Amid the economic meltdown and political chaos, the usual hot-button social issues have been somewhat overlooked in this general election. Here’s a brief roundup of the major parties’ stances on these controversial topics.
Fine Gael’s manifesto says that “it recognises the value of the family based on marriage.” Last year, the party supported the Civil Partnerships Act, which allows for same-sex partnerships, but the party has said that it does not favour a referendum to change the constitutional definition of marriage. Case law has defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Labour is in favour of holding a referendum on the constitutional recognition of gay marriage. It is also in favour of allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.
The party “does not propose and constitutional change in respect of article 41.3.1 relating to marriage.” It is therefore in favour of keeping the current definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The Green Party
The Greens say they are “committed to bringing about recognition for same-sex marriages.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh has said that his party wants “full equality for gays and lesbians” which “will only be achieved by allowing those who wish to marry and/or adopt to do so. This should be legislated for immediately.”
Abortion and bioethical issues
Fine Gael believes that all-party committee should be established to consider the recent ECHR ruling and the implications of the X case. The party is opposed to any abortion law that would go beyond the X case. It is also against experimenting on human embryos.
The full implications of Labour’s policy are a matter of some controversy, such as was ignited by commentator David Quinn’s recent article in The Irish Independent: “Any vote for the Labour Party is a vote for abortion.”
Here is the party’s policy in its own words:
“In summary, the Labour Party is committed to bringing forward legislation, under the current constitutional position, to provide for the availability of a termination of pregnancy in the cases of:
• A risk to the life of the woman, including the risk of suicide
• Foetal abnormality which is such that the foetus will never be born alive.
• A risk of significant injury to the physical health of the mother.”
By comparison, the UK 1967 Abortion Act permits abortions in circumstances where where “two doctors must agree that an abortion would cause less damage to a woman’s physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy.” Around 200,000 abortions are conducted each year under this rule.
Labour’s Equality Chair, Bernard Cantillon recently commented on Facebook: ”I support and want abortion on demand in Ireland now! The party wants to legislate for the X Case, which is only a small step on the road to women having the right to abortion.”
Eamon Gilmore has said that Ireland must “face up to its responsibilities” and legislate to allow abortion along the lines of UK laws. He has also said that such legislation should be enacted within the lifetime of the next Dail. He says he has legal advice that this can be enacted without the need for a referendum.
As regards stem-cell research, Labour says that it would legislate in accordance with the recommendations of the Irish Council for Bioethics.
Fianna Fail says it “will continue to oppose legislation allowing for abortion in Ireland.” The party also says that any new laws regarding assisted-reproduction will respect the right to life of the unborn.
The Green Party
The Green Party has no policy on abortion, saying that it is a matter for each of its members to decide.
Sinn Féin position on abortion is notoriously opaque. However, in 2007 Sinn Féin Assembly group leader, John O’Dowd MLA said:
“Sinn Féin is not in favour of abortion nor do we believe that the 1967 British Abortion Act should be extended to the Six Counties. Instead all possible means of education and support services should be put in place to prevent crisis pregnancies.
“We would not support any attempt to make abortion more widely available but we do accept that health professionals working in this field need clear guidance.
“We have been consistent in our approach. When the abortion issue was discussed in the last Assembly Sinn Féin placed on record our very firm opposition to the extension of the British 1967 Act to the north.”
Presumably, then, it does not favour the legalisation of abortion in the south, either.