Seanad Éireann - Volume 107 - 28 February, 1985

Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill, 1985: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Fitzsimons: In my contribution last evening I disputed the claim that this is a [578] minor Bill. I stated that it represents a radical departure in the attitude towards the accepted standard of sexual behaviour in this country. It is a breaking of the line, the yielding of idealistic standards to pressure for lower values. I stated that in its social implications the Bill symbolises a blind leapfrog such as was never before made in the history of this State. It represents a slippage of principles where sexual morality is concerned, a cancer that is irreversible and, whether you are for or against it, a significant landmark in the history of this State. I criticised the role of the Catholic Church where I felt it should be criticised but, unlike Members who spoke in favour of the Bill, I praised the role of the Church where I felt it should be praised. It is very important to be fair and reasonable. If this issue cannot be decided on intellectual argument I am not going to resort to invective. I believe it can be won on intellectual argument with one proviso, that we do not debase human beings by reducing them to the purely animal level. If that is done we have no case against this Bill.

The single most significant point that came across in my quotations from Humanae Vitae was concern for the respect that is due to woman in her own personal right and not as a vehicle of convenience and domination for male sensual and irresponsible satisfaction.

I dealt briefly with pluralism in what I believe was an honest and apposite way and I challenge any speaker who comes after me to improve on the definition. Yesterday I stated categorically that I was not an advocate of legislating for morality. I referred to the early years of this State when such a course seemed to be contemplated. As an example I recalled that in 1953 the State raised the age of consent from 16 years to 17 years. As a consequence many prosecutions under this heading came before our courts as may be seen from a perusal of the local papers of the time. I would be sceptical about the positive effects of these efforts.

As I have more time this morning than I had yesterday evening I would like to quote from the Official Report of 28 June [579] 1934, column 1246. The Attorney General moved the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 1934, Second Stage, with this introduction:

This Bill is the result of the recognition by members of all Parties of the necessity for strengthening the law dealing with sexual offences, particularly with regard to offences against young girls. It has to be admitted that there has been an increase of offences against young girls in recent years in this country. This increase may be attributed, with a considerable show of reason, to the altered conditions of modern life, with its greatly enlarged opportunities for amusement and enjoyment, and the mingling of the sexes without that supervision which obtained in former days. It may also be said to be due in part to the relaxation of parental control. Whatever be the causes it is clear this Bill is necessary. The Bill marks a great step in advance in the law for the protection of young girls. It is drastic in its provisions.

There is much more I would like to quote from that report but that makes the point I was trying to make, that I felt this was a situation where the young State, feeling its way, was trying to legislate for morality. I said I disagreed with it and, for those who are interested, the relevant section is in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1935, section 2.

There are those who have a genuine concern for their children and say that they would prefer contraceptives to pregnancies. It that were to be the sole criterion it would be easy to gear sex education in our schools to that end. But I have not heard even one person state that such an approach would be acceptable. I have heard many people state categorically that it would not be. Sex education must be in co-operation with the parents. It must be part of an overall programme to prepare young people for life. It must focus on the essential prerequisite of responsibility. I must admit that, in my opinion, the strongest objection to this [580] Bill could be on the grounds of sexual morality. Consequently, when those who support the Bill succeed in eliminating this argument they remove a very strong plank but this in no sense undermines the case because even on the grounds of social engineering the experience of countries where contraceptives have been banned and then legalised does not corroborate the claims made by supporters of this Bill. Denmark, on the other hand, is a country where the sale of contraceptives was never illegal. In Doctrine and Life in April 1984, Paul Bowe, O.P had an article on family life in the EC. Quoting from The Economist he pointed out that in 1981 in Denmark an astonishing 35 per cent of all babies were born out of wedlock. The number of abortions expressed as a percentage of live births was 42.9, that is, for every 100 babies born in Denmark in 1981 there were a further 43 abortions.

I would like to quote from the end of this article at page 178:

It may now occur to the reader that the title of this article, Family Life in the EEC is, to say the least, misleading.

The rate of increase in the population is falling rapidly. The marriage rate is falling rapidly. The divorce rate is rising rapidly. The number of live births is falling. The number of children in individual families is falling. The number of illegitimate children is rising at an alarming rate. The abortion rate is little short of horrifying.

What is most disturbing is not so much the absolute figures for 1981 given in the diagram at the beginning of this article, figures which some people might find to be merely ‘interesting’; it is the underlying trend of the figures, especially in the decade from 1970 to 1980, which must give us much cause for concern. If Europe sowed the wind in the ‘swinging’ 60s, the decade of sexual ‘liberation’, it surely reaped the whirlwind in the '70s, and a whirlwind of increasing ferocity.

Suppose the trend were to continue for another ten, twenty, another thirty years? The consequences for European [581] society would be unimaginable. I can discover no common denominator in these statistics except in the area of sexual morality and responsibility both within the family and outside of it. The Church has often been accused of unduly concentrating her moral attention on sexual matters to the neglect of other ‘more important’ moral issues. That may well be so, but what seems to emerge from the experience of Europe in the 1970's is that sexual morality and sexual responsibility as traditionally defined in the Church's moral teaching have gone into sharp decline. It poses a massive challenge for moral theologians and, above all, for those committed to preaching the gospel of Christ.

Is the family alive and well and living in the EEC or is European society inexorably heading for what the Church would regard as unmitigated disaster?

When I embarked on this piece of research I had no idea I would end it by asking such disturbing questions.

The same author had an article entitled “Why Liberal Laws Would Be a Disaster For Society” in the Irish Independent on 19 November, 1984. It concluded as follows:

It must have seemed to many people, as I readily admit it seemed to me before I undertook this research, that the ready availability of non-medical contraceptives must inevitably reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, abortion etc. It seemed to follow as night follows day. It was inherently logical and needed no further scrutiny.

Unfortunately, human sexual passion divorced from personal and social responsibility pays no heed to logic and is not necessarily influenced by statistical analysis. Whether we are dealing with war and peace, violence and nonviolence, justice and injustice or sexual responsibility and irresponsibility, human passion will have its way unless it is controlled to some degree, at least, by civil law.

[582] The present situation poses a massive challenge to our leaders, both State and Church, as well as to the community at large. If that challenge is not met head-on and in a positive (and, I would hope, Christian) manner then Irish society is faced with a radical, fundamental, and probably irreversible change in its traditional values. For some this change might be welcome. For the vast majority of our people it would, I suspect, be considered disastrous.

It should be worthwhile taking a look now at the situation in those European countries which once banned artificial contraception and subsequently enacted legislation lifting the restrictions. These countries include France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Legal restrictions were lifted in France in February 1969; in Italy in March 1971; in Spain in December 1978 and in Portugal in May 1984. The Belgian law of 20 June, 1923 forbade the public display of contraceptive objects but the unrestricted sale of contraceptives was always permitted as indeed it was in most European countries, sometimes with State help.

Let us take the rates of illegitimate births before and after the date of introduction of artificial contraception. I do acknowledge, in case someone may object, that an association between the availability of artificial contraception and the higher rates may not provide evidence to the satisfaction of everyone of a causal link between the variables. Statisticians do not accept that associations between phenomena demonstrate the existence of a cause/effect relationship. Both phenomena could be related to a third factor. The often quoted example is that in summertime the rates of drownings increase and so does the consumption of ice cream but nobody claims that there is a relationship between them. The following details are worthy of serious reflection, I think.

The percentage of illegitimate births in France in 1950 was 7 per cent. In 1960, the percentage of illegitimate births in France was 6.1 per cent. In 1969, when the legal restrictions on contraception [583] were lifted in France it was 6.8 per cent. Thereafter it was as follows: 1970, 7.1 per cent; 1971, 7.4 per cent; 1972, 7.8 per cent; 1973, 8.2 per cent; 1974, 8.7 per cent; 1975, 8.5 per cent; 1976, 8.5 per cent; 1977, 8.8 per cent; 1978, 9.4 per cent; 1979, 10.3 per cent; 1980, 11.4 per cent; 1981, 12.7 per cent; 1982, 14.2 per cent. In Italy the percentage of illegitimate births in 1950 was 3.4 per cent. In 1960 the percentage of illegitimate births in Italy was 2.4 per cent. In 1970 it was 2.2 per cent. In 1971 when legal restrictions were lifted it was 2.3 per cent. Thereafter it was as follows: 1972, 2.5 per cent; 1973, 2.5 per cent; 1974, 2.6 per cent; 1975, 2.9 per cent; 1976, 3.1 per cent; 1977, 3.5 per cent; 1978, 3.6 per cent; 1979, 3.8 per cent; 1980, 4.1 per cent; 1981, 4.3 per cent; 1982, 4.6 per cent. In Spain, legal restrictions were lifted only in 1978 so there is no point in giving figures. The same applies to Portugal, where restrictions were lifted in 1984. The sources of these statistics are the UN Demographic Year Books, 1959 to 1980 and the Euro-State Demographic Statistics, 1984. Unknown status is included as illegitimate.

It is not possible to provide a comparable table on abortions because figures for legal abortions in those four countries are not available for years preceding the dates of introduction of artificial contraception. Another problem is that of determining the number of women from these countries who had abortions in the UK and the Netherlands. In 1975, a law was introduced in France which suspended for five years a law making the termination of pregnancy a punishable offence. In 1976, legal abortions, as a percentage of live births, was 18.9 per cent; in 1977 the figure was 20.3 per cent; in 1978, 20.4 per cent; in 1979, 20.7 per cent; in 1980, 21.4 per cent; in 1981, 22.4 per cent, the last two figures being provisional.

Abortion was legalised in Italy in 1978. In 1980, legal abortions, as a percentage of live births, amounted to 34.2 per cent. In 1981, the figure was 36.1 per cent.

[584] Regarding the position in this country, the Minister stated blandly:

Indeed, by contrast, the experience in Northern Ireland which is much nearer to us in culture and outlook is instructive. There the availability on a legal basis of contraceptives in the way proposed through this Bill has not resulted in any dramatic decline in moral standards. Indeed, and ironically, the abortion rate is now somewhat higher here in the Republic than in the North. I therefore believe that the House can proceed to pass this measure in confidence, that the measure will not produce any significant change in social standards.

Let me quote that sentence again: “Indeed, and ironically, the abortion rate is now somewhat higher here in the Republic than in the North”. Has the Minister figures to prove this? If so, I want details. I would like to have them when the Minister replies at the end of the Second Stage debate. If there are no figures, this statement should be withdrawn. I say it is wrong and I challenge the Minister to prove otherwise. I claim that the venereal disease rate, the illegitimacy rate, and the abortion rate are all much higher in Northern Ireland than here. I have figures, I have graphs——

Mrs. Robinson: The abortion rate is higher here than in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Fitzsimons: I am saying it is not.

Mrs. Robinson: The figures of the Medical and Social Research Board——

Mr. Fitzsimons: I have figures saying it is not.

Mrs. Robinson: They are not accurate. The figures of the Medical and Social Research Board——

Mr. Fitzsimons: I have figures. I have information. I have graphs. They are available to the Minister. They are available to every Member of the House. If [585] the Minister can substantiate his claim, he will have an opportunity at the end of the debate of producing the figures.

Mr. O'Leary: Would Senator Fitzsimons like to give us the figures for comparison purposes?

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Fitzsimons is entitled to make his speech without being asked questions.

Mr. O'Leary: I appreciate that.

Mr. Fitzsimons: I have graphs. I have figures. I have information. To take up the time of the House with this boring set of figures would not be appropriate. I have copies for any Member of the House.


An Cathaoirleach: Senator Fitzsimons, without interruption.

Mr. Fitzsimons: Regarding venereal disease, the position is that countries which have no restrictions have the highest rates. Ireland is currently low compared with most other countries. I would like to quote from The Catholic Standard, 22 February 1985 under the heading, Contraceptives lead to Diseases. I quote:

A Dublin doctor has stated that an increased availability of non-medical contraceptives could lead to an increase in venereal disease.

Dr. Walden Verling said that if condoms were freely available it would lead to young people experimenting with sex and an increase in venereal diseases. He said that condoms do not protect people from certain diseases, if contraceptives were available then more young people would use them. “There will be more and more accidents, an increased number of pregnancies and more VD” he was reported to have said.

He also said that countries that allowed [586] a free availability of contraceptives had a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases. I would also like to take one quotation from Sexually Transmitted Diseases: The Facts by D. Barlow, Oxford University Press, 1979, page 114. It says: “The condom does not give complete protection”. There is much more following on that. I would also like to take a quotation from the British Medical Journal, Volume 290, 2 February 1985:

Out of 100 teenage girls attending a sexually transmitted disease clinic for the first time, 77 were found to be using a reliable method of contraception and had similar characteristics to teenage girls attending a family planning clinic.

Further down it states:

Jamieson et al stated that, apart from sexually transmitted disease, problems of teenage sexuality stem from pregnancy rather than from sexual behaviour. Certainly, venereal disease is a considerable problem, one third of all recorded cases of gonorrhoea in women in Britain in 1981 occur in teenagers.

It also states that these figures have risen steadily over the past decade. We also got a leaflet this morning in the post headed Children's Protection Society. I will give a short quotation from page 2 under the heading “Consequence — Venereal Disease”:

Open contraception encourages sexual activity, but no female contraceptive controls VD. The highest VD rates are in the open contraception countries — London has the world's largest VD clinic.

Mrs. Robinson: I find it very difficult to have this document read onto the record of the House. It is a scurrilous document which, among other things, libels me. It is so lacking in any basis of truth that I find it very difficult to have it soberly read into the record by Senator Fitzsimons. He may not be aware of the number of deliberate inaccuracies and [587] libellous statements in it but I should like to draw that to his attention.

An Cathaoirleach: I can appreciate the Senator's point. I cannot judge it. I have not read the document.

Mrs. Robinson: Senator Bulbulia made comments about it yesterday with which I totally agree. It is a scurrilous document.

An Cathaoirleach: There is nothing I can do about it.

Mr. Fitzsimons: I got this document this morning. I did not get time to read it. I glanced through it and what is in this section and two later sections seems to clear up the point I am making. I will continue:

In Ireland, VD has risen with contraceptive availability. In 1984, in Dublin, after many years of clinics selling to anyone, Dr. H.G. Ellerker of Sir Patrick Dun's hospital spoke of “sharp” rises beyond even previous rates of increase, especially among teenagers.

On the last page there is a reference to Dr. Andrew Rynne. It states:

Dr. Andrew Rynne — head of the retail contraception group IFPA and associated with the Minister, Mr. Desmond has issued misleading statements. On 26 June 1983 he said that countries with liberal contraception (he praised Scandinavian countries) had the best statistics for VD and births outside marriage, while countries like Ireland had the worst figures. The opposite is true. On 30 December, 1983 he said he would fight for “Judgement-Free Sexuality (no right, no wrong)” but omitted that the countries he praises have massive rape rates, highest incest reports, highest pornography, highest child sex.

According to the Department of Health, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the European Parliament, it appears that as far as they know studies have not been carried [588] out to assess the impact of the availability of artificial contraception and the rates of illegitimacy, abortions and venereal disease in the countries where the restrictive practices were lifted, those I have referred to. In the light of these figures I suggest that, in all these areas, the impact of this legislation must be anticipated with considerable apprehension. It seems inevitable that it will promote that kind of climate.

The Government's and the Minister's priorities are wrong in introducing such a Bill at this time. Apart from the serious problems of unemployment, housing and crime we have the difficulties in the health services where many people passed as suitable for certain operations will be dead before their turn comes. We have serious shortfalls in finances for health boards. We have, as a Deputy on the Government side has stated in a very responsible and concerned way, single women caught in the poverty trap who become unmarried mothers allegedly because there are unnecessary obstacles in the way of getting their genuine entitlements. There are other Acts more in need of updating. Last week on a television programme there was criticism that the Health (Mental Services) Act, 1981, has not yet been brought into operation by ministerial order. The impetus for this Bill came from a small but powerful lobby. Yet when individual bishops voiced their views, as they had a democratic right to do, there were loud cries of protest from the pro-lobbyists. It is a gross misnomer to call this Bill a Family Planning Bill. It should be referred to properly as the Dissolution of the Family Bill. That is the effect it will have. It is negative and defeatist. It does nothing for the family.

Reference has been made to the generation gap and it has been suggested that those of us who have reached the stage where passions have cooled are incapable of comprehending the pressures on young people, that inhibitions and distorted vision of sexuality which we in our time inherited make it impossible for us to be qualified and objective in this matter. Perhaps that is so. For my part, I speak [589] with considerble reluctance, with humility, with frailty, but with concern. Above all, I speak as a parent. While some fairly contend that the reasoning of a generation ago is inadequate to deal with the practical problems of today, my feeling is that life's experience equips one to take a global look which has a wider angle of perspective than the close-up vision of youth.

In the American and other cultures when a boy and girl go out for a night sex is expected as a logical consequence. In our culture sex has its proper place in the committed and responsible relationship of marriage. No matter what legislation is enacted, it can never add to the dimension of life to barter sex for a few drinks in a pub or disco.

Not everyone can live according to the highest ideals but everyone can aspire to them. There are those who claim that this Bill will not change that situation. I do not agree. The Bill creates a fog. Some may say that if by example and education children are given the proper values, when the time comes for them to face alien pressures, they should be able to withstand them. I do not agree. Take the case of boys and girls going into universities. On the first day's attendance they are given literature supplying details of easy access to contraceptive facilities and practices. They are faced with a choice. I have no doubt that the vast majority have the mettle to abide by inherited values.

Who could blame any of them for thinking logically — and there is no question mark about their intelligence — “I respect my parents and the people I came from but they are out of touch and behind the times. They are old fashioned. If this is the way the intelligentsia live, it must be right. I have only one life to live and I might as well enjoy it. Why should I be restrained or restricted by a reactionary religious taboo?” I can see that valid question being asked. I am not satisfied that sincere humanist ethics could provide the proper answer. Ecumenism easily becomes paganism and whatever else this Bill may do, there is no question that it does undermine the ethos of the [590] Christian religion. While some may welcome this curbing of influence as a motive force or engine, others may ponder on the effects on our society of its removal as a restraining brake. This will increase for future generations.

It is not inappropriate in a debate of this kind to refer to the unmarried mother. I have spoken a number of times in this House and elsewhere, and I have written expressing my total sympathy from the social and welfare points of view for anyone in this situation. In my lifetime I have seen some movement towards a more enlightened attitude in this regard but it is not enough. I have said before that, when I asked for improved social benefits for the single parent, I was challenged by young women who told me my attitude was encouraging this situation. I agree that this would be a minority point of view. It is in the interests of society to provide properly for the single parent family. I realise there are some who genuinely believe that to make the situation more attractive than the married state would have serious social implications. Society believes the most beneficial way to rear children is within what sociologists call the nuclear family — husband, wife and their offspring. That I believe is the basis of the stigma that attached to the unmarried mother, a stigma which thankfully is losing out in a more enlightened and rational society. I am not satisfied with progress in this regard any more than other Members of the House are, but it appears that intelligent young women are deliberately entering this situation precisely because this represents a positive solution for them rather than the negative disposition it was supposed to be.

My assessment of the problem with regard to these social pressures, and in the light of experiences in other countries, is evidenced in the statistics I quoted earlier. This Bill will do nothing to slow down the escalating figures. On a previous occasion I referred to the figures for illegitimate births in this State and it is worth quoting them again. In 1961, illegitimate births amounted to 1.6 per cent of the total number of births. In [591] 1971, the figure was 2.72 per cent. In 1972, it was 2.9 per cent. In 1973, it was 3.15 per cent. In 1974, it was 3.35 per cent. In 1975 it was 3.74 per cent. In 1976, it was 3.76 per cent. In 1977, it was 4.18 per cent. In 1978, it was 4.27 per cent. In 1979, it was 4.6 per cent. In 1980, it was 5.03 per cent. In 1981, it was 5.42 per cent. In 1982, it was 6.13 per cent. In 1983, it was 6.76 per cent. These figures were taken from the reports of the Central Statistics Office.

To make a meaningful contribution in this important area of the single parent requires a very positive commitment, and I ask the Minister would he not be better employed in devoting his talents and concern in this regard, rather than in the propagation of legislation for which there is no evidence to support any claim of social benefit?

It is proper that someone should acknowledge the heroic work done by organisations and individuals, religious and lay, in this area. I understood the Minister to deny that he opened an illegal family planning clinic in Dún Laoghaire and, if that is so, I accept his word. It was also reported that he made some comments to the effect that the law was an ass referring to the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Donnellan): Many things were said about the Minister and the Senator would not want to believe them all.

Mrs. Robinson: The law is an ass in this respect.

Mr. Fitzsimons: I do not question the Minister's motivation and I am being fair to him. He is supposed to have referred to this Act as an ass. If that is so, we could regard this Bill like the fifth proposition of Euclid, pons asinorum and declare that the Minister does not pass the test of the beginner with this asses' bridge.

The reference to the age of 18 years in the Bill is spurious. It has been pointed [592] out by many people, and there is no need for me to repeat it, that this Bill provides for the indiscriminate distribution and availability of non-medical contraceptives with no control as regards age. I do not believe the Bill indicates liberation. Rather the opposite.

Chesterton in the Life of St. Francis of Assisi stated that when sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant. There are many who believe that through this Bill the tyrant will have many slaves. I do not believe, with respect to the Minister, that if a young scholar is asked in 100 year's time for the name of the liberator, he will answer Barry Desmond. The Minister has been told that he would be doing more for young people by giving back to the students the medical cards he took from them.

I had an interesting experience on the Joint Committee for Women's Rights of which I am a member. A group who made a good oral submission to the committee had written a report in which they advocated support for this Bill. This was not included in their oral submission. I wanted to find out the lower age limit which they felt should apply and the chairperson ruled me out of order and decided it was a moral question. I did not question the right of any group to propagate their views, but the point I want to make here is that many people seem to feel that this is only a moral question.

I believe it is also a very important social matter and of concern to those who have no regard for the moral or religious implications. The views of the different Churches would seem to throw some light on a concern about school management and indeed highlight the difficulty even in this move towards ecumenism about which so many people are anxious and inpatient with progress. As I have already said, this Bill undermines the family and marriage, both of which are protected under Article 41 of the Constitution. Article 41. 1.1º states:

The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral [593] institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights antecedent and superior to all positive law.

Article 41. 1.2º states:

The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State.

Article 41. 3.1º states:

The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack.

If words mean anything, it is under attack from this legislation. My party agreed that a review of the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979 was due. Why was this not done? Why were those who have a deep legitimate concern in those areas not given an opportunity to make submissions? Why did the Minister think he could simply sit in his chair and make an infallible announcement? Why were the relatively wide powers of section 3 of the 1979 Act not developed regarding the provision of family planning services?.

If I could be slightly cynical and impish for a moment — A Chathaoirligh, I am sure you will bear with me — I want to say that were the matter not so serious, there are many side issues I could develop, for example, the direction and effect of Government policy. This must be the only State in Europe where a married woman must get pregnant in order to qualify for dental benefit. Since the recent budget that would seem to indicate the likelihood of a population increase. Now through this Bill there would appear to be a countermanding order, a discouragement to make demands on this financial provision. The Bill could also be seen as a long term plan by this Government to deal with the unemployment problem through reducing the population.

Many people are resentful that this Bill is the result of a small but powerful pressure group, a case of the tail wagging the dog. In the same analogous terms [594] the result of the legislation would be a different protruding organ or appendage controlling the human body instead of the intellect, which should be the case. Yesterday Senator Bulbulia referred to situations of national concern and we are all very sympathetic to them. In my own time and in my own area and townland I also saw very tragic situations which did not get prominence. All of them have my greatest sympathy. There is no guarantee that this Bill will put an end to them.

