If prizes for hypocrisy were going, it would be hard to narrow down a short-list these days. Politicians, of course, have always been capable of the greatest of stomach-churning double-standards and u-turns.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – citing his experience as a doctor – repeatedly told the Dáil that he was against abortion, then mysteriously he was for it. He had gone on a journey, he said. Similarly, Health Minister Simon Harris wrote to pro-life voters pleading for their number one on the ballot paper pledging to support the right to life of the unborn. Then, after a brief sojourn in Leinster House he too went on a journey and became a passionate supporter of the right to end the life of children thought to be inconvenient.
Both men embraced in an iconic image at the vulgar ‘celebrations’ that marked the removal of the right to life for unborn children from Bunreacht na hÉireann. At the same time, both men never tire of telling us how compassionate modern Ireland is: tell that to the record number of homeless people sleeping on our streets. Quite the journey indeed.
But, double-standards are not confined to Leinster House. This week, politicians in Britain’s House of Commons will indulge in a game of parliamentary gymnastics to try to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson crashing that country out of the European Union without a deal.
Mr Johnson’s approach, they argue, is against the wishes of the British people. And, there’s a lot of justification on their side – while a majority of British people did indeed vote to leave the EU, poll after poll reveals that they do want a deal rather than a reckless exit.
It appears when it comes to the issue of abortion, the people of the North are not to be consulted”
Amongst those most determined to stop Mr Johnson is – unsurprisingly – Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Corbyn has been a vocal supporter of what he sees as democracy.
He recently stated that “forcing through ‘no deal’ against a decision of parliament, and denying the choice to the voters in a general election already underway, would be an unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power by a prime minister elected, not by the public, but by a small number of unrepresentative Conservative party members”.
It’s hard to argue with his principle.
Mr Corbyn also later outlined the legal advice he has received from Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti which calls Boris Johnson’s plans to suspend parliament to force through a ‘no deal’ “the gravest abuse of power and attack upon UK Constitutional principle in living memory”.
Fine words indeed. And yet, both Mr Corbyn and Ms Chakrabarti were amongst vocal supporters of a controversial move at Westminster to impose abortion on the North of Ireland without so much as a by your leave.
Despite the fact that all the elected MPs from the North who take their seats and members of the House of Lords from the North voted against this extremely undemocratic overreach, MPs from England, Wales and Scotland who profess themselves to be so keen on letting ‘the people’ decide, cheered as the legislation was passed.
This is rank hypocrisy of the highest order.
The essential element of the peace process and 1998 Good Friday Agreement is that the people of the North – and only the people of the North – would decide the fate of the region. Despite this, and despite pious sentiments about the peace accord, Britain’s House of Commons has sought to bypass the will of the people in the most appalling of fashions. Meanwhile, in Dublin Simon Harris welcomed the move despite the fact that the Government here has an obligation to stand up for the democratic underpinnings of the Good Friday.
It appears when it comes to the issue of abortion, the people of the North are not to be consulted – their ‘betters’ in both London and Dublin know what is best and they will work to impose it whatever the people think.
I’ll be in Belfast this Saturday to participate in the ‘March for their Lives’ to let Westminster know that this draconian overreach is unwelcome. Join us at Custom House Square at 2pm. There is no campaign more noble than standing up for those who cannot speak for themselves..
Michael Kelly is co-author of a book with Austen Ivereigh How to Defend the Faith – Without Raising Your Voice – it is available from Columba Books.