which is no more sinful than … greed, hate and fornication. The latter, being fornication I would say, is probably the single most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies in this country.”

Most were shocked; having not seen or heard this kind of language since Ireland was ruled by Bishops in the Catholic Church.

The last several decades have been mostly those of progress, with contraception being legalised in 1980, divorce in 1996 culminating with the passing of the Civil Partnership Act in 2010.

It is often that for this reason Irish people tend not to identify openly as politically conservative. Most parties both the right and left prefer to use words like liberal and progressive despite their actual place on the political spectrum.

While in other countries, Conservatism has prouder traditions, in Ireland is associated with reactionary Catholicism that plagued the country for too long in the twentieth-century.

This hasn’t the only incident of this nature. Irelands Minster of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton last year sparked controversy when she commented she was against same-sex marriage, due to marriage being ‘primarily about children’, and its main purpose to ‘propagate’ [sic]. This led to her party leadership having to distance themselves from Minister Creighton and comment that her views are ‘her own’ and not those of the party.

But a poll conducted in 2010 showed that 67% of Irish supported gay marriage. Despite this public support, and the support of all other party leaders including, the deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his party have not moved on the subject.

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network has said that Kenny has missed a “great opportunity” in not following President Obama’s lead on this issue following the recent announcement of his support for same-sex nuptials.

It seems that the Christian-Democrat Fine Gael party, who at this time hold a majority in the Irish Parliament (Dail Eireann) are the main instrument in Irish conservatism, and despite the fact that they, as a party, hold the majority support of the country, most do not identify with their socially conservative faction.

A war has been waged on certain members of the party with the Irish media and consensus. Fine Gael TD and Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar commented in March that RTE (Ireland’s public broadcaster, the equivalent of the BBC) has a bias towards ‘liberal’ and ‘centre-left’ parties.

Largely, Ireland has secularised and liberalised, with church attendance majorly in decline for the last several decades. The ‘non-religious’ are now the largest group after Catholics according to the latest census taken last year.

Despite this an ugly Christian-right resurgence has begun to bubble, although, perhaps it will die out quickly before coming to light in a major way.


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