I thought it strange for Senator Bulbulia more or less to say she was scandalised by the pronouncements of some of the bishops. In this country which has gone through such hard penal times it seems extraordinary that it has come to this, that somebody like Senator Bulbulia, who is concerned, should be scandalised in that way. I do not think she should have been or need have been. I do not think there was a confrontation with the Catholic Church. Individual bishops made statements but there was no coming together and no unified voice, and so there was no defeat for the Catholic Church.

Senator Ross in his intemperate language and outbursts did not do justice to the situation. I am sure many people were impressed by the way he spoke but certainly the people I represent would not be impressed. It was a scurrilous and vindictive diatribe and did nothing for the people who support this Bill.

There is much more that could be said about the Bill, particularly impugning it. I will conclude by quoting from a letter dated 13 February, 1985 from the Secretary of the Council of Social Concern and circulated to all Members of the Oireachtas:

I attach herewith copy of IMS Opinion Poll which we commissioned and circulated to you last September. It shows 62% either satisfied with the present laws on contraception or who would like them less freely available than they are now.

The MRBI/Irish Times opinion poll published on February 12th, showed that 58% would be opposed to free [595] availability for everybody. This does not necessarily indicate a real difference of 4% between the two polls as it falls within the limits of accuracy of polls of this nature.

From the results of the two polls, it is obvious that public opinion is running 58%-62% against the Desmond Bill. As the momentum of opposition gathers up to 70% of the electorate may well oppose the Bill. Under such circumstances, it would be ludicrous for the Dáil to pass a law, especially in such a sensitive moral area and by means of whipped votes and threats of reprisals against Deputies who wish to follow their conscience. A ‘free conscience vote’ should be permitted as a right, to all Deputies.

Mrs. Robinson: What about Deputy O'Malley?

Mr. Fitzsimons: The quotation continues:

This divisive confrontation is of the Government's making. To satisfy the ideological aspirations of a few, sensitive legislation which the majority do not want has been published suddenly and efforts have been made to force it through the House before the public is aware of what is happening. Such tactics smack of totalitarianism. Ireland is a democracy and the Dáil is there to reflect the wishes of the people.

I should like to make a very brief observation about alcohol. In my view — and I have said this many times before in the House — the greatest curse of this country is alcohol.

I should also like to pay tribute to the research service in the Oireachtas Library who have helped me out with statistics. They do a marvellous job and the individuals there are most approachable. I should like to make a plea that more finances will be made available to this service. There are many other items to which I could refer. For example, when we had the abortion referendum [596] debate in this House many Senators forecast dire consequences which have not materialised. This Bill will be of no help to parents who are concerned about their families and children.

Mr. B. Ryan: Is the Senator suggesting that those of us who disagree with him are not concerned about families and children? If he is suggesting that, I suggest he should consider what he is saying and withdraw the implication. It is most offensive. I am sick and tired of people telling us we do not care about children and families because we do not agree with them.

Mr. Fitzsimons: The Minister claims to be a socialist. Would people regard this Bill as real socialism? Is it something a great patriot like James Connolly would have stood for?

Mr. B. Ryan: Yes.

Mr. Fitzsimons: It is another step towards the removal of the national ethos and what makes a country a nation. First our language is gone, and now we have this movement backwards. I have already made it clear that my approach is not a holier-than-thou one. I am opposed to revisionist history of the Conor Cruise-O'Brien type, as I have said before, and the elimination of this Catholic ethos. Senator O'Leary opposed some sections of the Criminal Justice Bill on principle. I hope he will also oppose this, which is equally important.

Mr. O'Leary: I will support it, which is equally important.

Mr. Fitzsimons: It is a new twist in our history when Fianna Fáil are becoming the darlings of the bishops. That distinction used to belong to the Fine Gael Party.

Mrs. Robinson: That is worth reflecting on.

Mr. B. Ryan: That is Fianna Fáil's problem.

[597] Mr. Fitzsimons: Over 100 years ago travellers in this country remarked on the virtuous Irish. At that time people were getting married at a very young age and I suppose this was a form of protection which is used in primitive societies. We have lost that. There are many more aspects I could mention but I will not delay the House. I have made my case and my point.

In conclusion with regard to the passing of this Bill, unfortunately that is now purely a formality. We have the opportunity to register a protest and to delay the passing of the Bill. I ask my colleagues on the opposite benches to support us in rejecting the Bill in a stand for the sexual values which should be cherished.

Mrs. Robinson: It will come as no surprise that I welcome this Bill. I particularly welcome it because it is the first honest Government Bill on this issue. As the Minister said when he was introducing the Bill, it is quite a modest and restricted Bill but it is an honest straightforward attempt to address and to cope with the realities and to deal with specific problems which arise in this area. It seems strange to have to say in 1985 that that very honesty and straightforwardness are very welcome.

It is worth reviewing briefly the legislative history so that we can see and perhaps learn a little from the approach that has been adopted to this subject down the years. It tells us a great deal about ourselves and much of it is not either very flattering or something that we can be particularly happy about. If we can learn from it and if we can reflect on it, then it may be worth doing.

In looking at the legislative history we start with the first point which was brought out by Deputy John Kelly in the other House. Until 1935 there was no regulation and no prohibition on access to contraceptives. Our law simply did not intervene at all in this area. So, in the glorious periods that Senator Fitzsimons was referring to there was no prohibition by the law at all in this area. It was not until the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1935, that we had the prohibition on [598] the sale, offer for sale or importation of contraceptives. The word “contraceptive” was given a very wide definition in that Act.

In the sixties, into the seventies, and right up to now indeed, we had the first double think and the first element of dishonesty and hypocrisy in the contraceptive pill, because it was also an important element in cycle regulation, quickly became the hidden contraceptive. It became the acceptable way of prescribing contraceptives even though at that time their prescription in the sense of their sale, their availability, was prohibited. Therefore, we had the first recognisable absurdity and hypocrisy in this situation. It was noted that Ireland had become a phenomenal country for cycle regulation problems. Perhaps people thought it was something to do with our weather, something to do with the climate. In any case we have an extraordinary number of women who appear to have cycle regulation problems. That was the first dishonesty.

The first attempt to reform the 1935 Act was a Private Member's Bill attempted to be introduced into this House: the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 1971, which I sought to introduce, supported at the time by two Independent colleagues. This was a short Bill, which is interesting because it bears considerable resemblance to the Bill before the House today. It proposed to amend the 1935 Act by providing for the sale of contraceptives in certain venues. The venues, in fact, reflect almost verbatim the venues which are proposed in this Bill.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 1971, did not propose to have any age limit. Of course, at that time it was the Minister for Justice who had jurisdiction over this whole area and, therefore, the Bill is framed in those terms. I have a copy of the text of it here, but of course it was never published and circulated as a Bill of the House because it was refused a First Stage reading, and prior to the First Stage being taken in March 1971, the then Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. McQuaid, caused a letter to be read [599] in all the churches in the diocese. In it he described any so called right, as he said, to contraceptives as a right that cannot even exist. He concluded the letter by saying that any attempt to change the law “would be and would remain a curse upon our country”.

The Bill was refused a First Reading by the Seanad in July 1971 and, therefore, was never circulated, never debated. The House censored itself. Shortly afterwards an identically worded Bill was introduced into the Dáil by Deputy Noel Browne and the new and recent recruit to the Fianna Fáil Party, Deputy John O'Connell. That Bill was also opposed on First Stage and defeated in a vote in February 1972. In that period both Houses of the Oireachtas refused to look at a Bill, debate it and discuss it. Even though at times it may seem as though we are making very slow progress, we have to admit we have made some progress in this area. We are prepared to discuss these issues; we are prepared to face up to them.

The next attempt to amend the law was another Private Member's Bill, the Family Planning Bill, 1973, which I again introduced to the Seanad and which received a First Reading in November 1973 and was, therefore, circulated as a Bill before the House. This Bill differed from the first measure in that it proposed to transfer the jurisdiction from the Minister for Justice to the Minister for Health. It also proposed to confer on that Minister considerable powers to make regulations governing the availability of contraceptives.

Before that Bill was debated in the Seanad a significant event happened — the judgment of the Supreme Court in the McGee case, which was delivered in December 1973. That judgment, of course, declared that a portion of section 17 of the 1935 Act was unconstitutional to the extent that it would prohibit the importation of contraceptives for private use. That changed considerably the thrust of the debate because there was a broad debate taking place in public, even if it was not taking place in the Oireachtas on [600] the issue.

The legal position following that judgment was that any person, indeed of any age and whether married or not, could import contraceptives for private use. There was a reaction to this which encouraged the bishops to urge that the situation required to be regulated. There were calls on the Government to introduce controls over the importation of contraceptives. By the time the Private Members' Bill, which had been circulated in November 1973, was discussed — it was debated in the Seanad in March 1974 — the then Government stated that they would introduce a Bill to control and to regulate the situation. The Private Members' Bill was put to a vote and was defeated by 32 votes to 10 on 24 March 1974.

A few days before that the Government measure, the measure of the then Coalition Government, was published and it was entitled — I think revealingly — Control of Importation, Sale and Manufacture of Contraceptives Bill, 1974. That Bill as I am sure Members will recall, proposed to retain the overall jurisdiction in the Minister for Justice. It was introduced by the then Minister, Deputy Cooney. It would have prohibited the importation or the sale of contraceptives except under licence from the Minister. The most controversial provision of that 1974 Government Bill was one prohibiting an unmarried person from purchasing a contraceptive and providing a fine of up to £100 for breach of that provision. The Government Bill was given a Second Reading in the Dáil in July 1974. It is fair to say it secured its place in Irish legislative history when the then Taoiseach, the Minister for Education and some other Government Deputies voted against the Government Bill and ensured its defeat.

The next attempt was again a Private Members' Bill introduced in the Seanad called the Family Planning Bill, 1974, which was given a First Reading in the Seanad in December 1974 and was, therefore, again circulated as a Bill of this House. It was a more elaborate measure than the earlier Private Members' Bill, [601] which I had introduced, because, although it again sought to transfer the jurisdiction from the Minister for Justice to the Minister for Health, for tactical reasons, that Bill proposed the same system of licensing venues which had been contained in the Government Bill, but it removed any prohibition on unmarried persons purchasing contraceptives. It also contained the same provisions in relation to amendments to the Censorship of Publications Act.

That Bill received an extended debate in the Seanad. It commenced in December 1976 and carried through the spring of 1977. I mention this because the debates which take place on measures of this kind serve an important purpose. They are part of the process of education, of raising and discussing these issues. It is for that reason I very much support the widely shared view on both sides of this House that we should not try to curtail in any way the debate on this Government Bill, that we should use the opportunity fully to discuss and reflect on the issues.

The debate on this measure carried on to the spring of 1977. Of course, this was the period when the Coalition were still in office. The Tánaiste and Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Brendan Corish, intervened in the debate in the Seanad and proposed the establishment of an all-party committee which could come forward with agreed principles to change the law. Again one presumes for tactical reasons, for party political reasons, the proposal for an all-party committee was not acceptable. When it had been clearly rejected by the Fianna Fáil Party the debate continued and concluded and the Bill was defeated at Second Stage on 5 May, 1977 by 23 votes to 20.

Shortly afterwards there was another court case challenging the censorship provision because in November 1976 the Censorship of Publications Board had banned a family planning booklet published by the Irish Family Planning Association. This was a very simple, very basic explanatory booklet. It simply explained the menstrual cycle, the way in which the various types of contraceptives were applied and the effect which they [602] had. After the banning of this pamphlet, High Court proceedings were issued by Dr. Joan Wilson and by the Irish Family Planning Association. These resulted in a judgment, first of all, of the High Court, subsequently of the Supreme Court to the effect that the proceedings of the censorship board in banning the family planning booklet did not conform to the basic principles of natural and constitutional justice. It was not felt necessary by the Supreme Court to declare the law to be unconstitutional as the High Court had done so.

Meanwhile, there was a general election and a change of government in 1977 and the incoming Minister for Health, Deputy Haughey, indicated that he was considering introducing a Government Bill. I would like to pay tribute to the fact that it was the Minister for Health at the time who assumed the responsibility for this matter. That was a significant and welcome development, a welcome change in perspective, that the issue was taken out of the control and jurisdiction of a Minister for Justice, prohibited by the criminal law, and was to be considered and promoted by the Minister for Health and that now is the position which we accept as being the normal and proper position.

No Bill was produced in 1977 but it is significant that in April 1978 there was a statement from the Catholic hierarchy which, although it clearly re-asserted the Church's teaching that artificial contraception was morally wrong, it emphasised that legislation was a matter for the legislators. It went on to say that there was an unsatisfactory situation following the judgment of the Supreme Court in the McGee case and that it was desirable that the situation would be regulated.

The public debate on the issue continued and there was some anticipation of a Government Bill but once again no measure was produced. It was very much in the spirit of keeping up the pressure, of trying to encourage movement in this area that I again tabled a further Bill, the Family Planning Bill, 1978, this time with the support of two Labour colleagues, Senator Michael D. Higgins and Senator [603] John Horgan. This Bill contained a very similar structure of licensing, of availability of contraceptives and venues and with no age limit. The Bill also contained a proposal for those who had eligibility under the health board that access to contraceptives should be available as part of the general health service. It also contained a measure urging necessity for comprehensive family planning education thoughout the country.

Finally, we had the second Government proposal in the matter, the Government Bill which was circulated in late 1978, entitled the Health (Family Planning) Bill, 1978. When the Minister for Health at the time, Deputy Haughey, opened the debate in the Dáil on this matter on 28 February, 1979 he described the Bill in very revealing, historic and well-known terms. He said: “This Bill seeks to provide an Irish solution to an Irish problem”. Following a lengthy debate that Bill was passed by both Houses in July 1979. So it became the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979.

Again it was as though, having gone through the process of passing the Bill, there had to be a pause, because the Bill was not, in fact, brought into effect by a commencement order until 1 November, 1980. That was partly because it was necessary under the elaborate scheme of that Bill to have relevant regulations, statutory instruments, governing all the licensing provisions of the Bill. It is worth recalling that the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979, has not yet been in operation after five years.

It is perhaps worth recalling the main thrust of that Act, which is at present law. It transferred the jurisdiction from the Minister for Justice to the Minister for Health who was given very wide powers under the Act. The Act defined family planning services in quite a narrow way and this is still the definition. They are services “for the provision of information, instruction, advice and consultation in relation to family planning contraception and contraceptives”. The family planning service is of an advisory nature not actually providing contraceptives.

[604] Under section 2 of the Act the Minister for Health is required to secure the orderly organisation of family planning services and to provide a comprehensive natural family planning service. I would have welcomed an amendment to that section. It would be desirable, it would be a more balanced and a more honest approach if the Bill now before the House amended section 2 of the 1979 Act and both authorised and mandated the Minister to provide a fully comprehensive family planning service which drew no distinction between natural methods of family planning and other methods. That is not in any way either to denigrate or undermine the importance of natural methods of family planning. I am very much in favour of the promotion and encouragement of natural methods of family planning. It is very desirable where they are appropriate, where they are acceptable to the couple, where there is full support and full willingness to operate them. I am equally and very strongly in favour of choice for couples and for an even-handedness of approach by the Minister in this regard. Therefore, I would have wished that the Bill would contain an amendment to section 2 in that way.

Section 3 of the Act enables the health boards to provide family planning services and it requires that other bodies or persons must obtain the consent of the Minister in order to provide family planning services. This is what has given rise to the difficulties and the allegations in relation to the licensing of family planning clinics. It also is one of the deficiencies of the present system that there are in certain urban areas licensed family planning clinics and, therefore, in those areas there is a different type of access to people living within the area who have access to that clinic. This in itself has been rather ad hoc and unsatisfactory. I will come back to that at a later stage.

Section 4 is the control system that was introduced, which is extraordinarily convoluted. It prohibits a person from selling contraceptives unless he is a chemist selling from a chemist shop. This has [605] involved some family planning clinics in importing in-house a chemist and a chemist shop or in contemplating doing that and being unable to do it for cost reasons. Secondly — this is a matter that is being amended though not entirely repealed by this Bill — a person to whom contraceptives are sold must either have a prescription or authorisation in writing from a doctor and the doctor must not give a prescription or authorisation unless “he is satisfied that the person is seeking the contraceptive bona fide for family planning purposes or for adequate medical reasons and in appropriate circumstances”.

When the Bill was being debated in both Houses — I particularly recall a lengthy Committee Stage in this House on that Bill — questions were raised in relation to what is meant by bona fide. It was quite clear that these questions were very embarrassing in the sense that they were unanswerable by the then Minister for Health, Deputy Haughey. He said that “bona fide” meant married couples. Then it was pointed out to him that when you say, married, in Ireland it is very difficult to know what exactly you mean by married because there are so many people who may think they are married but they are not married, for example, people who had a Catholic Church annulment and remarried in the Catholic Church. There are others who have been living together for so long, having changed their name by deed poll they think they are married and under pressure. Deputy Haughey was prepared to concede that these would appear to be covered by “bona fide”. He did not wish to dwell on this variable concept of “bona fide” because it was a bit of nonsense. He knew at the time that it was but it was an acceptable formula of a dishonest sort in order to provide for a measure of change in the area which was still very restrictive and, therefore, would be acceptable to the then Minister.

Section 5, which is still the law, prohibits the importation of contraceptives except as part of a person's “personal luggage accompanying him when he is entering the State and their quantity is [606] not such as to indicate that they are not solely for his own use”. This again gave rise to many jokes at our expense as to how the customs official might assess, if he opened a bag and found rather large supplies, whether the person was virile enough or active enough for it to be part of his personal luggage or was he in danger of passing them on to a friend or somebody else and therefore contravening the law.

Mr. Donnellan: What kind of assessment would they use to ascertain if they were breaking the law?

Mrs. Robinson: I am sure there are guidelines for assessing virility.

Mr. Fitzsimons: There is no time limit for their use.

Mrs. Robinson: That is another point. There is no time limit but nonetheless the Act says — we are not changing it — that their quantity is not such as to indicate that they are not solely for his own use. I suppose a person could say “this is my lifetime's supply”. There are also other restrictions on importation which remain part of the law. These are that a person requires a licence from the Minister to import. Serious questions have been raised in the past as to whether that requirement of a licence to import non-medical contraceptives would be contrary to the EC rules in relation to the free movement of goods. Because we are now providing for open access venues for persons over 18, being chemist shops, family planning clinics, hospitals, et cetera, this makes it even more likely that the present prohibition on importation without having a licence from the Minister, other than taking it through as personal luggage, is a provision that is contrary to the EC rules on free movement of goods because it is a restriction on an item which is on sale in this country.

The restriction on the importation has had a significant effect because shortly after the Act came into effect in November 1980 there were applications by some companies to import IUDs. There was a period when it was very difficult to [607] ascertain what the attitude of the Minister for Health was. The Minister at that time was Deputy Woods and he was extraordinarily reluctant to state his attitude and when cornered said that he would not issue a licence to import IUDs but the present Minister has licensed the importation of IUDs.

Section 6 prohibits the manufacture of contraceptives in Ireland otherwise than under licence from the Minister. Section 7 controls the advertising and display of contraceptives. There is a conscience clause in section 11 which allows for the conscientious objection of any doctor or chemist to giving prescriptions or authorisations or selling or importing contraceptives. That conscientious objection clause still continues so that even though the Bill proposes an extension of the outlet of the chemist shop in that it would be lawful, when this Bill is passed, to sell to persons of 18 or over without any authorisation or prescription, any chemist is lawfully entitled to have a conscientious objection to doing so. This will continue to be the law. There are very strict penalties for offences under the Act, penalties which have been enforced most recently against Dr. Andrew Rynne who was convicted in the District Court for selling condoms, who was fined and who appealed to the Circuit Court. The enforcement provisions of the Act have been operated.

That is a brief survey of the legislative history and the case law in this area. We come now to the Bill before the House which, as the Minister said in his opening speech, is quite a restricted measure. It seeks to achieve two objectives. Firstly, that the sale of contraceptives can be made legal at a more realistic range of outlets, all of which will be staffed by responsible individuals and institutions and this is not, therefore, indiscriminate distribution or sale. Secondly, it provides that non-medical contraceptives, that is, condoms and spermidices, will be available without medical prescription or authorisation to those who are adults in our community, being aged 18 or over.

I will turn now, because they are rather [608] unspecific measures of change which are proposed, to some of the issues raised and considered by the Minister in his opening speech which was a speech I very much welcomed. It was a wide ranging and very appropriate speech to further one of the main objectives of having a debate of this kind, namely, an opportunity to actually discuss some of the issues, to reflect on them and to educate ourselves on the broader and deeper aspects of the impact of legislation of this kind, of the human problems on the ground.

The first matter which the Minister referred to is the fact that he put in train and had carried out a detailed review of the operation of the 1979 Act. He said that this was initiated by him more than two years ago and that a good deal of his own and the Government's conclusions and the thrust of this Bill arose out of that review. That was an important review of legislation in a very significant and sensitive area of Irish life. I hope that review can be made accessible publicly, certainly to elected representatives. I would like to see the details of that review. I would like to see precisely what the detailed analysis and detailed consideration was. The Minister has mentioned some of the aspects of it but it would be very desirable that we would have full access to all of the information on which the Minister and the Government assessed the necessity for a change in the law and then came forward with this Bill. I hope the Minister, when replying will indicate the extent to which the fruits of that analysis can be made available to Members of the House.

The Minister mentioned a number of the considerations which arose out of that review and I would like again to refer to some of those that I consider to be of considerable importance. He said, and I quote:

The review of the operation of the Act conducted by my Department shows that under licences issued by successive Coalition and Fianna Fáil Ministers for Health, including myself, approximately 30 million condoms [609] have in fact been imported into this country in the period since November 1980.

He says that many more may have been imported on a personal basis in the luggage, as I said, or illegally.

That is a very substantial volume of imports of condoms. But I would like to know, and it is most important that Members of the House know, what demand there was for other forms of contraceptives. In particular, I would like to have clear information about the prescription of the pill. Another matter which the Minister said came out of this review was the way in which it reflected on the willingness or ability of GPs to give advice and to give adequate help in this area of family planning. The Minister said that while information and advice on family planning matters are integral elements of general practice, not all doctors are willing or able to provide a comprehensive family planning service to their patients. I would like more information on this because one of the areas that has concerned me for a number of years is the admittedly limited information which I have but which seems to point to a serious over-prescription of the pill as a method of family planning in Ireland in working class areas.

I know of working class areas in Dublin where you have serious over-prescription of the pill. You have women on the pill for years without a proper check-up. The pill is the automatic contraceptive. It is the one which the GPs prescribe without necessarily going into any form of counselling as to other methods of contraceptives. So we have the worst of the situation here: we have the over-prescription of the form of contraceptive which is most likely to have medically harmful side effects.

I am not in any way trying to build up any scare about the pill. On the contrary, I deplore any attempts that there have been in the past superficially to cause a scare about the contraceptive pill. But it is a pill which interferes unnecessarily with the hormones in woman; it has an effect on her internally, on her body. [610] Yet, it is the first type of contraceptive as far as a very large number of GPs are concerned. In my assessment of the matter, it is gravely over-prescribed. It is significant that in other countries where women in particular and people generally have more access to knowledge and information about methods of family planning, where there is a more open situation and where more research is carried on, women are tending not to use the pill to the same extent. It is also interesting that the women who do not want to use the pill as a form of contraceptive tend to be the better educated, middle class women who have had an opportunity of looking into the situation. The pill is not suitable for various types of women. It is medically unsuitable for women, in particular for women who are heavy smokers, who have thrombosis problems or other indications.

