For someone who has worked in the university sector and has been the President of the National College of Ireland, Paul Mooney’s level of ignorance as to what lecturers and professors do and the purpose of the higher education is quite remarkable. What is even more striking is that his opinion piece in the Irish Times (Inside Third Level) lacks the rigours of analysis that one would expect from an academic.
Reading Paul Mooney’s “exposé” of third level education, I was engulfed in a wave of nostalgia (alongside the nausea). While lacking in the subtlety and ideological nuance of much of the discourse, Mooney’s PowerPoint discussion could have emerged straight out of John Howard’s “Culture Wars” that devastated Australian tertiary education during the first decade of this century.
Ireland’s government has not been shy about proclaiming its commitment to human rights. “We will require all public bodies to take due note of equality and human rights in carrying out their functions”, declared the Programme for Government published by Fine Gael and Labour last year.
In John Patrick Shanley's excellent play, "Doubt" (filmed with Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in 2008), Sister Aloysius uses a lie to extract a tacit admission of his paedophile tendencies from Fr. Father Flynn.
Had he not had a history of molestation on his conscience, he would have steadfastly protested his innocence against the lie. Although the nun has no real proof, she takes his resignation as an admission of guilt.
This special edition of CrisisJam marks the twentieth anniversary of the X Case. The case transformed political debate on abortion in Ireland and led to a growing liberalism around the issue, so that today, the majority of people are in favour of some form of abortion legislation. Yet, the anniversary also represents twenty years of political cowardice on the issue and the systematic denial of the reality of abortion in this country, North and South.
Abortion became illegal in Ireland under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. One hundred and fifty years later, it is still illegal. Today, Ireland still has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, with abortion being illegal in all circumstances except where there is a threat to the life of the pregnant woman. Yet, abortion is as much a fact of life as it is in Britain, the United States or any European country where it is legal.
I was working in a maternity hospital when the X case happened. It was an extraordinary time. We were delivering babies, sterilising women, removing wombs, treating reproductive cancers, managing miscarriages and looking after women: only women. Most of the staff, midwives and doctors were women. All of the professors, consultants and managers were men. The elephant in the room was the X case, and nobody was actually talking about that.
The twentieth anniversary of X is a very important marker in the history of pro-choice activity in Ireland but even immediate delivery of legislation on X would have little impact on solving the problems generated by the absence of abortion services in Ireland.
Dr Mary Favier, of Doctors for Choice, laid out this position very coherently in the aftermath of the 2002 referendum when the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat coalition government attempted to overturn the X judgment:
I first became involved in pro choice campaigning in early 2007 when I became involved in building a direct action pro-choice campaign group “Choice Ireland”. Although the Dublin Abortion Information Campaign and the Women’s Information Network had secured the rights of women to access abortion information there was no regulation of who could provide crisis pregnancy counselling. As a result, organisations purporting to offer abortion information were manipulating and lying to women to prevent them terminating pregnancies.