Even though the big topic today (news-wise) is the heads of bill for the abortion legislation, has anyone thought about the minor constitutional crisis brewing under the surface?
The media is reporting that certain members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party will not vote for the proposed legislation if it contains a provision to allow for terminations where the mother is suicidal. Irrespective of the medical evidence on this ground, the Supreme Court has held that this is a ground for the lawful termination of a pregnancy in the State. This ground has been put to the people on two occasions. On each occasion, they have refused to remove this ground. So, whether or not the medical evidence correlates with this legal criteria, it is part of Irish constitutional law.
The constitutional crisis here is the role of the TD. Is it to give effect to law and the constitution or their own will? The Irish constitution does not apply to the personal will or convictions of the politician. We have for years cried out for politicians that believe in what they are doing. However, this does not relate to politicians putting their personal beliefs before the law of the land.
It has been clearly shown that the ground of suicide forms part of the right to life of the mother. A plethora of cases and referenda has clearly shown, irrespective of the medical use and desirability of such intervention, that the law incorporates this ground. Therefore, what constituency is served by politicians; their beliefs or the citizens?
Surely if a politician is elected by their constituents then this is the group that they represent. Wasn’t this the problem with politics all along in Ireland? Self serving TDs who legislated for their own interests and not in line with what would benefit the country as a whole?
I can’t see any dividing line between the two. Personally, any politician that legislates on their own interests cannot be in anyway distinguished from what went before. At the end of the day, a TD should represent the views of the majority (bearing in mind any abuses that may be caused to a minority of citizens). At the very least, a TD owes their duty to the constitution and the democracy which it upholds.
TDs are elected to represent the will of the citizens (especially their constituents) and uphold the constitution. If the Supreme Court finds a right and the citizens are unwilling to reverse this finding, then the law must be upheld whatever their personal beliefs.