If in other countries where there is better access to comprehensive methods or in the family planning clinics here, where they do concentrate on seeking to be sure that they have fully counselled somebody on the choices available in the areas of family planning, you find that there is a tendency not to prescribe the pill as the first and only form of artificial contraception, then we must learn from that. It is a very important and very serious issue. Therefore, I would like to know whether this was part of the review carried out by the Minister and what were the results of it. To what extent is the Minister concerned about over-prescription of the pill? To what extent is there a problem that GPs do not sufficiently encourage other methods? I am talking now really about other methods: I am talking about the diaphragm, the cap and the use of spermacides. I am talking about a broader range of access for those who have made a decision to use artificial contraceptives, but who might end up all too often and too likely being prescribed the pill.

There is another aspect of the role of the medical profession in this area. It comes back to what I was saying about the establishment of family planning clinics. [611] I would like to pay tribute to the work of the family planning clinics; to the commitment of those involved in them and to the service that they have provided in this country. But there is one aspect of it which I think is regrettable. It is regrettable that because of our whole double-think in this area, the hypocrisy and the dishonesty, that family planning clinics have almost been necessarily established as a form of protest. They have been established under protest in places like Galway and Limerick. Therefore, there is about them at times — not something that is sought by those who are operating the family planning clinics, but brought about by the way in which they have been established and the broader approach that we have adopted as a country to the issue — the atmosphere of radical centres in a way that is undesirable.

Therefore, I criticise the medical profession generally, while noting some extraordinary fine exceptions to that, for the fact that the medical profession generally have not assumed proper responsibilities for ensuring that GPs do provide a full and supportive, adequate and wide-ranging service in the area of family planning. This is something which reflects badly on the medical profession with, as I said, some very honourable and notable exceptions. I hope it is something which the Minister has noted in this review that he talks about and I hope he will make some comments on it when he is replying to this debate. It is a very important aspect.

The Minister referred to certain factors which the Government considered to be significant — general issues he called them — and to have a bearing on the availability of contraceptives. I would like to comment on these factors. The first one was where he said there had been a significant increase in extra-marital sexual activity to the point where illegitimate births accounted for 6.8 per cent of all births in 1983. Indeed, Senator Fitzsimons gave us the figures for earlier years showing the various significant graph of the increase of illegitimate [612] births. I would like to refer to one aspect of that issue which I do not think has received adequate consideration and which is something we should reflect on. In the way in which the Minister states it here, I think this is what he means: there has been a significant increase in illegitimate births and this would be diminished if there were availability of contraceptives. I would certainly agree with that general proposition in that the studies that Senator Bulbulia referred to and a recent study at St. James's Hospital, where they had over 100 women — girls, some of them — who had borne children there, showed that a very low percentage of them had ever had any access to or used contraceptives.

There is no doubt that among the women who would have illegitimate children, what I would call an alarmingly low percentage would have any access to contraceptives. But there is another dimension to the problem which I would regard as a relatively recent development, the phenomenon of the wanted teenage pregnancy. That is a very sad factor in our society but it is very real. Certainly, it is real in various significantly working-class areas in Dublin where there is a high rate of unemployment. In places like Coolock, Finglas, Tallaght and these areas where you have a pattern of high unemployment, you have an alarming increase in the wanted teenage pregnancy.

It is not a question of ensuring that a 16, 17 or 18 year old can have access to contraceptives: she does not want access to contraceptives. She is actually pleased to be pregnant. Why? Because her whole life ahead of her is so grim and so unattractive. She probably has one or both parents who are unemployed; she probably has an older brother or sister also unemployed; she is a nobody and a nothing in her area; she has no prospects; she probably left school at 14 years or 15 years of age. Life is bleak and grim. Her one prospect — and this is the sadness of it, this is the vulnerability of it all — is that if she becomes pregnant she has a whole context to her life. She has a baby to love. Her friend down the road also [613] has one and probably her friend across the street, too. They can, first of all, give a meaning and a purpose to their lives through the expression of love for the infant. Secondly, they get an allowance from the State, the unmarried mother's allowance. Thirdly, they have at least a prospect of being housed away from home. You can construct in that situation a whole economic and social context.

That is extraordinarily serious for us as a society, if we are reduced to the stage, where it is not a case of having a baby for the corporation house any more; it is a young girl having a baby for a meaning to her life. There are enormous problems in this. One of the problems is that when it is at that level of immaturity and emotional vulnerability, there is the very real concern that the mother may not be suitable for parenting, that the child when it is no longer the baby that encapsulates that emotion but a difficult two or three year old may be left with the Eastern Health Board or another health board.

I have been particularly concerned about this. I know that Cherish, the association for single parents, has been aware of and concerned about it. I have taken the opportunity on a number of occasions to talk to Members of both Houses about their own areas, in various constituencies in Ireland. I have got a very worried response from most of them: yes, that is not just happening in Dublin: we do have instances of that; that is a problem in our area. It is amazing when you go down a street to see the number of young girls who are pregnant.

There are, therefore, two different aspects to this: one that we must ensure that there is greater availability of contraceptives for those who are engaged in sexual relations out of marriage: we must seek in that way to reduce unwanted pregnancies out of marriage, which is what we are talking about, but we must be aware also that the general economic and social pressures and the sheer combination of disadvantage in certain areas has spread a different approach which we must also seek to cope with and that is, as I say, that wanted teenage pregnancy with all its vulnerability and all its [614] emotional insecurity.

I have already dealt with the second point the Minister mentioned in looking at the factors, that far too few young adults are using contraception when they are being sexually active. To those people who, from many points of view, very sincerely oppose the proposal in this Bill to make non-medical contraceptives accessible to people of 18 years and over without medical prescription, because they believe that this is somehow going to affect their conduct and be a substantial factor in making them somehow morally depraved, in making them change their approach and attiudes, I would say that there is clear evidence that some young people are sexually active. “Sexually active” does not mean “promiscuous”. The fact that an increasing number of young people responding to their own mores, their own pressures, their own private decisions are having a sexual relationship, does not mean they are promiscuous or that they are in any way lacking in a very strong moral sense. They are, to a greater extent than was the case a decade ago, or several decades ago, sexually active at a younger age outside marriage. The law cannot in fact impose morality. You cannot through the law impose and apply moral standards to the individual. To try to do so is a contradiction in terms. Morality is the choice and decision of the individual, regardless of what the law is. Once you bring the law in, it is not morality; it is the law that is being enforced, if it is being enforced. In this area we cannot enforce it.

Therefore, it is much more desirable that we not only change the law to provide greater access to contraceptives but that we also actively encourage young people who are sexually active to use contraceptives. That is the most important part of the message, that we actually come to grips with that and do not confuse it with the issues of morality and moral choices. There is a very real practical problem: there is a very real concern. If there is an unwanted pregnancy then either we will see a further rise in the already dramatic rise in the graph of our illegitimacy rate, or we will see an equally [615] significant further rise in the equally dramatic increase in our abortion rate. Our abortion rate is very high for the population. We have every reason to be deeply concerned about it.

I interrupted Senator Fitzsimons earlier when he was giving figures which he said, although he did not give the source of those figures, bore out the fact that the abortion rate in Northern Ireland was higher than in the Republic. That, as I understand it, is not the case. The Medico-Social Research Board released figures recently. I was looking for those figures this morning but they were not to hand. They were mentioned by the Minister. The figures clearly show that the overall abortion rate in the Republic of Ireland last year was higher than the overall abortion rate of women from Northern Ireland. They, too, go to Britain for the termination of their pregnancies. We have a higher proportionate abortion rate in the Republic than in Northern Ireland. I also recall from those figures — this is something we should be examining — that the abortion rate of women under 20 is lower in the Republic than in Northern Ireland in proportion to population. This is something we should examine. Is it because of the other phenomenon that I mentioned, the wanted teenage pregnancy? Is it for other reasons? In any case, how can we address this problem and seek to lower in both parts and in both under 20 years of age and over 20 years of age groups the overall rate itself?

The Minister gave figures. He said the number of single women who choose abortion is growing all the time, with 3,700 women having abortions in England, giving Irish addresses. About 75 per cent of those would be single, and about 25 per cent of them would be married. The figure for those who have abortions in England and who give Irish addresses is, of course, an underestimate of the true figure. There will be a considerable number who can give addresses of relatives in England or who just give false addresses because they want to preserve their privacy and their anonymity. The [616] figures, and the graph particularly — because it is a graph that shows a trend — is alarmingly high and rising. We are not addressing or very rarely address the issues.

Another matter which I wish to comment on and which has already been referred to by a number of Senators is the extent to which there is a demand for this legislation. The Minister referred to the opinion poll which was carried out and which showed — he gave detailed figures — that 50 per cent were dissatisfied with the existing legislation due to restrictions on the availability of contraceptives. Sixty-four per cent felt that condoms should be available without a doctor's prescription, while doctors, health board clinics and family planning clinics were seen as acceptable outlets for contraceptives in addition to chemists' shops. Eighty-nine per cent supported the establishment of family planning clinics by health boards. In a very real measure there is support for the kind of changes proposed by the Minister. The support is in fact much more widespread than that. The need for amendment to and for extension of both access to contraceptives and family planning services generally has been supported by the trade union movement, and unequivocally supported by the trade union movement.

As a member of the Transport Union I received a letter on 17 December, which was also sent to all Senators and TDs, relating to the Family Planning Bill and calling for the kind of measures included in this Bill. It referred to the fact that in this union a motion was adopted at the National Consultative Conference on Women's Affairs in 1983, later ratified by the National Executive Council of the union urging the replacement of the 1979 Family Planning Act by legislation which would make contraceptives legally available regardless of marital status or age, with some reservations expressed regarding sales outlets, advertising, information, training and advice centres. The National Women's Affairs Committee welcomed the confirmation by the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Deputy Barry Desmond, that [617] he would introduce such a form of legislation in the current year and at meetings with him the Women's Affairs Committee accepted with some reluctance the minimum age of 16 years at which contraceptives could become legally available. Within the trade union movement there is a very strong support for and a very strong recognition of the need for the change in the law.

One could point to one of the reasons why in a sense there has not been more vocal support by young people, for example, students. Why should there be? They already have the access that we are now going to legalise in this Bill. We all know that. When you have a situation where the “law is a ass” and you know that it is being flagrantly disregarded, then you do not have to go out and start canvassing in the same way for access to something you already have access to. Having talked about the demand and being quite clear that there is for very good reasons significant and proper demand for change in this law and that it was proper of the Government to respond to that demand, I welcome the way in which the Minister when introducing this Bill put the priority on need rather than demand. I thought that that was one of the most welcome and compelling passages in his speech. He said:

Despite the evidence of a demand for change I would argue strongly that demand is, in principle, a lesser consideration than need when considering changes in the law. There are, after all, mdny pieces of legislation adopted in this country year after year for which the level of public demand is at best limited. It is a duty of legislators to provide a framework of legislation which corresponds to their assessment of the needs of the community in the interests of the common good. In the category of necessity I would place the difficulties experienced by couples in many parts of the country in obtaining contraceptives, the contrast between normal behaviour on the part of the adults and the odious legal requirement [618] to seek permission from doctors before buying a packet of condoms, and the changed sexual mores among young people.

The Minister is right that in these areas need is much more important than the proven head-count public demand.

I hope that the view expressed and the approach adopted by the Minister, as set out in that paragraph, will be carried on by the Government because there are other areas where the need is extremely critical. I am talking about the abolition of the ban on divorce. That should not be based on whether there is a head-count majority. That should be based on the need of those who are trapped in a situation which causes them extraordinary pain, grief and suffering and who cannot escape from that situation unless we, the legislators and the Government, are prepared to recognise their need for a change in the law.

This brings me to my last point in this debate, that is the pressures which were brought to bear and in particular the references to the interventions by members of the Catholic Hierarchy. I referred, in reviewing the legislative history, to the earlier situation, the very strong statement and language used by Dr. McQuaid in opposing any change in the law, and then to the situation following the Supreme Court judgment in the McGee case where the Catholic Hierarchy as a whole issued a statement in which they very clearly drew the line that legislation was for legislators and that they were concerned about the situation. This time, in what was the first honest Government measure, the first measure that addressed and sought to resolve the problems, we saw evidence of some attempt by individual members of the Hierarchy — not by the Hierarchy as a whole — to step beyond that balance as between the role of Church and State. I would be the first to affirm the right of the Bishops to speak out and to make clear their teaching on and their understanding of Catholic teaching in this area. They have every right to provide guidance [619] to their flock on that and they have every right to do so publicly when a measure is published. But both in the language used and the intonation in that language by the present Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. McNamara, and by the Bishop of Limerick, Dr. Newman, there was an attempt to influence legislators in a way which is particularly undesirable in a country such as this where we have a predominant religion and where, therefore, if a Bishop makes any statement it necessarily has a considerable impact and is seriously listened to, and to then seek to influence directly is very worrying. Therefore I would subscribe to the view that the vote last week in the other House was an extremely important moment in the history of the State when legislators did assume their responsibilities. In a way, that is always what has been needed in this area. It is not for the Bishops to make our law: it is for legislators to have the courage, whatever may be said or not said, to face up to realities and to face up to responsibilities. It was an important point that was reached.

In the comments, particularly in the media on what was said by individual members of the Hierarchy, emphasis was laid on the public statements made or letters read out publicly by or on behalf of those Bishops, but I have been alarmed to learn the extent to which individual Deputies — I do not know about Members of this House — were telephoned by the Bishops in their areas. That has intimations of pressure. If a Bishop telephones a Deputy in his home to discuss the Bill, there is pressure there almost regardless of what the conversation is about. That is the beginning of an encroachment on influencing the legislator. It is not easy, particularly for a rural Deputy, perhaps in a marginal seat, if somebody who might challenge the Deputy within his own party is taking a strong stand on the issue, to resist that pressure. It is alarming to learn of the extent to which some Bishops were actively seeking privately to influence, apart from any public statements they might [620] have made about the Church's teaching or about their own teaching.

My reason for referring to this is that although I believe that the vote in the Dáil on this issue was a very welcome landmark in the history of Church-State relations, was clear evidence of a willingness and determination by Deputies to assume their responsibilities as legislators and not to bow to any such pressure, I am worried about the possible deterrent effect of all of this. I am worried that it may weaken the resolve of this Government or of members of the parties who compose this Government to be prepared to move on to the next issue. There is a feeling that it may be said, “We have had enough of this; it is very dislocating; the price is too high”. I wonder whether some of the vocal and active interventions by individual members of the Hierarchy was partly for that purpose. They may have already decided that they would not be able to succeed in stopping this Bill but they may have been putting out markers for future legislation. That would worry me very much because we need to have the reform in areas where necessarily there may be some difference. Particularly, we need to have the courage to approach the issue of the removal of the constitutional ban on divorce and we must not be deterred by the fact that it may be an issue which gives rise to strong statements by individual members of the Catholic Hierarchy.

It is significant that there were very real differences of emphasis. The difference of emphasis was one in which other individual members of the Hierarchy who spoke adopted the approach which the Episcopal Conference adopted at the public meeting in the New Ireland Forum early last year. That was a much more considered approach as to what is the proper balance in Church-State relations.

We have had two recent issues where the legislators have been faced with strong statements by individual bishops, the Pro-Life Amendment and now this Bill to amend the family planning legislation. I very much welcome the extent to which legislators had the courage and the [621] kind of insights to which Deputy Desmond O'Malley referred in his speech in the Dáil, to understand how important it was for the life of this country and for future balance in this country. First of all, in talking about this country in terms of the Republic of Ireland and also, of course, in the context of north/south relations. I would hope that that courage and that commitment will prevail and that there will not be any longer term deterrent effect.

I would conclude by adopting a phrase used by Senator Fitzsimons this morning. In talking about this Bill he described it as a radical measure. It is not radical in what it proposes to do. It is quite a limited measure. It is radical in this subject area because it is honest and because it addresses the problem. I commend the Minister for Health for bringing it in and the Government for supporting the promotion of this Government Bill and I would hope that we will have a full debate at Committee Stage also on all aspects of this subject.

Mr. B. Ryan: In a sense, the issue is already settled. The Government have taken their decision. The Dáil, which is elected by the people, has taken its decision and a most welcome decision it was and I know for some people in particular a very brave decision and one which deserves to be commended. On an issue such as this the opportunity we in Seanad Eireann have is to reflect somewhat more dispassionately on the issues contained in the Bill and the issues raised by the debate about the Bill and to elaborate on some of those in a way that, in the heat of a very fundamental conflict in Dáil Eireann, was not possible.

I am reminded of a comment by Senator Robb here two weeks ago when he talked — I know from talking to him afterwards he somewhat regretted it because he is a very charitable man — about mickey mouses being frightened by croziers. A large section of Irish people would regard this Bill as effectively a mickey mouse Bill in the sense that they would regard it as irrelevant to their own lifestyles, their own values and their own [622] convictions because they would reckon themselves to have settled that issue ten if not 20 years ago in their own choices and their own styles of life but, in terms, as Senator Robinson said, of attempting to have the legislation reflect the truth of Irish society, it is not a mickey mouse issue. In terms of the underlying principle of this Bill which is that we should, as legislators, legislate for Ireland as it is and not for some dreamy, mist-ridden green isle of virtuous maidens and equally virtuous males who never think anything other than the virtuous thoughts of the virtuous. Our legislation should reflect a society made up of ordinary people, decent, good people with ordinary people's problems trying to come to ordinary people's solutions to their problems and not some sort of mythological people-independent and separate from the values of the rest of the world. Therefore, in that context, the debate and the issues that this Bill has raised are of considerable significance.

The Government are to be commended for their bravery not so much in introducing the Bill because while many of us would have forecast a level of opposition to any attempt to reformulate our contraception legislation in some sort of realistic way, none of us dreamed that the level of hysteria that subsequently emerged was still possible in Ireland in 1985 — whatever compliments I would direct to the Government I would particularly direct to them for their courage in sticking with their proposition when the going really got rough. I think, and this is not meant as any disrespect to Fine Gael, I as a Socialist have so often criticised the Labour Party that in this case I would be entirely dishonest if I did not compliment the Labour Party and the Labour Party Ministers in Government in particular for sticking by a fundamental piece of what I would regard as the basis of socialism which is an honest reflection of people's needs and an honest response to people's needs. I share with Senator Robinson the point she articulated so well that there is more to society, to legislation, to government than a response to demand. A really worthwhile government [623] and a really worthwhile society is based on a response to need rather than to demand. If we were to respond to demand only there are huge ranges of issues, from the travellers through the homeless into these areas, which would never be discussed because the demand does not exist. It is need we talk about if we are really to legislate for a compassionate society. I would like to compliment, therefore, the Labour Party and the Government parties generally for their achievement and for their courage particularly in face of the opposition that was generated.

The Bill is most welcome. It is simple and straightforward and sensible. I had to go back and think about responses to a lot of the arguments because, like many people in Irish society, my own views on this issue and on the legal regulation of access to contraception have changed and developed so far over the last 20 years of my adult life. I had to go back and think out again answers to questions that I had solved to my own satisfaction 20 years ago. In the light of a number of the things that have been said, I would like to concur with Senator Robinson that whatever statistics can be produced about some of the painful and damaging consequences of irresponsible sexual activity like the spread of venereal disease, the incidence of abortion, extra marital pregnancies et cetera there is no evidence of a convincing nature which produces a causal relationship between access to contraceptives and any of those problems. There is conflicting evidence, there is doubtful evidence but there is no overwhelming evidence and as we learned in the course of the past hour many of the upward rising graphs of incidence of abortion and other problems in other cultures and in other countries which we have been told result from free access to contraception are reflected in similar changes in this country in a decade when contraceptives were not legally available at all. We simply started from a lower base but we are in exactly the same society and the same upward-rising graph as other countries and therefore there is [624] not any sort of case that would stand up to proper scientific analysis. It is one of the regrettable things, and I will refer to this again, that there has been a considerable effort in this country to somehow beatify dubious sociological analysis by having it pronounced by spiritual leaders. It needs to be said that whatever their merits as spiritual leaders, the bishops and priests are no more competent to make sociological assessments than anybody else. They have no particular expertise, no particular charisma, no particular gift in the area of social studies, political studies or economic studies. It is a most regrettable misuse of a very sensitive position for any spiritual leader to attempt to gloss over fundamental sociological questions by simply saying: “Because I am your bishop you must believe that there is a causal relationship”. The evidence simply is not there and it is very wrong for people in positions of influence, and particular spiritual leaders, to attempt to gloss over the fact that the evidence is contradictory, flawed and extremely doubtful.

It is also regrettable that some of the admittedly disturbing statistics from many other European countries are used in a way which seems to tar those societies as being the models of decadence and collapse and of everything that is wrong. We have had apocalyptic and colourful language to describe those societies which would put the decline and fall of the Roman Empire into the halfpenny place.

I would like to remind this House that the countries that are mentioned so frequently, countries like Denmark and the Scandinavian countries, countries like Norway, Holland and places like that, whatever their problems in this area they are societies which, in terms of the way they care for their children, in the way they care for their old people, in the way they care for the unemployed, and in particular in the level of public commitment to doing something about the fundamental inequity of the distribution of wealth in the world, are a million light years ahead of our society here. They are societies that are characterised by [625] compassion, by concern, by commitment to those who are less well off in the world and in society and by a conviction of the need for action to do something about it. We are on very, very shaky ground when we set ourselves up as somehow superior Christians to people like that and superior human beings. There is an awful lot about those societies that we would do well to consider and attempt to emulate.

The truth is, in my view, that the changes embodied in this legislation are very much a reflection of a changing world. One of the most interesting issues that has been raised in this debate has been in particular our attitude to our young people. It is extraordinary that our young people are expected to fight on our behalf. They are expected to be able to take responsibility in regard to buying a house and in every other major area of life. They are expected to sign contracts, they are expected to vote, they are expected to act as jury members on all sorts of horrible and horrific crimes. But even though we expect all that from them, we somehow presume that in the area of dealing with their own sexuality they need some sort of extra cordon of protection.

We would be advised to remember just what we are talking about when we talk about young people. We are talking about people who are adults in every sense of the word. The people who produced this image of innocent little boys and girls intimidated and frightened and coerced into levels of sexual activity with which they do not agree are either talking from sham or from ignorance because I can say that my experience contradicts that. If I may, I will quote the leader of Fianna Fáil in an interview with him in Hot Press volume 8, No. 24. He was asked:

On the subject of the current contraception debate: isn't it true that the actual behaviour and practice of young people has long since made the question irrelevant?

“Ah, yeah, I think that's probably true enough”.

[626] “It's all very academic, at this stage....”

“Yeah, (laughs) I think so, yeah”

What about in your own day?

Was it like that then?”

“Ah now, (laughs) to my dying day,

I'll regret that I was too late for the free society! We missed out on that! It came too late for my generation!”

In my view that was perceptive, honest and a very true reflection of our young people. They are able to make up their own minds and, whether we like it or not in this House, they are making up their own minds. Just to elaborate on this matter of myths about young people and the way we deal with them. I want to quote a poem. The poem was written by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, a Russian poet. He is interesting on a number of grounds, the most fundamental being that he is tolerated in the Soviet Union, in other words, in a totalitarian society he is a socially acceptable poet. I would like to quote from a poem which is called “Lies”:

Telling lies to the young is wrong.

Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.

Telling them that God's in his heaven and all's well with the world is wrong.

The young know what you mean. The young are people.

Tell them the difficulties can't be counted,

and let them see not only what will be but see with clarity these present times. Say obstacles exist they must encounter, sorrow happens, hardship happens. The Hell with it. Who never knew the price of happiness will not be happy. Forgive no error you recognize, it will repeat itself, increase, and afterwards our pupils will not forgive in us what we forgave.

I think that is a fine description of how we should deal with our young people, as people to whom we are prepared to tell the truth and not flounder around in myths of youthful innocence that are totally unrelated to the realities of Irish society. That was by a poet who was a product of what we would describe as a [627] totalitarian society. Who in God's name are we fooling? If I could quote again from Deputy Des O'Malley's speech in the Dáil with respect to young people — because I think better than anything that I could say, Deputy O'Malley's comments, and I am quoting from last Sunday's Sunday Tribune——

Acting Chairman (Seamus de Brún): It is not proper to quote speeches made in the Dáil.

Mr. B. Ryan: I defer, but I have distinct recollections of large numbers of speeches from the Dáil being quoted in this House on many occasions.

Acting Chairman: Speeches by Ministers are allowed but not speeches by Deputies.

Mr. B. Ryan: I come then to something that for me is probably the most painful aspect of this debate and that is the role of my Church. I will not describe it as the Church or the Catholic Church, it is my Church. That is why it is painful because it is not a Church out there that offends my consciousness, not because it is a Church out there that attempts to do something with Irish society but because fundamentally and before all else it is my Church and the first thing about my Church and my Bishops is that they have a right to speak. It is worth reminding this House and, indeed, my Bishops, that the principle of the right to free speech is a principle that was developed by the left and by the labour and trade union movements.

The right to freedom of speech is one of the most sacred traditions that has been advanced and espoused by the labour and trade union movements and by the left collectively who come in for a considerable amount of denunciation from those who, in many cases, have benefited most from the development of the concept of free speech which has been one of the great heritages of socialism in the western world generally. It needs to be said that unfortunately the history of the Churches is tainted by a remarkable conservatism well outside the areas of [628] morality. It is one of the truths of 19th century life that again my Church was highly suspicious of the concept of democracy, however much it espouses it today. My Church was highly suspicious of the concept of social welfare, however much it espouses it today. And when my Church is highly suspicious of some other area of social change I can only say yet again that whatever the concept of infallibility in doctrinal matters may be the evidence of history is that my Church is anything but infallible in areas of political judgment and social policy. Whatever the rights of Bishops to speak, and they are inalienable and I would be one who would be on the barricades to defend the rights of anybody to express any opinion within the law, nobody has an unqualified right in the name of Jesus Christ to hurl insults left, right and centre.

People in powerful positions have an obligation to refrain from using inflammatory language. In Irish society it hardly needs to be said that the Bishops of my Church have considerably greater influence than most individual politicians and vastly greater influence than this politician. Therefore, when people use inflammatory language and if, as a consequence of the Armageddon style language that is used, fanatics and extremists take fanatical and extremist positions and use fanatical and extremist language and resort to threats and intimidation etc., those who used the initial inflammatory language can not then walk away and say, “I deplore that”.

I have to choose my words carefully because I am accountable to an electorate sooner or later. Others have a similar obligation to choose their language carefully and not to use language which inflames other people and then pretend there are no connections between the consequences of their own remarks and the remarks they made. I want to quote from the Archbishop of Dublin in The Irish Times of 8 February 1985:

No one with the interests of our young people at heart, no one who is concerned for the moral welfare of the rising generation can abdicate moral [629] responsibility, can stand aside or remain silent at the prospect of contraceptives being made legally available to unmarried young people — a step which would certainly lead before long to their availability to even younger age groups. If we now decide to sow the wind, can we be surprised if we soon reap the whirlwind?

Who sowed the wind and who reaped the whirlwind might well be an interesting topic for discussion because I think a wind was sowed by those sort of remarks and the whirlwind was the sort of fanaticism we saw as a consequence. I deeply resent the implication that anybody who agrees with this legislation somehow has not got the interests of young people at heart, is not concerned about the moral welfare of the rising generation or is somehow abdicating responsibility. If I wanted to abdicate responsibility I would not be here.

When my Church makes remarks like that it is not making them in a vacuum, it is making them in a way which turns on me and suggests to me that I am somehow unfit to be a member of my Church. We are all unfit to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ, Bishops, priests, Pope and the lot of us and that is a very fundamental truth of Christianity. That is not opinion, that is not moral conviction, that is something which amounts to abuse. It insults the consciences of others and it is well beyond what I would regard as the proper role of those who want to teach us not fundamentally about the teachings of Jesus Christ but about Jesus Christ because that is what our faith is about. Let it also be said, and it is true of virtually all Members of this House and the other House, that unlike those who have lectured us most about children, unlike those who have lectured us most about the family and about the responsibility of parents, we have children and they do not and how dare they tell us that we do not care about our children? We have children and of course we care. It is most offensive to say otherwise.

The other aspect of the attitudes and [630] pronouncements of Bishops of my Church to which I have taken great exception is the things that were said about the consciences of Catholic legislators. Nobody said it with greater honesty or greater bluntness than Bishop Newman. I quote from The Irish Times of Wednesday, February 13 1985:

In that connection, let me remind all politicians who profess to be Catholic that they have a duty to follow the guidance of their Church in areas where the interests of Church and State overlap.

To the man's great and eternal credit there was nothing ambiguous about it. It is not that we must listen, it is not that we must heed but that we have a duty to follow. In the eyes of Bishop Newman all of us who support this legislation who are church-going Catholics are in fundamental breach of our duty as Catholics. That is something that has caused great shock to people because they saw it as being somehow in conflict with the Bishops' presentation to the Forum. One of my great regrets about the Forum is that certain ambiguities in the statements of my Bishops were not properly teased out. And when they eloquently defended the rights and the civil liberties of people in Northern Ireland nobody asked them to elaborate on those civil liberties, because I will say to you, you will not get any Bishop in my Church to say that either contraception or divorce are civil liberties. That issue was left hanging in mid-air and what is being said by Bishop Newman may be in more extreme language but it is the view still of the vast majority of the members of the Hierarchy of my Church. A prominent cleric — I would not have used the names of any of these people if they had not been introduced already in this debate — Father Faul from Dungannon in a letter to The Irish Times, which Senator Fitzsimons quoted, made reference to what he called the ultimate corruption being clergymen who supported contraception, divorce and abortion. I do not know whether he meant them all to be taken collectively but the letter was to do with the Family Planning [631] Bill so I assume he must have been talking about clergymen, for instance, who supported contraception. He described that as the ultimate corruption. That sort of remark goes without much comment, but it should be said, at least this Catholic wants to say it, that that is a gross insult to the clergymen of every other denomination other than the Catholic Church. It is, for instance, a gross insult to the memory of probably the greatest saint of this century, Martin Luther King, who was a member of a Church whose members accepted the right of married people to use contraceptives. In fact what this priest said was that he was an example of the ultimate corruption.

The usual excuse that is given is that there are other Bishops who said other things to balance that. It needs to be said that the official spokesman of the Hierarchy was at pains to emphasise that all the statements by all the Bishops were within the framework of the Bishops views on this issue, that they might have been phrased differently, that they might have a greater or lesser emphasis but they were all within the framework of what was acceptable and what was appropriate. That is why I speak with some passion on this issue. It is not because of the Bill itself because I regard it as something that I would nod through without a second thought if I had a choice, but because of the hurt and the pain that I am aware of among so many people because of what they see as the most extraordinary attitude of our Church and the most extraordinary statements and the most extraordinary pain that has been caused, and the most extraordinary statements that have been made within the Oireachtas in the name of Christian values. Somebody has to restore a sense of an alternative viewpoint of what being a Christian means in politics and in Irish society. Perhaps we should not discuss it here, but I was not the one who raised it. It was raised in the other House at great length and with great passion. Many would wish that those of us who dissent would leave the Church in the way that Deputy O'Malley was wished out of [632] Fianna Fáil. All I can say is that it will take similar action by the Church to get me out of my Church as the action which got Deputy O'Malley out of Fianna Fáil. They can throw me out, but I am not going because I happen to have a profound and deeply held conviction of the centrality of religious faith in my life. I have an informed conscience. I have a conscience which has kept me messing around in the back streets and the gutter of this country for the past ten years, bringing people out of the gutter who were left there by an allegedly Christian society. I am sick to death of having other friends of mine who have worked in other equally difficult areas being maligned as being unchristian because they disagree with the Church on this issue or disagree with the Church on the whole question of sexual morality. There are many Christians in our society who have a fundamentally different view of what our Church should be or what our Christian society should be.

May I quote from another suspect source, from Gustavo Gutierrez, who is credited with — and I use that with a capital C — the originating of the concept of liberation of theology. The book is entitled We Drink From Our Own Wells, The Spiritual Journey of a People and I quote from page 12. This is my only long quotation:

To those in control every action aiming at liberation and the recovery for the people of what belongs to it, all talk that starts with the realization of alienation, is subversive and calls for punishment by the political, military or ideological authority in the hands of the ruling class. The present situation —

He is talking about Latin America and there are certain indulgences that must be allowed because of that:

—which the exploited have now begun to challenge — has been so completely accepted by some and so completely taken to be the proper order of [633] things that every expression of disagreement becomes unnatural and is grounds for suspicion; this holds true even in certain sections of the Church.

At the present time, then men and women who try to side with the dispossessed and bear witness to God in Latin America must accept the bitter fact that they will inevitably be suspect. They may even be regarded not as followers of Jesus Christ but as intruders:

The parallels are obvious.

they come from outside, make their way in, and create problems, simply because they think — and, be it said, live — differently. It is hard for them to accept suspicion for something that is so deeply a part of them as their personal honesty and, above all, their faith in the Lord. Such suspicion is an attack on what the old morality used to call a person's “honour”, which is a basic right of every person. But honour of this kind can bring persecution, imprisonment, or death. Archbishop Oscar Romero was an example of someone suspected of not being a good Christian. Some of those who entertain such suspicions are simply fearful for the future to which the Lord is calling us. Suspicion within the Christian community itself is nowadays a component of the cress of Christians who seek to bear witness to the God of the poor. By that very fact, it is also a factor that serves to purify their commitment.

That is my vision of what a Christian in politics should be talking about. It is a million light years away from the vision of those who claim to speak for my Church on this issue and who have spoken at length and with some degree of intolerance and lack of perception on behalf of my Church. A brief quotation from Fr. Peter Lemass in The Furrow of February 1985, I think, sums up for me in the light of that last quotation what many of us would hope.

The rich Church will be converted by the poor Church, the Church of [634] Europe and the US by the Church of Latin America.

That quotation, as far as I am concerned, is the quotation of the real Church of Latin America as distinct from the Church of the rich, speaking from a position of power and influence in this country. That is my hope and that is my faith — a Church which trusts people, a Church which has real faith and which has a hope for the future, and is not perennially and eternally looking backwards towards some dream world which used to exist but is now gone, a Church which does not want power and control and which, above all — it is sad that one even has to say it — is lacking in vindictiveness.

That Church of control has told us that you can legislate for private morality. That is the position of a large section of the Fianna Fáil Party. That is what it appears to be. It is fascinating that we apparently believe that we can legislate for sexual morality, but the same people who most articulately defend the need to legislate in the area of sexual morality will insist that, in the area of financial and economic morality, the State should have no role to play. They believe the State interferes with the market and with the movement of people because the market is operated on what is basically self-interest. You can call it greed if you like, but even the most articulate and the most militant defenders of the free market will accept that it is based on self-interest. It is astonishing that in the area of sexual morality we can legislate but in the area of economic and financial morality we must leave the market to find its own way. It says something for the underlying values of those who defend that position.

Since I have said so often and in so many places so much to denigrate the man, it would be wrong of me if I did not pay tribute here to Deputy O'Malley. For the first half of my early political career in Dublin I suspect I spent half of my free time outside the gates of this House protesting about one or other activity of Deputy O'Malley, whether it involved threats to introduce internment, or the [635] Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill, or the Forcible Entry Bill. He and I on this issue are the most unlikely of allies, but I can only say, since I cannot quote it, that what he said in the Dáil on the role of the Catholic conscience in legislation, on the role of our young people and, indeed, on many other issues represents an almost identical view to my own. In fact, I said to somebody that I could simply have stood up here and read out his speech and said three-quarters of what I wanted to say.

I wish somebody in Fianna Fáil would explain to me why, on this issue, which they have made into such a huge issue, which they have described as being overwhelmingly unacceptable and as being repulsive to most people, nobody in the party, who represent somewhere between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of the people, has even hinted that they will repeal this legislation if they ever get back into Government. If this Bill is so overwhelmingly unacceptable why is it that they have not promised this overwhelming majority of the Irish people who are overwhelmingly against this Bill and overwhelmingly against the Government on the issue, that they will do what they apparently believe would be so popular, to repeal the Bill? I suspect it is because they have begun to realise that perhaps they have got it all wrong, and that a large majority disagree with them fundamentally, and that what Fianna Fáil are reflecting is their own conservatism rather than any real deep-seated concern in the people.

I met a prominent Fianna Fáil TD last week, a friend of mine of sorts from my own area of the country, who is much given to reminding me of my own Fianna Fáil antecedents and about the fact that my father was a member of a local urban council for Fianna Fáil for a number of years and was an active member of Fianna Fáil for the best part of ten general elections. This man is much given to reminding me that I am somewhat out of touch with my roots and I should return to Fianna Fáil. I am not so sure whether he really means it but he keeps saying it anyway.

[636] Last Wednesday night after the vote was taken I explained to him why. I simply quoted Deputy O'Malley and I said: “I am not in Fianna Fáil because I am a republican”, and it is as simple as that. I am a republican and I believe in the republican tradition. I believe in the idea of a non-denominational State with room for all people to express themselves and for all people to defend themselves. I am not in Fianna Fáil also because I am a socialist, but that was not the issue at the time.

There has been much talk of victory and defeat on this issue. Most people have said it is not a question of victory or defeat. I would say there has been a victory here, but it is not the one to which most people would address themselves. It has been a victory for the much abused laity of the Irish Roman Catholic Church who are abused, mistrusted, totally unrepresented and usually unheard. The wisdom and good sense of the Irish laity have been responsible for the considerable success of this Bill. I hope we are coming to the end of the morbid Irish obsession with sex as somehow on a different plane of morality from all other issues.

It is interesting, for instance, that the 1979 Act builds in the right conscientiously for people not to handle or deal with these things, as they would call them, if they felt so concerned. Is it not astonishing that nine or ten young girls in Dunnes Stores in Henry Street, who have a conscientious objection to handling the products of the most appalling regime in this world, cannot have a similar conscientious right written into their contracts? Why is sex so much more an issue of morality than something appalling like apartheid in South Africa?

Perhaps when we have developed a real conscience we will address ourselves to the world's real problems, like the obscenity of armaments expenditure, like the obscenity of exploitation and particularly the exploitation of women, like the obscenity of homelessness and all the other peripheral issues to the great informed Irish conscience. They are the real issues of conscience and in particular they [637] are the real issues of an informed Christian conscience.

I welcome this Bill. I welcomed it from the beginning. I said a long time ago that I support the free availability of contraceptives. I do not believe that they make much difference to the morality of a society. Demand for contraceptives reflects the structure of a society. I welcome the fact that we have seen at last the capacity of the Irish Legislature to decide for itself. Perhaps in the future when the Roman Catholic Hierarchy speak, we may agree with them. Hopefully, in the future we will disagree with them. What we have demonstrated I hope is that we do not have to do what anybody tells us, that we decide for ourselves in these Houses what is good for this country. Therefore, I enthusiastically endorse the legislation.

Mr. Deenihan: I should like to compliment Senator Ryan on his brilliant speech. It is one of the best I have heard since I came into this House. I hope to be rather brief in what I have to say. I should like to place a special emphasis on an aspect I have been promoting for the past two years since I came into this House, that is, a proper health education programme in our schools which no doubt would include sex education.

I appreciate the Catholic Church's right and concern to speak out on the amendment to the 1979 Health (Family Planning) Act. However, I fully support the Bill put before us today by the Minister, Deputy Desmond. As has been pointed out by many previous speakers, the existing 1979 Act was clearly flawed. There was no age restriction, and “bona fide family planning” was never clarified. Formerly, married couples had to provide a prescription for non-medical family planning. First, this is an unnecessary expense. Secondly, it is an intrusion into the privacy of their marriage. Furthermore, this Act has been more honoured in its breach than in its observance. This new Bill does not take away freedom of choice. Contraceptives will not be mandatory for young people. Young [638] people today are more responsible than they are given credit for being.

I was glad the Minister made reference in his speech yesterday to the whole aspect of education. He said:

I believe that education to assist young people to form mature relationships is of great importance and at my request the Health Education Bureau are co-operating fully with the Minister for Education in devising a programme of this kind for use in our schools.

The State's involvement in sex education was first seriously discussed in October 1982 in Killarney at a Health Education Bureau conference attended by Church organisations and representatives from many groups including the teaching profession, the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and the Irish Family Planning Association. Various speakers criticised the lack of clear aims and objectives and any clear policy on sex education in our schools. It was also felt that the HEB should play a leading role in formulating such a sex education programme or, as it was referred to by some contributors on that occasion, relationship education. The HEB, as a result of the conference, set up a special committee to examine the need for such a programme and to formulate a development plan for Irish schools. The Health Education Bureau also developed a teacher training programme in health education to include elements of sex education. Over 500 teachers have benefited from this programme.

In a recent statement the bureau listed some major obstacles to the initiation of a comprehensive sex education programme in our schools. Among those obstacles were the lack of trained personnel who have the confidence and knowledge to stand before a class and deal with this subject; reluctance of parents to discuss sex with their children and co-operate with the schools; lack of materials such as visual aids; and the reluctance of many organisations to become involved, again because of lack of knowledge and confidence. Clearly there is a need for the provision of information and [639] the Department no doubt realise their responsibility in this respect.

In September 1974 a steering committee was set up by the HEB under Mr. Eugene O'Sullivan of the HEB and Anton Carroll, a community school principal. Among its terms of references are: to assist the HEB to develop policy regarding relationship education for post-primary schools; to advise on the development of relationship education for post-primary schools; and to oversee the further development of such relationship education as a pilot project in a selected number of post-primary schools at an early date.

Although it will be some time before recommendations will come from the committee, nevertheless this report is eagerly awaited. The Minister for Education, Deputy Hussey, in the autumn edition of Rostrum produced by the Association of Principals and Vice-Principals of Community and Comprehensive Schools made some very interesting points regarding sex education in Irish schools. I quote:

For a number of possible reasons there has not been much discussion about sex education in Irish schools, or of its part in the preparation of young people for relationships within marriage and in life generally. It seems to me that little attention has been paid to the role of schools in the matter. If one were to judge by the amount of public discussion which has taken place, this is in contrast to the amount of attention paid to other topics such as vocational preparation and education for work, at least in terms of public discussion on the subjects. Let me hasten to add that I yield to no one in my support for adequate preparation for work in life. However, it cannot be that Education for Family Life and for marriage and the role of sex education in relation to these, is regarded as less important.

I fully support the above viewpoint expressed by the Minister. However, as Senator Ryan said, there seems to be [640] a resistance by Church leaders to the introduction of such a programme.

In a statement read in Dublin and Kerry churches before Christmas, Dr. McNamara, a former Bishop of Kerry, and now Archbishop of Dublin, warned that the State may be tempted to claim a major role in the sexual education of young people. He added:

As far as education on sexuality is concerned, this belongs properly to parents. Where they need help in this area it must be given by those to whom they can look with confidence to put it in its full religious and moral context.

Whereas I agree with the Archbishop that the family has a vital role to play, however, in the above statement does he mean that parents cannot look at teachers with confidence and trust? Surely Archbishop McNamara recognises the major influences both the school environment and the teachers have on children's moral development. The Minister agrees more or less with Dr. McNamara and in the Rostrum article she placed special emphasis on the role of the family.

In relation to the Archbishop's view, the Minister thought that parents should have the primary responsibility in this matter. Nobody can deny this right of freedom to parents. In any future sex education programme the school, the family and the Church must co-operate. There should be special counselling for parents, both from the Church and the schools to help the parents to communicate easily with their children on this subject. The school, the Church and the family have vital roles to play.

The Minister indicated in this article the type of programme she envisages in our schools. I quote:

Sex education, relationships, preparation for family life and marriage and parenthood education are all matters which involve emotion and feelings as well as rational considerations. Therefore, an education approach which allows for dealing with feelings and personal issues is needed. Giving [641] and receiving love, warmth and affection are the very heart of this topic. Quiet discussion and conversation such as takes place with group work would seem the appropriate approach. Discussion of sexual matters could be developed without fuss in such an environment.

She continued:

I do not see sex education as information about basic biological functions only. However, I would not underestimate the possible level of ignorance about or a distortion of biological facts. Many people may lack adequate knowledge about their own bodies, including the sexual function of their bodies. Ideally, the physiological facts of sex are best learned over a period of time by honest answers from parents to questions normally asked by children and backed up by the study of reproductive processes as part of general science courses. Some parents may find it very difficult, or even impossible, to discuss intimate details with their children — more responsibility may fall on the school in these cases. The onset of puberty may raise issues on which young people will require reassurance and opportunities for discussion with sympathetic adults with whom there is a bond of trust. Again the parents are the primary source of such reassurance. Many young people will look to teachers as well.

The Minister also pointed out in the article the need for a developmental approach continuing from primary school through secondary level and into adult life, the importance of parental involvement in deciding what sex education a school will offer and the provision of adult education courses to prepare parents to be well versed in the subject.

I compliment the Minister on her openness on the subject and her efforts to date to introduce a meaningful programme of sex education into our schools. I welcome the secondment of a teacher on to the Health Education Bureau to develop [642] aspects of sex education programmes as well as closer co-operation between the Minister's Department and the HEB in the production of material and training courses in the area of health education. The Department of Education have also secured support from the EC for the curriculum development projects concerned with transition from school to adult life which include projects carried out in the development of a proper relationship education programme. The above developments are a sign of a concrete commitment by the Minister.

A sex education programme included in an overall health education programme — or call it a human relationship programme — that puts emphasis on the dignity of the human being, the importance of respect between the sexes, and an understanding of the implications of unwanted pregnancies, both economic and psychological, is vital in our schools curriculum. Teenagers should be encouraged to defer sexual activity to an age of greater maturity and deeper and more loving relationships. However, those who become active should be advised to use effective contraceptives from the first time of intercourse. To encourage young teenagers to defer sexual activity, a strategy involving parents and the teaching of specific techniques to resist social pressures, is vital. However, the second aspect would be more difficult and more controversial to enforce.

I want to quote Donal Reed on this subject. He is Assistant Director of the Health Education Council of London. He said:

It is never going to be easy to promote the idea that virgins of either sex should always carry contraceptives just in case. Yet, our present understanding of teenage attitudes suggests that encouraging the anticipation of sexuality is exactly what we should be doing. At least we can perhaps persuade the active to seek advice at an earlier stage in a relationship through the provision of appropriate courses supported by sensitive counsel and acceptable sources of supply.

[643] In other countries the experience with sex education programmes seems to be that, whereas knowledge is given and taken by the participants, nevertheless there seems to be a lack of motivation by some of them in carrying out what they have learned. In any future sex education programmes we can learn from the experience in other countries. There is a great opportunity to develop a good sex education programme, in consultation with the family and the Church. There is a need for it. From my own experience of teaching for seven years I can definitely see such a need in the school where I taught. We tried to implement various programmes. Some of them were successful but we did not get any clear objectives from the Department. There is a need for a clear set of aims and objectives for such a programme, and some body of knowledge which the teachers can use.

This Bill has created much controversy, and as Senator Ryan said, much suffering to many people who have supported it, including people like myself who are probably closer to the younger people than other Senators. People have over-reacted. We must acknowledge the fact that sexual activity has become more popular than formerly. Whether this is desirable is a matter for individual judgment. We have to face the reality. There is no better way to face it than by educating people in the use and abuse of sexual relationships. The schools have a vital role to play in this.

Dr. O'Donoghue: Let me begin by saying that it gives me no joy to speak in this debate. I probably had the same reaction as many other people to the events of recent weeks, in my own case a mixture of sadness at times, anger, concern and occasionally a bit of admiration for the speeches and behaviour of at least some of the people who found themselves involved.

It is hardly surprising that we should have got fairly strong statements, actions and reactions, since the subject matter of this Bill is one that touches on many of the values of the Irish people. It touches [644] on some of those values which are rarely discussed in public. For that reason, people who on more normal subjects might be willing to contribute to a public debate find themselves somewhat inhibited from doing so. In my own case it is probably right to say that prudence might suggest that I should remain silent because my own voice or my own vote cannot make any difference to the passage of the Bill through this House. Friends of mine — and I hasten to add nonpolitical friends — have suggested that I should adopt the prudent course. I do not share that view. I cannot share it.

First of all, I believe it is right that when matters come before the Oireachtas, they should be dealt with as fully and as responsibly as possible. In this instance, since we know the very deep emotions and attitudes engendered by the Bill, it is doubly important that Members of the Seanad should contribute. We have the good fortune to be able to conduct our business here in a calmer, more businesslike manner. Very often we are able to bring a greater degree of detachment to issues than is often possible in the other House because of the more immediate pressures on Members there.

For that reason and because I am one of the few Members of this House who is not bound by any party Whip in the matter and therefore can speak with a somewhat greater degree of freedom, I would be failing in my duty were I to remain silent. I came across some words of another Trinity graduate, Edmund Burke, that I thought summarised my attitude well. He said:

An event has happened on which it is difficult to speak and impossible to be silent.

I do not wish to discuss the merits or demerits of the Bill at any length. We have already had a great deal of comment and discussion in that area. I doubt if there is very much new I can add at this stage.

I will make some comments on that aspect before I move on to touch on other issues which have arisen which I feel are very important and where there is still [645] need and scope for further discussion and public awareness. I have no difficulty in accepting the teaching of the Catholic Church on pre-marital and extra-marital sex as being immoral nor do I have any difficulty in recognising the right of the Church to speak on these matters as the right of all churches to speak as fully and as freely as possible. It is their duty to try to instruct the members of their respective flocks as carefully as possible. They would be failing in their duty if they did not do that, just as we would be failing in our duty if we did not discharge the responsibilities that have been entrusted to us. It is important to emphasise that, while sexual activity of the extra-marital kind may be immoral, it is not illegal. As legislators we have to deal with the legalities of situations.

It is true that in framing laws for the pebple we should fully take account, as far as we are capable, of the values, morals and attitudes of people — it would be wrong of us to bring forward laws which did not accord in some sense with the values and wishes of the people. It is not always a straightforward or easy matter. We know that in many instances laws are necessary because there is conflict, because there are different values and because there are different viewpoints which may be legitimately held by people.

I was interested to hear some of the contribution of Senator Fitzsimons. He made a number of points which I thought were very valid. He drew attention to the teaching of the Catholic Church as set out in Humanae Vitae. I remember some of the points involved. It struck me very forcibly when he was saying that the use of contraceptive methods, even within marriage, would be contrary to the teaching of the Church. We already have a law, whether some people like it or not, which does not correspond to the teaching of the Church on these matters. That is not to say that we should accept the status quo. There may be cases for changing it but, as we move towards the notion that there is a difference between law and precept of the major Church involved, we also have to recognise that we have a [646] written Constitution for the State. It is a republican Constitution, which sets out to guarantee, in so far as is practicable, the rights of individual citizens. It is important that we should remember that because the Supreme Court upheld rights of privacy in this area it was necessary to legislate in some way for the availability of contraceptives.

Deputy Kelly, when speaking in the Dáil, offered the view that he would not like to bet that the Supreme Court would not uphold the right of any individual who brought a case even under the present law because it might be construed as an invasion of privacy, whatever the status of the individual.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I would like to remind the Senator that he can quote from the Minister's speeches in the Dáil but the rules of this House are not to quote at length the speeches of Deputies.

Dr. O'Donoghue: My apologies. Perhaps I should withdraw those references. The essential point can be made in its own right. It seems to me that under the Constitution it is not clear that the courts would uphold the present law. If any single person were to bring a case in this area that person may well find that the law might be construed as an invasion or an undue restriction on that person's privacy. If we were contemplating actions that were to enshrine or encompass the teaching of the Catholic Church in this area I would have thought it would be necessary to bring forward a constitutional amendment. I have not seen anyone suggest that. I doubt if it is the wish of any of the political parties involved and I doubt if it is the wish of many of the Churches.

I do not know but it seems to me that as things stand, given the constitutional position, given the existing law, it is not relevant to the present debate to go back to the fundamental questions of relationship between the moral teachings of specific churches on this matter and the appropriate civil arrangements to be incorporated into present day legislation. When we find proposals such as the ones [647] before us at the moment they have to be looked at in the context of the legal situation and the context of what changes, if any, are appropriate, given the constitutional and legal position.

The timing of these proposals has also been questioned. I take the view that once the proposals have come before us by the choice of the governing parties of the day, they may as well be debated on their merits. It is not up to anyone else at that stage to say that this is not the right time to discuss this matter. It has come forward, it is there for discussion and we must discuss it.

On the question of the changes this law brings about, on the information available — in that area there is some confusion — in so far as one can establish a reasonable balance of the data available, the proposed changes in the law do not represent any major departure from actual behaviour or practices even though they may represent some change in the legal recognition of those practices.

I do not see this Bill bringing about any fundamental change in the behaviour of people at present. In fact, I would go further and say that since it seems to me that the present law is more honoured in the breach than in the observance one of the benefits I hope will follow from the passing of this Bill is that we might actually have a law that could be enforced. Quite apart from the merits or demerits of any Bill it seems to me that there are already enough pressures at work in our society which are undermining and weakening respect for law and for order of any kind and that we should not add to it by having on our Statute Book laws which will not be capable of reasonable enforcement.

I know that we cannot look to laws for perfection — that is not within the wit of man to devise — but we can look for laws that, on the whole, are reasonably enforceable. There may well be conflicting views as to whether this change will bring about a more enforceable position than the 1979 legislation. It seems to me that it certainly will not make it any more difficult to enforce and in many instances [648] should make it easier to enforce because it will get rid of some of the objections which are legitimately held, especially by people who do not share the moral teaching of the Catholic Church on this matter. If we can remove what they regard as unreasonable intrusions into their privacy perhaps they, too, could help to create the climate in which the new law would be more thoroughly enforced.

I do not really wish to get into the merits or demerits of the Bill in any great detail because I do not believe it represents substantial departure from the actual practice of present day Ireland. One of the speakers said it would be unfortunate to have the proposals of the Bill enshrined in law because it would represent a departure from idealistic principles. I can see the sentiment and the view that underlies that approach. I would have a lot of sympathy for it. Laws can never be expressions of ideals or principles. The sad reality is that most laws come about not because of the moral behaviour of people, not because of the expressions of idealistic or altruistic behaviour by people, but, much the contrary, because man, weak, simple, a mixture of good and bad, is capable of an extraordinary variety of behaviour and most laws become necessary in order to regulate the actual behaviour of man with all his faults and virtues. In that context we have to aim for legislation which may not be particularly idealistic but, hopefully, is sufficiently realistic to be enforceable and sufficiently realistic to give adequate recognition to the rights of citizens to hold varying values without either giving undue offence to the values of others or any significant undermining or weakening of the common good.

I want to move on from the question of the Bill to some of the other issues which I believe are ultimately more important than the Bill but which have been raised by this debate. No one who has the interests of parliamentary democracy at heart can ignore the way in which various interest groups sought to influence and even intimidate Members of the Oireachtas. That has to be resisted. [649] It is vital for the health of democracy that any such attempt be defeated and the independence of legislators be asserted. This is a tendency which has been growing over the years. There is a lot of academic talk and debate about the emergence of the pressure group type or the lobbying type of modern government. It undoubtedly is, again, a feature of present day life. We have to recognise the threats and the dangers.

It is somewhat regrettable that, given the structure of our political system, many Deputies and Senators will have contributed to the growth of this kind of lobbying by pressure groups, perhaps unwittingly. They will have done it because they have been placing in a number of instances too much emphasis on their role as working for their constituents and far too little emphasis on their importance as legislators and watchdogs for the national interest. It always saddens me a little when people will speak about a Member of the Oireachtas only in terms of his activity or behaviour in a purely local context. They seem to be totally oblivious of the fact that there is a whole structure of local government and local representation which should deal with most local matters.

There is far too little awareness of the importance in a democracy of having a vibrant, active, national legislature whose members' primary concern is with national issues. The tendency to allow the national aspect to become weaker and to have local attributes emphasised is doubly unfortunate in the modern world because the whole trend of modern communication means that all of us are bombarded with a flood of information at the picking up of a newspaper, at the turn of a radio or television switch or whatever, a much greater flood than was imaginable in earlier generations.

That means there is a sense now in which people remain what we call rationally ignorant on many subjects because there simply is not the time to attempt to become adequately informed on all of the important topics that arise. Because there is that sense of being rationally ignorant you can end up, in effect, in a [650] situation where we have far more people knowing far less about far more subjects than was the case two centuries ago when Edmund Burke, facing similar pressures from his far smaller body of electors, said “not his industry only but his judgment and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” I would like to think that every Member of the Oireachtas would start thinking along those lines.

It is my opinion that it is the duty of a Member of the Oireachtas to apply his own judgment and not the judgment of others to any issue for which he has a responsibility.

Those words are far more important in the world of today than they were two centuries ago. Then it was conceivable to imagine a sufficient leisure class capable of having more time to deal with the far fewer issues of the day so that you could argue that there might be reasonable scope for legislators not perhaps devoting too much time and energy to their legislative concerns. I have to emphasise that in the modern world this is surely not the case and if legislators will not devote enough of their time and energy to arriving at a balanced perspective who will do it? We are seeing the answer: we will surrender to the pressure groups and various other groups.

It is not only the pressure from the various lobbies, interest groups and so on which legislators must resist. There are more difficult pressures to resist. They must resist the call for unquestioning obedience whether that call comes from party or from pulpit. Obedience, loyalty and discipline can be admirable qualities. They are also the chant of every tyrant who ever marched across the pages of history. In our lifetimes we have only to recall how Hitler's demands for blind loyalty and unquestioning obedience dragged a civilised nation into the most appalling evil and depravity. We have only to recall that to see the dangers of misplaced virtues.

The best defence of a free society against these dangers is the right of its citizens to have open and informed debate on the public issues of the day. [651] Parliament has to be in the vanguard of that defence. If Deputies and Senators are to be reduced to the level of speechless ciphers who merely rubber-stamp the opinions or decisions of others we are already far down the path that leads to the death of democracy. Already we can see some ominous signs.

I will not comment on the behaviour of other political parties but when I see the open expression of a legitimate viewpoint in Dáil Éireann classified as “conduct unbecoming a member of the party” I must ask what sickness infects a party that claims to be republican? Any republic to be worthy of the name must allow personal freedom to and expect personal responsibility from its citizens. That in turn should mean that any party which claims to be republican should have its policies and its actions shaped from open and responsible debate among its members. It cannot allow the dictates of the few to be imposed on the many.

There are some who seem to think that a party is entitled to respect because it can impose arbitrary discipline in support of contradictory policies never freely debated. I can only say, if any party in government were to embark on such a course the eventual outcome must either be the destruction of that republic in a new tyranny or the rejection of any party which seeks to suppress personal freedom and responsibility.

That same need to uphold republican values must apply in the moral sphere. As one bishop pointed out, people cannot be legislated into virtue. The early Christian Church flourished and grew in strength amid the immorality and decadence of ancient Rome. In later times the dominance of the Catholic Church throughout Europe could not prevent the evils of internal corruption, the outrages of the Inquisition nor the emergence of secularism. Christianity can never flourish among people who surrender responsibility for their own actions in an unquestioning acceptance of statements or guidelines, however well intentioned these might be. True religion must spring from conviction, never from convention.

[652] I heard some of Senator B. Ryan's remarks this morning. In that area at least I would find myself in full agreement with him. The Christian Churches and, indeed, most of the other churches, have never been able to look to the simple application of rules as the basis for their strength or vitality or for winning converts to their message. In our time many of us grew up in an atmosphere where our Christianity or instruction, if you wish, was confined to the parables and straightforward guidelines of our childhood years. If the world were peopled by like-minded souls sharing these fundamental values of faith in God and love of neighbour, which are the essence of holiness, — this is what we were taught and which I fully accept — this would be a very happy world and it would be very easy to legislate today or on any other occasion.

Of course, the modern world is not like that and the issues of adult life in the modern world are often ugly and complex and they do not lend themselves to simple readymade solutions. The best hope for not alone preserving but improving the moral character of our people must surely lie in educating them to recognise that they cannot shrug responsibility for their own behaviour on to others. The evils and problems of any society lie within the people themselves and the solutions must emerge from people overcoming the real enemy which lies within themselves.

That is the essence of Catholic and Christian teaching as I understand it. That is the way in which the Church always flourished in past times. I believe that is the only way in which it can hope to flourish in the present world. There are many I know who take the view that you find far more true Christianity among the persecuted churches of eastern Europe and among the poor and suffering of the Third World than you do in the more affluent, dare I say it, occasionally over-contented people that populate the areas of western Europe, North America and one or two other places on the globe, who have a very privileged lifestyle and very often do not seem to appreciate that. They seem to think that they can shrug [653] off their responsibilities by following a nice simple set of rules without ever getting into any deeper or more difficult questioning.

I can only say in that area that, while the prudence of the moment may suggest to a legislator that he or she surrender his or her judgment to the pressure group, to the party or to the pulpit I would say that conscience dictates that they speak the truth as they see it and refuse to be silenced. That will not be an easy course. It will not produce unanimity because we know that, again taking any church, taking any period in history, even people with the best intentions, with the most noble aspirations setting out to preach what they regard as the greater moral good and so forth, there has always been dissent, conflict, confusion, doubt and so on. That is why we cannot simply acquiesce in too glib or straightforward suggestions from others. We must agonise in our own consciences because that is the basis on which we must ultimately answer for our decisions.

I have made what I think are the more important points with respect to this Bill. As I have suggested I do not believe it is the Bill which has become the more important issue for the Members of this House or of the lower House. The debate has triggered off far wider issues about the nature of our society, the valid relationship between legislators, their constituents and any other organisation, secular or religious, to which they might belong. Legislators have a duty to weigh up their responsibilities in these areas and to arrive at decisions which reflect their own values and their own consciences. In that way, irrespective of what the immediate verdict is, whether one particular Bill passes into law or not, does not really matter. Whether they find themselves personally praised or pilloried for their behaviour does not really matter. People come and people go but if they are concerned with their responsibilities as legislators they must ask themselves: “Have I behaved in ways that promote the interests of the people and the values which I am here to represent and have I done my duty to the best of my own conscience [654] and my own ability?” In the context of a republican constitution and legislature people must then see the necessity and the importance of acting in accordance with their own values. Thank you.

Mr. Conway: I rise to talk specifically about the Bill we have before us. The Bill, as we all know, was in the Joint Programme for Government which referred to a review of the operation of the present family planning legislation with a view to providing full family planning advice and facilities in all cases where needed. There was a need and there is a need for this legislation as the existing legislation is not acceptable and not adhered to. The existing legislation provides for contraceptives to be available through a doctor's prescription and through the outlet of a chemist's shop. In effect, in rural Ireland and all through Ireland the situation is that in some cases some doctors will not prescribe the contraceptive and in other cases the chemist's shop refuses to stock ordinary contraceptives. So that the position, as far as family planning is concerned, is totally inadequate to the needs and the growing needs of young married couples.

The Bill is very simple in its context in that ordinary contraceptives would be available only through chemist's shops, through the health boards, through doctor's surgeries or through family planning clinics which are properly registered and licensed by the Minister. The situation as we have it today, and as we have it in this city is that one could go into Trinity College or UCD and find contraceptives freely available in these two areas. You have a situation where young students are not asked their age and also there is no restriction as to the availability of these contraceptives. The Bill restricts the issue of contraceptives to men or women of 18 and upwards. It is not free availability as we have it as present.

Through surveys carried out by the Minister and The Irish Times we have seen that over 64 per cent of people between 18 and 50 are in favour of contraceptives being available to 18 year olds [655] and upwards. I have seen a survey taken in a Leaving Certificate class where 80 per cent of the students interviewed were totally against abortion in any circumstances and 20 per cent were in favour of abortion only in the case of rape, which means in effect that 100 per cent of the students in that Leaving Certificate class were against abortion. The same survey indicated that 70 per cent of the students interviewed were in favour of contraceptives. for 18 year olds and upwards. Therefore, the situation is that there is a demand for this Bill.

We have had quotations from Humanae Vitae on family planning. That encyclical laid down that when a young married couple come together they now look at their economic situation, their social situation and they themselves decide as to the size of their family. That encyclical actually says that there can be family planning but the only thing that is in argument is the method of that family planning. In very many cases women cannot for physical reasons take the pill because it has tremendous side effects. In other cases, because of the periods being so irregular they are unable to practice the temperature method. They wish, because of their economic situation, because of the position nowadays regarding bringing children into this world, to plan their family properly. In some cases these methods will not work for them so that they must have other methods. The simple method is the condom and for most of these families this is the method of contraception chosen. Therefore, the fact that in some cases throughout this country this simple device is not available is totally wrong. The Bill allows condoms to be available in certain outlets and provides for proper supervision whereas at the moment the law is in disrepute. The chemists, the health boards, the doctors and the licensed family planning clinics will be the areas where these will be available. Therefore it is quite reasonable to accept that throughout the country there will be accessibility for people who need contraceptives.

There has been talk about the church [656] involvement in this whole debate and in certain cases certain bishops have said certain things. I would like to quote Bishop Laurence Ryan from Kildare and Leighlin when he said recently:

I think that every legislator has to face up to a decision and it has to be really a decision of conscience because the decision as to how he or she votes is itself a moral decision. That decision in conscience must be made honestly, taking up the various issues, not in accordance with what he or she feels is the most popular, but in accordance with his or her own lifestyle. All legislators should have the freedom to make a decision of conscience. There should be no compulsion on any of them to vote in a way he or she thinks morally wrong and none of them should be penalised for doing that.

That is a fair statement of what a legislator should do; it is up to us to legislate for the country as a whole and to legislate fairly. In my opinion, Dr. Ryan's view was a fair view, coming from a young bishop who is now ill in hospital and I would hope that he gets better very soon. He spoke recently about the family and the pressures that young couples are involved in today. He said the State should provide better family support systems, better education for young people in sexual matters and moral matters. I would agree totally with him when he talks about the pressures on the family today. We now have a different society from the society that I was brought up in. We have to cater for that society. We also have to protect it as well as we possibly can. In that protection there has to be more education.

I note the Minister's statement that he was increasing the Health Education Bureau budget by 40 per cent, from £1.2 million to £1.75 million, so that there would be a better programme of education for schools. It is very important that the family should be recognised and that our young people should be recognised. There should be better educational facilities [657] available and it is important that our education would cover all the issues facing young people leaving school today.

There has been a lot of talk about the possibility that this Bill would bring about promiscuity among young people, that there would be a massive increase in syphilis, that we would have over-sexed young people running around the street. I do not believe for a moment that that could happen. We just have to look at the situation in Northern Ireland which is close to us, where availability of contraceptives is on a more regularised basis than here, to see that the society there is not being brought into total promiscuity, that there is a very ordered way of life in certain areas and that the same thing applies here. To say that there will be all sorts of undesirable things here is totally wrong and not believeable.

There is a need to change the Act. The Act has been brought into disrepute. I have heard some of my colleagues in Fianna Fáil say that there was no need for this measure and arguing that it should not have been brought in by the Government now — I have pointed out already that it was in the Joint Programme — that there are more pressing needs to be looked after, like the massive increase in unemployment, the vandalism in our streets and that this was a distraction. But if it was such a distraction I am curious to know why members of Fianna Fáil would wish to get so involved in this debate or why they would not just accept the Bill and let it through on the nod, because it is not revolutionary legislation. It is legislation that is putting a situation that is totally wrong in some way right. It is, in effect, protection to a degree of the family. It is allowing young married people to plan their families effectively and to be allowed to plan their families, because we have all seen cases where large increases in families have led to great hardship in families and great distress. It is important to allow families to decide for themselves. It is obvious that the family size has decreased. It has decreased from eight when I was young, in my mother's time, down to three, which is [658] now the average size family in this country. Therefore, family planning is being exercised by young married couples. This Bill will allow the family to plan for children in an organised fashion.

I would agree also with what the Minister said on the question of abortion because in this country at the moment nearly 4,000 Irish girls between the ages of 20 and 30 go to England for abortions. When interviewed many of them said they did not avail of the contraceptives that we are now saying they should have availed of. If the Bill does reduce the terrible tragedy of young single girls going to England for abortions it will in effect, be a very welcome thing. Our statistics are shameful in relation to the North. We have a higher abortion rate than in the North where contraceptives are freely available. It could be argued that the number of abortions will come down because of this Bill.

It is vitally important that there should be better support for the family. The Minister has stated very clearly that he will not give a licence where family planning clinics are involved in sending girls to England for abortions, that they will be put out of business by the Minister. It is very important that that should be recognised. The Minister has emphatically stated that he is determined that there should be proper family planning clinics, properly registered, properly controlled and properly organised and properly manned by responsible officials in the health boards. It is important that there should be proper family planning clinics. It is important that a licence be given only where the Minister is satisfied that it is a responsible family planning clinic, controlled by responsible people. He has stated that a licence will not be given except to responsible family planning clinics. Therefore, the Bill as we have it before us, is not a revolutionary one. It will be forgotten within two or three months of its passing. Under the present Act you have a situation where one has to pay £6 to a doctor to get a prescription to go to a chemist and get an ordinary contraceptive — that is totally [659] laughable and the law is totally in disrepute, with outlets for contraceptives which are morally wrong and totally indefensible and totally against any idea of upholding the moral virtues of this country. We have to face up to the reality. Although you could argue that when the youth of this country were surveyed and asked what their priorities were, it was found that these were health, good education and jobs and therefore there was no urgent need for this legislation. But when you ask about the legislation and what is actually happening at present then the conclusion is that the legislation is wrong at the moment and should be changed. That was the answer of nearly 70 per cent of the people in one survey.

There is a demand for a change in the law itself. That is all that this Bill faces up to. It is a very responsible Bill. It does not give contraceptives to people under 18 years; it identifies the situation of people over 18 years of age. At 18 years you can vote, you can go into the Army, into the Garda; you are just about to leave school; you should be a very responsible citizen at that stage. Some people say that pressures on young people are so great now that you will have all this promiscuity because of this Bill. I think that is wrong. There has to be protection of the family but there is an onus on the parents to educate their children, to understand their children and to guide them properly. In most cases where the family background is strong there is no need to worry. Naturally, where the family background is weak there is always need to worry but it is not only in this area, it is in all areas.

The legislation as we have seen it has created a milestone in Irish politics. It has had the effect in all parties in this House of various Members deciding because of their own consciences, not to vote for the Bill. It is probably a good expression of the times we live in that we have people willing to stand out and say for various reasons that they are against this Bill or for it. In the case of Fianna Fáil I think their opposition to it was opportunist rather than being factually [660] correct because there was a need to change the legislation. This Bill is a very good piece of legislation which aims to change an Act which needed to be changed. Fianna Fáil saw an opportunity to bring down this Government on this Bill and they availed of it. I think they were wrong. The young people of this country will say that they were wrong. In fact they have already said that they were wrong. If they had decided that their own Act that was brought in as an Irish solution to an Irish question was out of date and had gone into disrepute and was no longer satisfying the young families in this country, they would have got much more political popularity, if that is what they were after, if they had kept to that line.

I welcome this Bill. It is a measure by which we will allow our people free access to simple contraceptives. I can see nothing revolutionary in it but I can see it only doing good for the people of this country.

Mrs. Honan: Views differ very much on the Bill. Certainly in numbers I understand quite well that I am on the losing side and my colleagues on all sides of the House know that is a side I do not particularly like to be on. I sincerely worry about this legislation. With due respect to Senator Conway, for whom I have sincere regard, I do not intend as a Fianna Fáil Senator and as the first woman in Fianna Fáil to speak on this legislation, to play party politics, nor do I intend to use my Second Stage speech or my attitude to this Bill for political survival or political reasons. When Senator Conway was making his remarks maybe he had certain members of my party in mind but I think he should not have generalised and said the Fianna Fáil Party took their stand for the reason he suggested. That is not the reason I am standing here today. I accept that he may have his views but I feel that I could not let him away with that remark because that is not why I am going to speak on this Bill.

While I would not give the Government full marks for being a good Government when it comes to tactics and taking [661] the people's minds off the mess that they find themselves in today regarding budget decisions and so on, they have done a master job. Not alone did they take the people's minds off their problems but it gave us a shaking as well. I suppose that was an exercise well worth doing. We have had another piece of if behind me now from Senator Martin O'Donoghue. I will disappoint you all because I do not intend to make much reference to his magnificent contribution here.

Mr. McDonald: I am sorry I missed that.

Mrs. Honan: You are probably the only Fine Gael Senator who missed it. You were probably cackling in other parts of the House just now. He is an independent Senator and it is a pity that he does not come into the House more frequently and contribute more. Of course, today was important; he had to say what he did say today. It is a pity he was not as good a Minister as a legislator. His clearness on being a legislator as a Minister was not as evident when he was a Minister as it seems to be today.

Regarding the fact that contraceptives are going to be available to everybody my worry is: are we going to find they will be available to 12 and 14 year olds? If we approve of this legislation can we control it? I have said this to the Minister and I am concerned because as politicians we all know that we cannot control teenage drinking. Many people should have listened to Senator Robinson's speech this morning. She had the same concern that I had regarding the review. I sincerely believe, like Senator Robinson, that if the review was with the Deputies, the Deputies in my party and the Deputies who had reservations in the other parties, you would not have had the opposition or the upset or the upheaval that we have had at all. I mean that because if those of us who are interested in legislation had had that review with us to read there might not have been any controversy at all. But it was — and we all have to be honest — rushed through. It was landed in the Dáil.

With all due respects to the former [662] Minister for Health, Deputy C.J. Haughey, I think his 1979 Act was not at all a narrow-minded piece of legislation. It is clear to me that the greatest critics of it do not know how far that Bill went at the time. Another thing that Senator Robinson said — and I was glad to hear her saying so, because she is entitled to her views and I am entitled to mine — was that she agreed that if people wanted to participate in natural family planning she totally approved and agreed with them. That was section 2 of the 1979 Act. She said that perhaps an amendment to that section of that Act could have been made and we would not have had all the upheaval and upset.

I must comment on all the pressures and all the talk of Bishops and phone calls and letters. I understand that the talk about how much of that went on has been overplayed. I will deal with that at a later stage.

Does any person here today really believe that after all the talk regarding this legislation the young people will thank us for it when it is passed? I have a deep concern that this Bill has very serious health implications. I would like to see the health side of it — it is a Health (Family Planning) Bill — emphasised. We find this here over and over again. We found it in the Criminal Justice Bill. We found it in other Bills going through. We do not have the help and the backup of doctors for two young people availing of the contraceptives. It would be wrong for anybody to say that I do not understand what the young people of Ireland are thinking today. Any elected person knows quite well the demands that are made. I suppose the Minister for Health, in fairness to him, is right to bring in this Bill or some part of the agreed document for Government in order to survive in Government. To judge from recent polls and the recent reaction of people, Fine Gael are getting away with remaining a very creditable party while the Labour lads have gone out the door on a shoot. Minister Desmond sees this and, fair dues to him, he decides to get a few points back for the Labour side, and he succeeded [663] in doing it. I respect the views of all my colleagues, no matter what party they are in this House, and I would hope that they would respect mine. I suppose there is a difference in this House. I see quite a distinct difference between this House and the Dáil. We seem to be able to talk out Bills here and, even if we do not agree, we can at least debate them.

Changes have taken place in the Ireland of today with the standards of morals that are left. But should we accept that all the Irish people want all this free sex and this free love and all this sex outside of marriage? I wonder is that really so important in the Ireland of today with so much unemployment and so much sadness and other wants? The availability of non-medical contraceptives to young single people without the medical advice does worry me. There is no use calling me a square here this afternoon because I am speaking against this piece of legislation. I am doing so because of the reservations and the worries I have about the health of people that may use the contraceptives.

I would ask the Minister in his reply to tell me whether he will give medical cards back to students, because we have heard all the emphasis put on the students in universities leading the way in this. They have all the contraceptives available to them. Side by side with that the Minister has taken away the medical cards. I am putting emphasis again, as a mother, on the health of the children who have these freely available to them now and will have them more available when this legislation goes through.

I am not opposed to the whole concept of contraception. I recognise the difficulties. But I do say that it must be controlled. I have put emphasis on that already and I repeat it. I do not know how we are going to do it. But the real worry for me this evening here as an elected person is not this Bill at all. If we have this free society and this free nation with all the contraceptives that they want it would be much more in our line this afternoon to take a serious look at the crime problem and the health service [664] cuts. For the life of me I cannot understand where the Minister is going to get the money to implement this Bill while at the same time the same Minister is closing down wards all over this country. He has not told the Dáil that; perhaps he will tell this House. This legislation is going to cost money to make it work. I do not think any Senator or Deputy asked him what this Bill will cost to implement. He is, remember, putting the contraceptives into the health board institutions and the hospitals that are directly under him as Minister for Health. Therefore, there is money involved, and there must be big money involved.

It has saddened me over the last week and this week again — though not so much here, in fairness to the Senators — to hear the deep concern of people about the Northern Ireland situation. You would imagine listening to some of the things that have been said outside, that this Bill was going to create a united Ireland overnight. That is hypocrisy. To bring the matter of the North into it, at a very high level, is wrong. If we were to hand our Constitution to the Unionists in the morning and ask them to rewrite it, it would not make any difference. Certainly, while the present Prime Minister is in England and the present Taoiseach here, I do not think the Northern Ireland situation is going to change. When this Bill is law it will not make a bit of difference. The Unionists will simply see its passage as a defeat for the Catholic Church. I will try to leave the Church out of it as much as I can because I do not think it is a Church/State battle.

I know Father Denis Faul very well. Nobody in this House could question his sincerity. He has stayed in my home and he is always welcome there. He said in a letter to The Irish Times on 15 February:

In the North there are children of 12 and 13 years of age using contraceptives because they are available. The truth of the extent of the corruption is buried in the records of hospitals, doctors' surgeries, priests' and minister's ears and lawyers' offices.

[665] It has been said that they have no backlash from the free availability of contraceptives in the North. The Church were entitled to have their say as indeed are all other organisations. All the Churches were entitled to speak, just the same as any other group on any other issue. Senator O'Leary said outside this House that he was concerned that the Bishops had now decided to take the Fianna Fáil side, that they had had very little to say when Deputy Haughey brought in the 1979 Act. Was he saying that he was disappointed that the Church had gone over to the Fianna Fáil side? I do not think that is true. Whatever I am saying here today, I am saying it as a practising Catholic. I will not apologise to anybody for doing that. I have my views. When I came in here in 1977 I said we could not legislate for people's private lives. I still believe that is so today.

Last week somebody quoted Mr. Paddy Devlin and said that because we were not doing what Mr. Devlin had done in the North, we were confused. The present Northern Ireland law, giving access at the age of 17 years reflects the personal views of Mr. Paddy Devlin, who, like the present Minister for Health, is a socialist. Mr. Paddy Devlin was responsible at that time for health in the Sunningdale Executive. Five years after that law was enacted the NISPA, which had sought the measure at the time from Mr. Devlin, announced that it was a social failure. That should be put on the record of this House today.

The Minister for Health in his speech yesterday said the Seanad would be aware of the statement by the Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation on 11 February, that he believed that doctors generally would welcome this Bill and that similar sentiments had been expressed by the Irish College of General Practitioners. It is fine if all the doctors of this nation approve and support this Bill. They are the experts. They are the people dealing with these problems. My only concern is that they will not, when this legislation goes through, wash their hands of this area because there is a need for people [666] using contraceptives to stay in constant contact with their doctors and I would hope that that will continue. I will not go into any of the morbid or ridiculous results that may come from using contraception but I would like to see people who are using contraceptives to be in contact with a doctor.

This brings me back to my earlier remark about the use of medical cards. Senator Robinson spoke today at length about the effect of the pill. We are all aware of the frightening effects the pill has had on some women. It is a duty of legislators to provide a framework of legislation which corresponds to their assessment of the need of the community and the interests of the common good.

I hope the Minister's legislation will be for the common good. I have strong reservations. I have worries. I have tried to state them without adopting my usual anti- Government stand. It is a very delicate and a very serious subject. We should all behave properly on behalf of the people who sent us here. Contraceptives will be more freely available and the younger children are going to get them. Where are 12 and 14 year olds going to get advice on the use of contraceptives?

As happened in the Dáil, because it is our first time to speak so freely about this, there has been a reluctance on the part of some Senators to speak. If one has reservations about any piece of legislation, as indeed I had about the Criminal Justice Bill and I talked at length about my reservations on that Bill with the Minister, one should not be tabbed as just opposing for the sake of opposing. It is no secret that Fine Gael elected persons have serious reservations about how far this Bill has gone. I suppose that is the price they have to pay for being in Coalition.

The Minister, Deputy Desmond, was hell bent on getting this Bill through. I would ask him to tell me in his reply the cost of implementing this legislation. I would also ask him about the worries I have as regards his rules for staff in health boards and in hospitals who may have [667] reservations about participating in the administration of this legislation. He is their boss. Once a ministerial order goes out they have to adhere to it. I would hope that if there are people still saying that they have consciences in this country they will be allowed to follow those consciences. I would like the Minister to make some reference to this. We will have this problem again with the Nurses Bill. There are parts of that Bill about which some personnel in the health board areas are concerned. It is the same Minister again. He is hell bent on bringing in all this new, trendy, liberal legislation. If it works and if it is controlled and if it is right, well grand, but I have reservations.

Senator Ross spoke yesterday evening and he took Fianna Fáil apart in his contribution. He said very little about the Bill only that we were all behaving as squares and culchies, watching the rural vote. I wonder what vote Senator Ross was watching when he made his speech. The only thing I will say about Senator Ross — he is not here now either — is that the magazine article did this House a tremendous turn. We are paid for being up here. We are paid for participating in legislation. He has spoken more since that article appeared than he did for the previous four years. I leave that now to Senator Ross.

I have said before this is not a Church/ State row. Some bishops have come out very strongly about it and in fairness to them I do not think they should be lashed for taking on the Government or the State. I say this not as a new Republican person or a member of a new found Republican party. My father was excommunicated by the said Church and my father-in-law was excommunicated by the said Church. Republicanism to me is not something new, as with other people in other parts. I still feel it is wrong to have too much of a ‘go’ at the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is being singled out for attack in this. Other Churches have the same rules for their people in moral living and in moral codes of ethics as has the Catholic Church. I did not think I would ever see myself [668] standing up defending that Church. I repeat I am a practising Catholic and make no apologies to anybody.

There is an attitude on the part of some people which has done this legislation a world of harm. Last Wednesday evening after the vote in the Dáil I witnessed people going around the corridors of the House using the word “victory”. If we are mature legislators I do not think anybody should go around this House talking about victory. Who was the victory over after the vote last Wednesday night?

I have said a lot. Maybe I have not said enough. Maybe I have disappointed people in some of the things I have said. I had no intention at any time of not speaking on this Bill but somebody said last night that a Fianna Fáil woman had not spoken. I hope I have made some sense in my contribution.

I would ask the Minister in all sincerity to get this Bill out of the House next week and to forget about this type of legislation then and get back to running the country with a sense of responsibility because even this morning the same Minister is involved in a head-on with post office men and there is the crime area and disability cheques and so on.

I will be voting against this legislation not for the reasons Senator Martin O'Donoghue spoke about. My main reservation and my worry, and the Minister certainly has not cleared my mind on it, is that we are not legislating for the over 18s and for the married people. We are now opening contraception to the children under 18. That is my concern. A Chathaoirligh, you are a long time in public life, longer than I am. I do not think that now we have the power — maybe we had years ago — to legislate for people's private lives. The people out there are taking such little notice of what we are doing now that I wonder what power is left to us at all. We should take a serious look at a few of the things I have said. I respect the views of every one of my colleagues in this House and I think that is what legislating for everybody is all about, not coming in making a crisp speech as Senator O'Donoghue [669] did and then talking about Christianity at the tail end of it. My conscience is as clear and perhaps clearer than his. I will be voting against the Bill because of the reservations I have. Recently people have realised how good Deputy Haughey's Bill was in 1979. It is being pushed aside by people who want to get more liberal thinking onto our Statute Book.

Mr. J. Higgins: I have no great words of wisdom, no novel thoughts, nor any new light to throw on the discussion so far in either House. I have no very weighty opinions but it is important, even though many of us are regurgitating the arguments made in both Houses, that as many people as possible stitch into the record not alone what they are going to do but why they are going to do it. One of the notable features of the debate so far in this House is the calm, collected and very reasoned atmosphere which has prevailed.

I listened to several speakers from both sides. I noticed a number of recurring themes, particularly from the Opposition. The first speaker on behalf of the Opposition was Senator Fallon. He asked a number of questions such as: why now? Why not now in view of the monumental failure of the existing legislation? Having regard to the horrific statistics for teenage pregnancies and abortions, which are tantamount to a national scandal, any reasonable legislation which will help to curtail and control this sad fact of life should be introduced speedily and effectively.

Senator Fallon made the point that there was no discussion between Opposition and Government Deputies and Senators. Look at the number of people who contributed in the other House and look at the number of people who have indicated that they wish to contribute in this House. On the Order of Business the point was made legitimately by Senator Killilea and by Senator O'Leary that, if necessary, we should carry on into next week and, in the event of the legislation [670] being unfinished at the end of Wednesday's proceedings, the necessary flexibility should be there to allow for further discussion.

One of the arguments by the Opposition is that there is no demand for this Bill. That has been well and truly rebutted both by the Minister and by speakers on this side of the House. Senator Fallon and Senator Honan said it was introduced to distract people's attention away from the real problems, that it was simply a diversionary tactic. Senator Honan said it was the intention to divert people's attentions away from the budget. There is no need to divert people's attention away from the budget. The budget was a singularly kind, clement, good and effective measure which has yet to be brought before this House and which will pass with a substantial majority. It has the endorsement not only of both Houses but also of the general populous.

Senator O'Donoghue made a very valid point in relation to the primary role of Deputies and Senators as legislators and the need for people to detach themselves in a legislative sense from pressure groups and, when such pressure groups are constituents, from those people also. I agree thoroughly with his viewpoint in this respect. One would have imagined that, with the development of free education, there would be less emphasis, less strain and less pressure on Deputies and Senators, and that they would be able to detach themselves from this type of work which can be carried out very effectively by individuals if they have recourse to pen and paper and the direct channels of the Civil Service.

One of the most telling arguments he made was the need for freedom of speech. In this respect this party of which I am a very proud member differ monumentally from the Opposition. We have total and complete freedom of speech. It has been one of the modern features of this party and of the Labour Party that our people feel absolutely and totally unconstrained. We are never hamstrung and we can say what we like about legislation both inside and outside the confines [671] of the House. This is a very healthy development.

However, when it comes to a matter of legislation the Whip has to apply. Collective responsibility has to apply, but this does not muzzle people. As a school teacher I can say it is one of the developments of the modern educational system that we go out of our way to encourage independent thinking. People are taught to question and to demand responses. This should apply politically.

I am led to believe that in the thirties a considerable period of time was spent in this House debating whether or not “The Tailor and Anstey” should be allowed to be staged. I wonder how historical perspective will see this debate which is now ongoing both in the Houses of Parliament and on the streets. In a few years time it will seem incredible that adult politicians should have thought so much of their own consciences as to put them before the needs of the people they represent, and the common good.

The harshest criticism will be reserved for the 1979 legislation which is littered with anomalies, loopholes, inconsistencies and which is totally unenforceable. The Act restricts the availability of non-medical contraceptives to persons who are able to produce prescriptions from a doctor stating that the contraceptives in question are for legitimate family planning purposes. The statistics given by the Minister to this House in his opening address that 30 million condoms have been imported since 1980 call for analysis and serious questioning, evaluation and reappraisal. One can draw either one of two conclusions.

The first conclusion is that, if they were all got on prescription, the doctors who prescribed them must be multi-millionaires by now. We know the opposite is the case and that the vast bulk of those condoms were illegally distributed. It is clear that the 1979 Act has not worked, has literally contributed nothing whatever to either the social or moral fabric and is nothing more than a hypocritical piece of window dressing: it is important to have the law in the Statute Book; it [672] does not matter whether it works.

The challenge to define what bona fide family planning means has been ducked by people who are against this legislation. The most bewildering aspect of the discussion is the failure of people to face up to reality. How can anybody, either churchman or politician, stand over an Act which has been so flouted and abused as to become totally irrelevant? The real tragedy is that people will not face up to reality. If the non-availability of contraceptives was a formula for chastity, then why have we so many unwanted pregnancies? Very often for political reasons and reasons of opportunism, people tend to look on the other side of things.

If the sexual behaviour of young people in the eighties is not what it should be, then we should legislate for the reality. I may not like such behaviour, others may not like such behaviour; but, as legislators, we have a duty to formulate laws which will work and which will protect people. That is what this measure is doing. It is protecting women from unwanted pregnancies for social reasons, for psychological reasons, for emotional reasons, or for financial reasons. It will also protect the single women. Surely we do not need to be reminded of the many horrific topical cases which have been so dramatically brought to our attention in the recent past.

I know that CURA, Catholic Church social organisations, health boards and agencies of various sorts do marvellous work for girls who find themselves in this situation both before and after the pregnancy. Despite such care, despite such consolation, despite the fact that the hand of friendship, the hand of consolation and the hand of understanding is so readily available to such people, despite all of this there is no doubt that a pregnancy, and particularly an unwanted pregnancy, leaves a psychological scar on the mind of such a mother. The old adage is prevention is better than a cure.

Let us not forget the role of the man. The Minister pointed out that the males in many cases can be accused of dereliction of duty and neglect. The vast majority of us would agree with this. The father [673] generally absconds and literally the mother is left holding the baby. I totally reject the allegations that this Bill will lead to an increase in pregnancies. It sets out to do the reverse and I believe it will do the reverse.

The emigrant abortion trail is something in the region of 3,000. The Minister said yesterday that his figure applied only to people who were using Irish addresses and that he was convinced that the figure was nearer to 4,000 and possibly over 4,000. I am convinced that this Bill will reduce substantially the abortion trail to England. If one has reservations about the rights and the wrongs of contraception, surely the possibility of saving a substantial number of lives which are now lost through abortions, because now there will be greater availability of contraception, has to be a consideration in favour of the Bill. Who can seriously contend that this Bill is not for the common good?

We have listened to a variety of arguments against the Bill; the availability of such devices will lead to increased promiscuity, will encourage young people towards greater sexual experimentation. But this Bill imposes an age limit of 18 years. I do not think that, as we face into the 21st century, and a few weeks after we reduced the age of majority to 18 years, anybody can seriously contend that an 18 year old is too immature to have the right of choice in this matter. This legislation is about the right of choice, the right of the individual to make up his or her own mind in relation to family planning methods and whether or not they use contraceptives. This Bill does not foist contraceptives on anybody. It simply makes them available should the individual so decide for himself or herself.

One of the major topics in this debate has been the intervention by the Catholic Church. I will go further than Senator Honan. She said the Catholic Church has a right to intervene in such matters. I say that the Catholic Church has a duty to make its viewpoint known. Indeed, I would be disappointed if it had not done so. As a legislator I resent the type of [674] crude bludgeoning which has gone on in certain respects by certain people in relation to this Bill. As a legislator it is my duty to take into consideration all representations, all presentations, all memoranda, all submissions from all groups, including the Catholic Church. As a member of the Catholic Church it is my duty to take cognisance of such submissions, but there my duty ends. I was the focus of attention as a member of a congregation in a Church listening to quite outrageous allegations being made about named members of the Government. That is most unfair.

During the debate on the amendment to the Constitution it was the duty of the Church to speak openly from the pulpit on these matters because the electorate at large were making the decision. On this occasion there was a none too subtle attempt to focus and to beam on individual politicians, particularly in rural areas, the full psychological and political thrust of the congregation. I have every confidence in the Catholic Church's ability to inculcate the necessary moral principles in people. Sunday after Sunday they have a captive audience for approximately one hour. We have compulsory religious education in the schools. We have access by the Church to the media and this is very good indeed, but it is my honest assessment that on this occasion there has been something of an over-kill. As a member of the Church I hope that no long term lasting damage has been done to its image and to its credibility. I find it hard to understand why it is necessary to whip up such hysteria among people. I hope that collectively the Church will adopt somewhat of a less compulsive and less pressurised manner in areas of social legislation notwithstanding its right to speak on such matters.

One of the great problems in relation to the formulation and enactment of social legislation has been a tendency to throw A, C and D together, that is, abortion, contraception and divorce, to make a general stew, an Irish hotpot of the lot, the inference being that if you are in favour of one you are automatically in favour of the others. It has come across [675] clearly in this debate that that is a myth, a fallacy. Certainly it is a fallacy in my case. While I support the right of the individual to choose his, her or their own method of family planning, I loathe, I abhor and would resist in every legitimate fashion any attempt to put on the Statute Book anything which would legitimise abortion. I also have reservations about the free availability of divorce.

The Northern parallel is a very fortuitous one. We are very lucky to have it. There is absolutely free and independent access to all methods of contraception in the North of Ireland and this in no way has weakened the moral fabric, or the moral fibre, or the morals in general of the Catholics in the North. Statistics have been quoted in support of the argument that in many respects they are far ahead of the general populace down here. Why therefore is it argued this Bill will have a deleterious or a deliberately damaging effect on the moral fabric of the people in this part of the island? It will not. I submit that the people from the Inishowen Peninsula, from Buncrana and Carndonagh whose main shopping town is Derry, are in no way contaminated by virtue of the fact that this form of contraception, plus other forms of contraception are so freely available in the North.

I am glad that this Bill has been debated without rancour in such a free and open fashion in this House. I feel happy for the Minister for Health and Social Welfare who has been depicted, particularly by the Opposition, as being the bete noir of this Cabinet. Possibly he will go down in history as being one of the most vilified politicians of all times. He is a sensible politician. I do not agree with the closing of wards but everybody across the political divide must privately acknowledge that we had a flatulent, obese, grossly inefficient and over-financed health service with a great deal of waste and a need for trimming. He was described by Senator Honan today as being trendy, liberal and hell-bent on enacting this type of legislation. History will judge, just as history now mercifully [676] judges Noel Browne on the mother and child scheme. This Minister, Deputy Desmond, will go down in history as being one of the outstanding Ministers in this Cabinet, and an outstanding Minister for Health.

I am glad also for the Taoiseach, a man with a vision, a man who has a spark which too many in political life have not got. I am glad for democracy that collectively we have been able to resist the pressures which were brought to bear on legislators to do other than their duty in this regard.

I am glad for the SDLP who must be victims of a siege mentality in the North. They can now refute the allegation which has always hung around their necks, that home rule will be Rome rule if we ever see unity. I take issue with Senator Honan who said there is a general euphoria on this side of the House and that we see ourselves as victors. There was no victory. In my opinion, it was a milestone in the development of our political maturity.

Mr. Cassidy: In speaking on this Bill I must take into account the views of the parents and families in my constituency. People have come to me over the past two weeks to let me know how very angry they are about this Bill and to ask me to convey their views to the Minister. They want me to tell the Minister that they never asked for the Bill and, furthermore, that they do not want it. As one of my constituents put it, perhaps the Minister's friends in Dún Laoghaire are screaming at him for contraceptives, but he can keep them up there.

I have here with me 3,700 signatures from constituents and householders in Westmeath collected over a period of four days to display their enormous anger at the Government and the Minister for bringing in this Bill. I am simply conveying the feelings of a great many families against this unasked for Bill which they feel has been foisted on them by a crowd of fanatics who want to undermine family life and flood the country with contraceptives and to promote abortion. I know [677] that sounds a bit far-fetched, but I should like to quote from an autumn 1984 bulletin published by International Planned Parenthood with headquarters in Regent Street in London. This document, volume 13 No. 2, states that the Irish Family Planning Association is part of the International Planned Parenthood group. The organisations' bulletin described how it was devising projects for adolescent family planning services, and by that they mean contraceptives, in Austria, Ireland and Portugal where “no adolescent services currently exist”.

The same international organisation which promotes all forms of contraception and recently had $17 million of its funds stopped by President Reagan because of its promotion of abortion worldwide, boasted of the fact that our Minister for Health was a member of the Irish Family Planning Association. Is it any wonder that Irish parents are worried about the Minister's reasons for shoving this Bill through the Dáil? Having read the International Planned Parenthood document I can understand why they are so worried.

This Bill is unnecessary and uncalled for. Hundreds of people in my own area have signed these petitions calling for the rejection of the Minister's Bill. He gave them very little hearing when he visited Mullingar last week. They and thousands of others in Westmeath are totally opposed to this so-called Family Planning Bill and they see it as a sham and a fraud. How can the Minister call it a Family Planning Bill when the main intention is to provide contraceptives for unmarried people?

No matter what slurs were cast at the Fianna Fáil legislation of 1979 that legislation went a long way towards trying to confine contraceptives to married couples and to keep them out of the hands of young people. This Bill will do the complete opposite. There is absolutely no way this age limit can be enforced. We all know the liquor law situation at the moment. It is supposed to be 18 years of age. Anyone who goes into the hotels, clubs or bars knows very well the enormous task being placed on the owners of [678] those premises to implement that law. It is not for the State to say to people that they cannot sell contraceptives to people over 18 when they cannot enforce the liquor laws at the moment. In today's papers we see they are proposing to extend the liquor hours to 12 o'clock and even 1 o'clock in the morning.

The Government are trying to get rid of anything that is Irish in this country. I totally oppose the suggestion in the papers today about the liquor laws. I say that in regard to the reference I have made to the 18 years of age limit proposed in this Bill. We already have slot machines in some family planning clinics. Even if such machines are licensed, which seems to be the Minister's intention, how can he talk about age limits, particularly when these same clinics are encouraging young teenagers to visit their premises? The Minister knows well that his age limit clause is a sham. Once the law is changed the social changes it will bring about will be far reaching over a period of time. The Minister is experienced enough to realise this.

Those who voted for this Bill in the Dáil do not seem to realise that they are allowing a small minority in this country backed by outside influences to impose their will on the majority. By that I mean that a party who represent 9 per cent of the people of this country, backed by another minority party who represent 3 per cent of this country, are imposing their opinion on the two major political parties because it was in the joint Programme for Government — the major political party in Government today were caught and had to go along with it. That is the only reason this Bill is before this House today. We are all decent people in politics. We are not the con men the media make us out to be, and we all know what is good for our families. The minority parties in this country are the people responsible for having us here today to discuss this Bill. I make no apology to anybody for my view on this matter.

This is a very dangerous situation. How does the Minister hope to enforce this age limit? He is not able to make the [679] present contraceptive clinics act within the law. At present up to 59 per cent of these clinics have single people on their books, though the law was intended for married couples. That is a disgrace. The Minister should have looked at the situation before he brought the Bill into the House. There is absolutely no way the so-called age limit can be enforced. It is dishonest of politicians to pretend that there will be any limits once this becomes law. Once we give the respectability of the law to this measure, a measure which threatens our youth and does not promote the common good, how can we hope to have a wholesome society in which to rear our children?

Politicians are not asking for a Catholic State but citizens are entitled to have the laws which offer the family backing. I read this week that a former British Minister for Health, Sir Gerard Vaughan, M.P., warned about the consequences of teenage promiscuity and the effect it is having on British society. He claims that the failure rate of contraceptives for teenagers is four or five times that of adults. He also stated that sexually transmitted diseases and cancers among teenagers are on the increase because of the way in which young people prefer contraceptives. Is it not peculiar that Dr. Vaughan was criticising the British health education for failing to inform young people of the risk of using contraceptives and of the dangers? He complained bitterly that a Government-funded body were presenting only one side of the story.

It is hypocritical of the Government and of the Minister, to talk about their concern for families and for women. From what I have seen and heard in the past two weeks the same people have caused more concern to families and parents than they have experienced in a long time. The way the Bill has been forced through the Dáil, with Fine Gael and Labour Deputies being harassed and intimidated before the vote, has caused a lot of worry to a lot of people in this House. It has always been Fianna Fáil policy to have a party whip, but the Taoiseach, [680] and the Minister for Defence in particular, along with other Fine Gael people were great advocates of a free vote on a contraception Bill in 1974. The Official Report shows that the Taoiseach said that we would be turning democracy on its head not to allow a free vote on that occasion.

It is no wonder that Deputy Alice Glenn complained last week that democracy was at an end and had been subverted. Why is this Bill so important to the Minister for Health that he would risk so much to put it through? I find it hard to fathom but it is clear that he does not realise the depth of opposition that exists throughout the country. Perhaps those with whom he comes into regular contact have clouded his view and perception of the entire situation. Whatever the reason I suggest that he conserve the common good and the view of the families throughout this country who are worried and upset over this Family Planning Bill. The Minister makes light of their worries and says that his Bill will not have any bad effect and that it will not cause promiscuity.

The Minister also says that it will not lead to more unwanted pregnancies and abortions, but worldwide experience does not prove this to be true. Everywhere contraceptives have been made freely available to young people it has caused great pressure on them to become involved in pre-marital sex. Regardless of what Deputy Monica Barnes claims, the majority of Irish parents do not want a law like this passed. They are entitled to their views, perhaps even more so because the majority hold my view. They should not be made feel that their wishes were totally ignored by the Government and the Minister for Health for the last fortnight. We have heard people talking about Sweden and its experiences. Let me quote from an article by Roland Huntford, which stated:

The new permissiveness in Sweden has led to compulsive sexuality. The licence to capitulate has led to a sexual obsession pervading the whole of life [681] and has brought in its train certain mental illnesses. Much of the expanding neurosis amongst Swedish schoolchildren is attributed to failure in the sex rat race.

Are the Irish teenagers to be led towards this lifestyle? This is what parents are worried about, if we make it respectable to have extra marital sex then it will become the norm and religion has very little to do with it all, no matter how the Bishops' views are used to bolster arguments for the Bill. It is very, very easy to bash Bishops and it seems to be the hobby of the present Government, but it does not impress the Irish people.

Mr. McDonald: Absolute nonsense.

Mr. Cassidy: They want to see a Government who provide jobs for young people and give them a bit of hope, not a packet of contraceptives. According to Article 41 of the Constitution the State recognises the family as the natural, primary and fundamental unit group of society and as a moral institution possessing inalienable rights antecedent and superior to all positive law. Article 41 also states that the State guarantees to protect the family in its Constitution and authority and pledges to guard with special care the institution of marriage on which the family is founded and to protect it against attack. By making contraceptives freely available to everyone, including teenagers whether they be 15 or 16, irrespective of the 18 age limit, the Minister's Bill is an attack on the family and on marriage and is repugnant to the Constitution in the view of many people.

We have been told by Deputy Kelly that the State has no right to poke its nose into people's private lives. That is a faulty argument, as contraception, like abortion, is not solely a matter of private morality. Such an issue concerns the common good and public morality is the concern of all legislators. Deputy Fennell, in the Dáil——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I would prefer if the Senator would not quote [682] Deputies when he is speaking here. He can quote a Minister from the other House.

Mr. Cassidy: A female member of the senior Government party in the Dáil had the hard neck to say that no one but her and her Government care about women's affairs. Has she forgotten which Government introduced fundamental legislation in support of women's rights? Like her Government colleagues, when they talk about jobs, this female senior Government party member does not seem to be able to match her words with her actions. Maybe that is what the Government are suffering from, an overdose of intellectuals and Donnybrook liberals and too few politicians willing to act. The Family Planning Bill is not a minor Bill

Mr. O'Leary: Will the Senator please speak up?

Mr. Cassidy: I am not accustomed to being interrupted and I resent it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator Cassidy to continue.

Mr. Cassidy: As I was saying, the Family Planning Bill is not a minor Bill as some Sunday newspapers would have us believe. Even the Minister admitted that much. It involves a major departure from the 1979 Act and yet the Minister did not even consult with any health board or anybody else. The Midland Health Board rejected this Bill two weeks ago but they were ignored.

Mr. McDonald: On a point of order, that statement to my knowledge is not true. I do not think there were discussions with the Midland Health Board.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Will Senator McDonald resume his seat. I presume he will be speaking at a later stage and he can reply then to Senator Cassidy. Senator Cassidy to continue without further interruption.

[683] Mr. Cassidy: As I was saying, a favourite midland newspaper reported, correctly or incorrectly, that the Midland Health Board some three weeks ago rejected this Bill. That is where I got my information. If Senator McDonald wants to find out where it was I will show him. It is in a midland newspaper. Very many other health boards have also rejected this Bill. The Minister did not consult anybody about this Bill and he and his Government seem to be afraid of public opinion, not without good reason. As far as I am concerned this is a bad Bill and it will do nothing for Irish people, particularly the youth except to pander to the lowest possible denominators.

Mr. Donnellan: The Senator is like Rip Van Winkle.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: At a later stage the Minister of State may reply.

Mr. Cassidy: We will have somebody here also.

Mr. Browne: Much has been said and written about this Bill even before it came into being. Indeed, having listened to the last contribution, there is a hysteria around the place still despite all that has been said. Tomorrow the Age of Majority Bill becomes law. This brings the 21 year olds down to 18 year olds from the practical point of view. They can now take on all the financial commitments they care for. Politicians who, at the moment, do not seem to trust them to cross the road will be in a position to ask them for their vote. Some of them can be married even before the age of 18. Things have changed. No matter how much we might like to keep the younger people away from all the temptations there are in front of them, once 18 year olds can make the decisions I have outlined they must be in a position to decide for themselves what kind of standards they want to have.

When I spoke on the Criminal Justice Bill I mentioned that we had gone away completely from the whole concept of self restraint and self discipline. At that [684] stage I said that we were expecting the Garda to go around almost compelling us to behave ourselves. I said it was time we got back to the old standards we had where people simply imposed discipline on themselves. It still holds at this particular stage.

One would imagine, listening to some of the speeches, that the Government were forcing contraceptives on people. The last speaker said the Government instead of giving work were giving packets of condoms. The Government are not asking anybody to use them. I am not asking anybody to use them. The question is this: if you are living up to the standards that the Bishops preach to us, well then it will not be a problem. We must have standards of our own. We cannot go on for ever hiding behind the fact that we can blame somebody else for our conduct. It is way beyond the time that we, as members of different Churches, either accepted the teaching of the Church or did not. If we do not we will have to take the blame.

I have no worries about the Bishops making speeches on this. It is time they spoke out. They should continue to speak on all aspects of moral standards because the country at the moment certainly seems to be in difficulty on other aspects of morality. Perhaps a continued series of talks on what we should be doing as members of our Churches would help to raise the standard that has gone down so much. I would like them to continue and I would like our Church leaders to set standards for us that we should reach.

The younger people will live up to standards that many of the older people did not live up to but can talk about so solemnly now. Younger people are no worse than they ever were. It is terribly insulting to the young people — I have three teenagers — to talk about them as if they were actually waiting for this Bill to come into being to suddenly become promiscuous. It is grossly unjust to them. If we continued on this line that the younger people will be destroyed, that we are killing them, we will eventually set them up in the position that they will nearly have to behave that way. I certainly think [685] that it has gone beyond the stage where we continue knocking the younger people.

Some of the younger people are doing things way ahead of what was ever done before. They are involved in raising funds for charity, in helping old people and young people. It is grossly unfair to them to have this kind of slagging going on that they are waiting for this Bill. They are not. Many of them are highly offended at the thought that they have not got their own standards. I would like to praise them for what they have done. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí is an old Irish proverb. It is time we came back into the language of politicians as well. We ask them to support our parties. We give them the right of judgment that we are the better party of the two. We give them the right of judgment as to whether we are the better party. We have to give them the right to decide what is good and I do not think they will all opt for what is bad.

I have one interest as a teacher that when sex instruction starts in schools there will be a proper Christian balance in it. It is very important that people are told exactly what sex is all about. It is also important that they get a proper attitude towards it. I am very much in support of this. At the moment there are free lessons on sexuality on television every night and something should be done to counteract the standard that has been set by many of the films young people can see. It might be no harm to have a proper line on it for them and to set standards for them that they may not maintain but at least a certain standard should be set for them which they should be encouraged to observe.

I do not like having crossfire at the Opposition but after the last speech and having heard some things that were said, I cannot help saying that there is too much hypocrisy on the part of politicians. We can think of the reaction to the Bill, that a person from the opposite side who did not speak against it was punished because he did not bring down the Government. That is a sign that there was too much hypocrisy behind speeches [686] that were made. We can do without hypocrisy because politics has a low rating. The younger people seem to be losing respect for us. The sooner we dispense with hypocrisy the better. Young people want us to take a reasonable stand. When they saw some of the somersaulting that went on in the Dáil the night before the vote, when people who had spent a lifetime — 20 years ago we hardly knew what it meant — advocating contraception did a somersault and joined a party to vote for ulterior motives, against the Bill, they were sickened. I believe in short speeches. I suggest that in the Seanad we should devise a system to shorten speeches.

Mr. M. O'Toole: I come from a part of the country where we have our own natural family planning methods and they have worked reasonably well up to now. I have eight children — I know something about the subject. There is no family planning whatever in this Bill. A previous Bill provided that parents could plan the size of their families and space their children in accordance with their own requirements. Vis-a-vis the health of the childbearing partner it would be possible to plan in consultation with a medical consultant when it was suitable for the childbearing partner to be pregnant. That is what I know about contraceptives and family planning methods.

As regards the artificial methods that are being used in most countries throughout the world, the records show that they do not control pregnancies. In Great Britain there is a very high abortion rate though they have free access to all methods of contraception. The argument that contraceptives control unwanted pregnancies does not stand up.

There is then the question of planning one's family having regard to rearing, and teaching, the formation of adults. On the admission of the Minister, sale of contraceptives takes place in only one-quarter of chemists' shops and in some family planning clinics. That would indicate [687] that if Irish people require contraceptives more than a quarter of chemists would stock them in accordance with the law of supply and demand.

The Bill has the wrong title. It should be called the Marketing and Sale of Contraceptives Bill, 1985, or indeed you could call it the Distribution of Contraceptives Bill, 1985. It is an insult to family planning to use the words “family planning” in connection with the Bill. There is no family planning whatever in the Bill. It is merely a marketing process for extending the marketing in various locations throughout the country of artificial contraceptives. There is no demand whatever for this Bill at any clinic that I have attended, and I have spoken to a wide range of people. I have heard no demand, not even from the young people. There is more important legislation to come through this House than this Bill. The Minister would be better engaged in bringing in a Bill that would be more useful to the people and their requirements.

The Minister said:

While information and advice on family planning matters are integral elements of general practice, not all doctors are willing or able to provide a comprehensive planning service for their patients.

I do not know what he means by “willing or able”. I hope he was not talking academically or medically when he used the word “able”. I would like the Minister to explain that to me.

In July, 1983 the Irish Medical Association got in touch with the Minister for a review of the existing Act as a matter of urgency. Did the Minister at any time consult with the IMA before he brought the Bill into the other House? My information is that there was no consultation whatever. There was no consultation such as there was on the previous Bill when representatives of all sections of the community throughout the State were brought into this House and to the Department of Health to discuss in depth prior to the [688] implementation of the Family Planning Act that we now know. Everybody's views were heard from all sides in connection with health and family planning. The Minister should have consulted in order to find out what the requirement of the IMA was at that time. He should not use the IMA's name if he is not prepared to consult them. I understand that there was no consultation whatever in connection with this Bill.

If you turn to the Minister's speech, it states:

Studies show that young adults enter into sexual relations generally without using contraceptives and there is a particularly irresponsible attitude among young males in this regard;

That is an awful statement for any Minister to make. On the one hand, he is telling us that over ten million contraceptives have been imported annually into this country over the last three years. On the other hand, he is saying that there is an irresponsible attitude among young males in this country, that they enter into sexual relationships without using contraception. That is a very wild statement. I would like to know to what studies does the Minister refer and who carried out the studies? Would he say when and where they were done and by whom? That is very relevant at this point in time. It is very easy for the Minister to talk of studies in his speech without quoting the sources of the studies. One would imagine the Minister was talking about the VAT at point of entry or something like that, where a recording of numbers could be used. On this occasion he just mentions “studies”. I would like the Minister for Health, Deputy Desmond, to name the studies he talks about when he says that the young Irish adult is an irresponsible citizen of this country, who does not use contraception. On the other hand, he is saying that we are importing ten million contraceptives per year. That is 30 million in the last three years. It is a very wide-ranging statement. I would like the Minister to refer to this when he is replying. I have the highest regard for [689] the attitudes of young people in this country and their behaviour. It behaves the Minister to say something about it in his reply.

We now come to the persons who will be entitled to sell under the new Bill. He mentions doctors, chemists, employees of health boards etc. He has not mentioned the status or type of employee he is talking about. Is he talking about clerk typists? Is he talking about clerical officers? Is he talking about clerical aides or nurses aides? What wide range of employees does the Minister intend now to employ so that this contraceptives Bill can be expanded? He also mentions under his own guidance “designated employees at certain hospitals” throughout the country. That is something that I would like to have clarified, especially for the members of health boards. The health boards will now be able to sell these contraceptives at various locations throughout the country.

I would also like to say that, while we may be out on the periphery of this country and of the Common Market, I believe that the married couples of this country have access to contraception under the existing law if they require it even in the west.

I must refer to the abuse of the Minister's power. In this regard I want to say that until it was revealed in November 1983 the Minister for Health, Deputy Desmond, did not disclose that he is personally a member of the retail group, the Irish Family Planning Association. Under this legislation I have no doubt that his friends in that organisation will gain substantial sums from the widening of this contraception market and he himself is a member of the Irish Family Planning Association. That is abuse of the Minister's power in this regard.

Mr. Donnellan: Are you suggesting that he will benefit financially?

Mr. M. O'Toole: I did not say that. I said that his friends will gain substantially as a result of the widening of the marketing [690] organisation in the Irish Family Planning Association. That is what I am saying. That will be no doubt a fact——

An Leas-Cathaoirleach: Senator O'Toole would you clear that point again because obviously you were taken up wrongly when you made reference to financial gain? Just for the record of the House, please?

Mr. M. O'Toole: I spoke about the abuse of power. Until it was revealed in November 1983, the Minister for Health, Deputy Desmond, did not disclose that he is personally a member of the retail group — I repeat retail group — the Irish Family Planning Association and that his friends in that organisation of which he is a member will gain substantial sums from the widening of the contraception market.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Sorry, for interrupting——

Mr. Howard: On a point of order, I am afraid there is more than an implication there. You asked Senator O'Toole to clarify it. When you link the two terms — the abuse of power and the profit-making capacity of the Minister and his friends — there is a serious allegation in that.

Mr. M. O'Toole: I did not say the Minister, but he is a member of an organisation and if you widen the marketing powers, which we are doing in this Bill, it will no doubt have a substantial gain for members of that distribution organisation. I think if there is anything wrong with my statement the Minister will have——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I think some Members are upset, and may be confused, that you are implying that there is going to be financial gain for the Minister himself. If you could reword or rephrase what you are saying——

Mr. Howard: Permit me to say when [691] that followed on the term of the abuse of power——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: If you withdraw just that part, Senator O'Toole?

Mr. M. O'Toole: I will comply with your request, a Leas-Chathaoirleach, to withdraw the abuse of power. It is evident that this retail group will gain as a result of widening the marketing field. That is what I am saying. If the Minister wants to go a little further on that, he will have an opportunity of doing so when he is replying.

Mr. Howard: On a point of order——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Will Senator Howard resume his seat? I have dealt with it as Leas-Chathaoirleach. In fairness, Senator O'Toole has withdrawn the remark that you are concerned about and has not gone on.

Mr. Howard: There were two things which I was concerned about; the abuse of power, which I accept has been dealt with but there is the remaining allegation that the Minister stands to profit personally from the widening of the use——

Mr. M. O'Toole: No, I did not say that.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Wait a moment, I am in the Chair. Senator O'Toole did not say that.

Mr. Howard: That was my understanding of it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I am in the Chair. He has withdrawn the remark you were concerned about.

Mr. M. O'Toole: This is unwanted legislation. I am totally opposed to it. This House would be better employed bringing in legislation that would be more profitable for the economy. Job creation, local government reform offer a wide range of other activities that could come through this House.

[692] Mr. O'Leary: First, I would like to say that I did not intend to speak until next week but as the opportunity presented itself I took it. I may be a little bit disorganised in what I want to say. I do not intend to speak for too long on this measure because it has been well discussed in this House and in the other House and in the country at large.

There are a few points I would like to put on the record of the House. This is an important measure both with regard to its implications for Irish society and because of the confrontation to which it gave rise to between Church and State. Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing is something we might discuss at a later time but a confrontation did take place.

The measure represents a very small change in the law. The exact nature of the significance of the change in the law I will deal with later but I think the fact that the legislation has been introduced and I hope, will be passed by this House, lies in reasons other than the change in the law. It is important because it is a vehicle by which those people involved in politics who want to deal with matters on the basis of logic rather than on emotion are given an opportunity of putting their point of view to the House. That is what this debate is all about. Are we going to deal with proposals on the basis of logic or on the basis of emotion? That is one of the most important debates of Irish political life. Political fall-out attending this Bill has highlighted very clearly that there is a substantial body of opinion and a substantial body of people involved in politics in this country who want to be ruled by emotion and not by logic. They are willing to go to considerable lengths to ensure that that situation continues.

The second reason why it is very important is because of the relative weight and importance which the Legislature has had to decide should be given to the advice of the ecclesiastical authorities. That is a very important consideration. The third reason is that the kernel of the argument is a discussion on what is meant by the common good, what is the nature of the common good, because in seeking [693] to speak on this legislation we are all concentrating on promotion of a point of view which we believe to be the common good.

Before discussing the legislation a brief summary of what the present law is would be helpful. I listened to Senator Robinson and she outlined in considerable detail the full background of the legislation which forms the Principal Act of this proposed amendment. It would be useful also to look at the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979 itself because an examination of that will show what the law is at the present time. An examination of that will show that some of the reaction to this proposal has been hysterical, unreasonable and unfair in the extreme. The operative portion of the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979, which I consider to be a liberal piece of legislation — flawed but liberal — has met problems reasonably fairly but it is flawed because it is capable of being interpreted in more than one way. For that reason I considered it a flawed piece of legislation.

The kernel of that legislation is in section 4 of that Act. That is a section which prohibits people from doing something. It says: “A person shall not sell contraceptives unless...”. It is a quite simple and straightforward statement. It goes on to say: “unless he is a servant or agent or a pharmaceutical chemist or unless the person who is selling it is named in a prescription or authorisation in writing for contraceptives of a registered medical practitioner, who in the opinion of the practitioner formed at the time of giving the prescription or authorisation sought the contraceptives for the purpose bona fide of family planning, or for adequate medical reasons.”

It is important that that should be fully understood. It is not just bona fide family planning reason; there are also medical reasons. These medical reasons are not defined and the meaning of bona fide family planning is also not defined. A court could from time to time interpret what this means. The legislation goes on further than that. In subsection (2) when dealing with the question of a registered [694] medical practitioner issuing a certificate or a prescription it says:

A registered medical pracitioner may, for the purpose of this Act, give a prescription or authorisation for a contraceptive to a person if he is satisfied that the person who is seeking the contraceptive, bona fide, for family planning purposes or for adequate medical reasons and in appropriate circumstances and, where a prescription or authorisation of a registered medical practitioner in relation to a contraceptive bears an indication that it is given for the purposes of this Act, it shall be conclusively presumed, for the purposes of this section, that the person named in it is a person who, in the opinion of the practitioner formed at the time of the giving of the prescription or authorisation sought the contraceptive for the purpose, bona fide, of family planning or for adequate medical reasons...

In other words, we have the ludicrous situation where, on the one hand we say that we are going to limit contraceptives to people who need contraceptives for bona fide family planning purposes or alternatively for medical reasons which are not specified and then we give carte blanche to the medical profession to decide what these are. Nowhere in this legislation is it suggested directly or indirectly that the sale and distribution of contraceptives is limited to those who are married. Anybody who has been basing his or her argument on drawing the distinction between this legislation and the 1979 Act, a distinction based on this legislation permitting contraceptives for those who are not married and previous legislation not permitting it, is drawing a false distinction. That false distinction has permeated right through the opposition to this Bill, from clerical and ecclesiastical sources to political sources and into the legislative area itself.

People have suggested that this Bill is changing the law in so far as it is permitting contraceptives to be made available as a matter of right for those who are not [695] married. It is substituting, in respect of some of the contraceptives, free availability subject to the provisions of the Bill on the application of a person over 18 years of age for a situation where medical practitioners were the sole arbitrators of whether a person should get contraceptives or not. It does not say to the medical practitioners: “You must only give it to people who are married”. It is a fact that, in so far as medical practitioners were operating this Act, some of them were operating it in such a way as to give contraceptives to nobody and others were operating it to give contraceptives to everybody.

The ludicrous situation which was set up by the 1979 Act has reached an intolerable level. It is very important that it would be clearly understood that this legislation does not, for the first time, create a distinction between those who are married and those who are single. It does it but it only does it in a different way from what is already in the 1979 Act. Under the present law, married and single are not mentioned, old or young are not mentioned, teenagers or mature adults — none of those are mentioned. Contraceptives can now be made available by any doctor to a person of any age. Having done so, his certificate or prescription is considered conclusive proof that it had been provided for bona fide family planning purposes. That is the law as it stands. When you understand the law as it stands at present, you will understand that the hysterical reaction of some of those who are against this amendment is based either on ignorance or on political malice or on sheer incompetence. It could not be based on anything else.

I am not suggesting that everybody who criticises it is ignorant. I am not suggesting that all are motivated by political malice or I am not suggesting that the other reason applies in any individual but in respect of each such person there must be a reason which I think falls somewhere within some of the categories I have outlined.

[696] That is the present law. The medical practitioner can prescribe for a person and his prescription cannot be challenged and that is the law as it stands at present.

What does this Bill seek to do? It seeks to allow non-medical contraceptives to be made available to people over 18 years of age. Leaving aside for the moment the question of the setting of the level at 18 years of age and using instead the word “adult”, we can hardly deny that under the Constitution there is a right to non-medical contraceptives for those that are married. Since the McGee case it is agreed and accepted that that right exists. To insist that a person before exercising that right must go to see a medical practitioner, and to give that medical practitioner the power to say “no” — in other words the power to deny that person a constitutional right — is certainly unconstitutional. Without doubt that law is outside the Constitution.

I listened to a very learned contribution in the other House on the question of whether there is a right to privacy, the same type of right as in the McGee case in respect of adults who are not married. It is the inevitable conclusion of the McGee case and the other developments in constitutional law that there is a right to non-medical contraceptives in respect of those who are mature in exercise of their democratic right as citizens.

That does not solve the problem or answer the critics who chose to use emotive words like “teenagers” and say that we are making contraceptives available to teenagers or that we are making contraceptives available to children. It ill behoves the Members of this House or indeed the Members of the other House who have passed the Age of Majority Bill such a short time ago and enacted it into law, to try to draw a distinction between 18 year olds and 21 year olds, because there were very few Members of this House indeed — only three I think — who expressed any concern whatsoever with regard to the reduction of the age of majority from 21 to 18. I was one of those people but all I can say is, the matter having been decided by this House and the other House and having been decided [697] contrary to the advice of Senator Mullooly and my own advice, it having decided to reduce the age of majority from 21 to 18, it would be absolutely intolerable, having said a week ago that people of 18 years of age have reached their majority, to say now that we are going to differentiate and distinguish between them in respect of the acquisition of contraceptives.

It is an act of political hypocrisy for Members to support the abolition of the disabilities in respect of people between the ages of 18 and 21 and within four weeks of doing that to come back in here and say, of course 18 year olds are only teenagers and they are only children. We have decided that 18 year olds are adults. We give them all the rights under the Irish Constitution except two — that is the right of election as members of the Oireachtas and the right of election as President of the Republic. Other than those we have given them all the rights under the Irish Constitution and in those circumstances it would be unrealistic to set the age limit at anything higher than 18 years of age. I know there are people in the House who would wish the age limit to be set lower than 18. I do not think that is right. I am in favour of the age of access to non-medical contraceptives being set at whatever the age of majority is. Nobody can reasonably quibble with that age.

That is what is proposed in the present Bill. It is not the present Bill that provided for the possibility of contraceptives for those under 18 years of age: it was the last Act that provided for that. The last Act provides for the availability of contraceptives irrespective of age after having received a prescription. That law has not been changed. In other words anybody under 18 years of age who for some reason or another needs a contraceptive will be subject to the 1979 Act. They will have to go and get their prescription and they will have to go through the procedure laid down in the 1979 Act. The availability of contraceptives to those under 18 does not derive from this Bill but from the Act introduced under [698] the last Fianna Fáil administration.

All these matters, are however, small, trivial matters compared to the real reason why it is important that this House should unanimously accept this legislation. These changes are, by and large, small and leaving aside the political advantage which the main Opposition party mistakenly thought they could gain by opposing this Bill, leaving aside that the overwhelming number of Members of both Houses believe that this legislation is a reasonable extension of the law and a reasonable amendment to legislation which has worked reasonably well but which has significant flaws, this Bill changes and adapts that legislation to the evolving situation in Ireland.

We are faced with the problem of how could it be in the public good to legislate so as to make contraceptives available to people at all. That is the problem which legislators have to face. That is the crucial point because if I believe, as indeed I do, that the act of contraception is an unnatural interference with sexual intercourse and is something which it would be better to avoid, how can I then maintain that permission to operate or to use contraceptives is in some way adding to the public good? The public good does not only consist of morality, morality in the sexual sense or morality in the economic sense: the public good is indeed a far wider concept than that because the public good also includes permitting people a choice. The public good also consists of permitting people to use their freedom of choice to make the right decision. That is an essential element of the common good. If human beings are to be treated differently from animals what differentiates us from animals is the fact that we have free choice. That is why it is very important, when you talk about the common good, that you include the element of choice and the element of freedom as being an important element in this scenario.

There are two categories of people involved in political life. There are those who believe that the State should control our existence completely and there are those who believe that the State should [699] not control our existence completely. I belong unashamedly to the second category. I do not believe that the State should control totally our existence and, therefore, because I believe that an element of choice is an important part of man's journey through this life I extend that to include not only social legislation but also economic legislation. The only person who really believes logically that the State should completely control the actions of its citizens is a person who believes in the collectivism of the State, a person who believes in the communist ideal.

My good friend, Senator Brendan Ryan, who I am sure will not mind my quoting him, says he is against private enterprise. He told me that he is against private enterprise, that he thinks private enterprise has no place in a modern society. I think what he is effectively saying is that the control of the distribution of wealth should be with the State, that the State should decide what should be done with the wealth produced by its citizens. A person who has that opinion should, in my opinion, also logically have the opinion that the State should control what a person should do with regard to morality. I believe that a certain element, a substantial element of private enterprise is necessary.

I believe that people should be rewarded for their effort. I believe people should be entitled to improve their lot by their hard work. Similarly, I think if they decide to take it easy they should suffer the economic consequences, subject to the State underwriting and underpinning a certain minimum standard of living for everybody. If you believe that what you believe in is the differentiation between people. You believe that people should be given the choice to work hard or not to work hard.

If you look back to 1951, to the conflict between the Church and State, if you try to understand what the Catholic Bishops were saying to the Irish nation in 1951, you will see they were saying that the Church should not interfere with man's duty to look after his own health, that man had a responsibility to look after his [700] own health and the health of his wife and children and that was a family responsibility and the responsibility rested exclusively with the family and not with the State. That is effectively what the Church was saying.

It seems very strange in this day and age that the Church was saying that and was not willing to go on and say that the State should at least provide a minimum standard of health care for its citizens. But that is effectively what the Church was saying. Against that background you can see the logic of the Church's position. The Church was saying that in economic matters man must be given a free choice. The State must not organise the economic affairs of the country so as to take away the discretion from individuals.

That freedom of choice in economic matters is precisely the same freedom of choice which the Church should be fighting for in matters of morality. The Church should be saying, and it does in respect of certain sections of morality, that the question of whether one will obey the law of God should be a matter of free choice for the individual, not a matter to be determined and dictated by the laws of a country. Where the vociferous minority in the Irish Hierarchy have gone wrong is that they have gone against the principles of the Second Vatican Council, they have gone against the principles which recognise the dignity of man as a free thinking individual, and they have come out in favour of a situation where the morality of a country is dictated by the laws of the country and by the operation of the law.

This incorrect analysis, because that is what it is, of the proper relationship between the State and its citizens has led to a situation where the authoritarian pronouncements of certain Bishops have coincided with the political opportunism of the main Opposition party. When I said in a statement earlier in this controversy that certain Bishops of the Hierarchy were expressing a party political preference, what I was saying was that there is a coalition of interests, an identity of views between certain members of the Hierarchy and the present leadership of [701] the Fianna Fáil Party, that the authoritarian views of that minority of the Hierarchy and their authoritarian analysis of society coincides with the authoritarian analysis of the organisation of the main political opposition. I was not suggesting that historically speaking all the Bishops were supporters of Fianna Fáil. I did not say that or I did not mean it but at present there is a coalition of interests between the authoritarian members of the Hierarchy and the authoritarian attitudes which predominate in the main Opposition party.

I stand for a very different kind of analysis of society and a very different kind of analysis of Catholicism from that. I stand for an analysis of society where to the maximum possible extent, not totally, the individual is responsible for his own actions, that he is responsible before his God and he is responsible to the other members of society not through the operation of the criminal law but is responsible in the self-esteem of the other members of society for his actions. We should so organise our laws as to permit people to do things which we might find morally objectionable ourselves. This point of view is by no means unique. Many examples of it have already been given in discussions between various people during the course of this debate, such as our laws on adultery, examples such as our law on fornication, many examples indeed with regard to the simple matter of telling lies. It is not against the law to tell a lie. It is only against the law if you tell a lie having taken an oath. We should not attempt to impose morality through the operation of the civil law of the State. What we have to do as legislators is to look at the effect of the introduction and the availability of contraceptives and see whether disimprovement which may come about in society is offset to a greater or lesser extent, or offset totally, by the increased freedom which this opportunity will give to the citizens of the country.

There is a heavy responsibility on those who allege that the free availability of non-medical contraceptives to those over 18 years of age is going to give rise to an [702] increase in venereal disease or an increase in promiscuity or an increase in illegitimacy. There is a heavy burden on them to show that that is the case. We had an excellent contribution, as we always have, from Senator Fitzsimons. But Senator Fitzsimons' presentation of statistics was very selective. On the one hand, he gave a list of countries in Europe where non-medical contraceptives had become available freely and he examined the change in the level of illegitimate births in each country after that decision was taken. In all the countries he quoted there was a gradual increase after that date. I asked him at the time would he tell us what the position in Ireland in the corresponding period was when there was no availability of non-medical contraceptives. Later on in the speech, for a different purpose, he gave us those figures. During the period when contraceptives were not available in Ireland — again quoting the same figures that Senator Fitzsimons quoted — the percentage of illegitimacy in Ireland rose from 1.6 in 1961 to 3.35 in 1974. Even though we started from a lower base our rate of increase was considerably higher than the rate of increase elsewhere. Senator Fitzsimons has a responsibility to this House in quoting these figures to quote the position in the corresponding period in Ireland. He did not do so. I am now doing so and the only logical conclusion we can come to is that, whatever the reason for the increase in the rate of illegitimacy in Europe and in Ireland during that period the availability of contraceptives appeared to make no difference because the increase happened in Ireland at a time when contraceptives were not generally available in this country. With regard to that, people have failed dismally to show that there is any relationship between the availability of contraceptives per se as a primary or secondary factor in the increase in the rate of illegitimacy.

It is reasonable to look at the position as it exists in the North of Ireland. I would like to ask the bishops who minister in dioceses in both the North and South to publicly state whether there is any difference between the sexual behaviour [703] of their flock North of the Border and their flock South of the Border. I have very strong evidence that there is no difference, because the increase in illegitimacy and the increase in promiscuity in general and the increase in venereal disease is related, in my opinion, not to the availability of contraceptives but to other things. It is related, for example, to the greater mobility of the population. There is no doubt that mobility increases the opportunities for promiscuous behaviour. It is related to the greater consumption by young people of alcoholic drink. It is related to a lot of other factors like that; but there is no evidence that it is, in fact, related in any way to the availability of non-medical contraceptives.

I must draw the House's attention to the reaction of the Catholic Hierarchy to the publication of the Bill in 1978 when it subsequently became the 1979 Bill and the reaction on this occasion. When the 1978 legislation was proposed and when it was being discussed over a period of some months going through both Houses of the Oireachtas, there was no comment or virtually no comment whatever from the members of the Hierarchy. In fact, the only comments I could trace were two very small comments. One was an indirect comment in a lenten pastoral from the then Archbishop of Dublin and the other an equally indirect comment, in a lenten pastoral issued some months after the publication of the Bill from the then Bishop of Cork, the late Dr. Lucey. I could see no other reference in the files to the legislation and it appears to me that that contrasts very strangely indeed with the fluster and the frequency of comments which greeted the publication of this legislation.

I have already dealt with the allegations contained in the statements of the present Archbishop of Dublin and the statements of the Bishop of Limerick, Most Reverend Dr. Newman, but it would be wrong to suggest that they were the only people who acted differently in 1985 than they had acted in 1978-79. Other Bishops, to varying degrees and in various ways, expressed opinions on the [704] legislation. Very many of them expressed opinions which were balanced opinions. They said that the use of contraceptives could never be made right by any law and that Catholics had a duty not to use them and that the legislators should take their views into account, they were not in favour of the legislation. But even those balanced comments from people like Bishop Cassidy are completely at variance with their silence in 1979. I believe that the 1978-79 legislation was, in fact, approved by the Hierarchy, directly or indirectly, before it was introduced. There is nothing wrong with that. I have no objection to the Hierarchy approving anything, but what I do object to is the fact that they did not tell us that that was the case. I believe it to be the case. I may be wrong, but I believe it to be the case. I believe that the Irish Hierarchy had a significant part to play in the drafting of that legislation and during its consideration by the Oireachtas they did not tell the people that they had that part to play.

I think the different reaction is based on the fact that members of the Hierarchy now feel that they have not as direct an access to the Minister for Health as they had at that time. I will talk about that later in the context of a criticism of the Minister for Health which I will make before I finish, but I feel that the difference in reaction now and in 1979 is a source of great scandal to the very many supporters of the party of which I am a member. It is a source of great scandal indeed that we should in some way be considered less suitable members of the Church than the supporters of the main Opposition party. I know that there are members of the party to which I am privileged to belong, and indeed of the party with whom we are privileged to be in coalition, whose commitment to the objectives and to the institution of the Catholic Church is every bit as deep as the commitment of the main Opposition party. I am not saying more deep, I am saying as deep. The Catholic Church should be careful not to align itself with one political party because, if it does that, it is finished since the fortunes of every political party go up and down. The [705] Church of which I am a member should not be aligned to any particular party — Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour. The Hierarchy and the other ecclesiastical authorities could look with profit at the position in other European countries where the Church has aligned itself with political parties, where the only people who are going to Mass are old women. If you go to Italy you find that nobody else goes to Mass except old women. I do not know if they are the same old women, or if it is that when they get old they start going to Mass, but over the period of years that I have been observing them they always seem to be the same old women. We would want to be very careful that that situation does not come about in this country.

I would like to appeal very strongly to the leaders of all political parties in this State to reconsider their attitude on legislation of this kind. It is not right that the Whip should apply to any individual in respect of social legislation of this kind. It is not correct. It is not right. I defend the right of people to act in accordance with their consciences. Having said that, there is no possibility and it is politically impossible for this Government or any Government made up of any combination of parties on this side of the House not to apply the Whip in the situation where Fianna Fáil determinedly apply the Whip in these items. It is Fianna Fáil who are getting in the way of a free vote on these issues. I feel that there should be a free vote on these issues. The issues are quite clear, issues like whether we should have a referendum on divorce, what our future legislation with regard to contraception should be. In all these matters legislation should be based on the individual assessment of the Members of the Oireachtas and should not be subject to the Whip. Therefore, I appeal, in the context of other legislation which will be coming before this Oireachtas, to Members of all parties and I appeal to the leaders of all parties to meet together and to discuss what can be done to depoliticise these issues, and to allow the individual assessments of the position to be given a free expression and not to be the subject [706] of party discipline. I must say that as long as the Fianna Fáil Party have a rule that they will always apply a Whip then you are going to have an intolerable situation in this country and one which is going to reflect great discredit on the political parties and indeed on the ecclesiastical authorities also.

There are a number of points I would like to make about the Bill before I conclude. I will conclude just before 5 o'clock. I would appeal to the Minister, now that the ludicrous situation which existed up to 1979, and after the passing of the 1979 Act, is being changed, to implement the law when enacted. I do not expect that the Minister will go around checking in every chemist shop in the country to see whether they are selling contraceptives to people over 18 years of age or not. We must be sensible enough to leave that to the good sense of the general public to do the policing on our behalf in that regard, but if we are to restrict the number of outlets for the sale of contraceptives and if we are writing that into the law of the land and if we are saying the outlets will be family planning clinics, chemist shops, health boards, maternity hospitals and various other institutions like that, then we should ensure that they are not openly sold elsewhere.

In the city in which I live there was a report in the paper about contraceptives being freely available in the restaurant in the university. We are either going to apply the law or we are not going to apply the law. I appeal to the Minister to apply the law in that regard. If those attending universities who, by and large, are over 18 years of age, want contraceptives they can go and get them like anybody else at a place which is set aside by the law for the purchase of these contraceptives. That is a family planning clinic or a chemist shop. If we want to change the law and make them freely available everywhere a proposal to that effect should be brought before the Oireachtas. I certainly would not support such a proposal because the access points should be limited. That is the proper way in which the law should [707] be drafted in the present climate.

I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the law will be enforced. That may require one or two prosecutions but if it does, so be it. There is a provision in the 1979 Act for the prosecuting of people who sell contraceptives who are not supposed to sell contraceptives. So if we are liberalising the law in this regard the Minister must ensure that the law is operated. I am talking about where the law is being flouted. The Minister has a duty to ensure that the law is not flouted and if we say, in our collective wisdom, that there should be a limited number of sale points that should be the law until such time as it is changed.

The Minister, who is a very courageous man, and the Government, who are a very courageous Government, should be congratulated for the way in which they have put this proposition to us in spite of the potential political damage it could cause. The Minister is, however, in my opinion also to be criticised. The Minister appeared to decide that he would do this without any consultation whatsoever. Members may find that strange from somebody who supports this legislation very passionately. I support it very strongly because it is good legislation which treats adults as adults. But the Minister should have been big enough to consult people and consult them openly. I am not talking about consultations behind closed doors. It is not good enough for the Minister, in a matter of social legislation, to contemplate only his own navel. That is not good enough. In this case he came up with the right answer but that is not the way in which these things should be done. It is not a matter which should be discussed only within the Department of Health or only within the Cabinet. Wider consultations should take place and the Minister failed totally to have these wider consultations.

Part of the political storm and part of the ecclesiastical storm which broke over the country as a result of the introduction of this legislation was, in my opinion, connected with the fact that such consultations did not take place. In respect of [708] the ecclesiastical storm, and indeed some of the political storm also, it would be reasonable for people to have said, “We should have been consulted and here is our opinion of the Bill.” What they, in fact, did was they went against the Bill even though if individually they were consulted they might have made recommendations similar to those in the Bill. That applies in particular to the main Opposition party. From my contacts in the main Opposition party — I do have contacts in the main Opposition party — I would say there was a general feeling that the law needed amendment. But we certainly did not make it easy. The Minister did not make it easy for the Opposition to behave in a responsible fashion by the manner of his introduction of the legislation, not so much the manner of its introduction or the speed of its passage, because the Opposition had decided on its position long in advance of that, but the fact that prior consultation did not take place. I contrast that with the kind of consultation which is taking place over the marriage reform procedure. That may come down to a political dog fight in the end but everybody will have had their say. Everybody in the country will have had his or her say and that is good.

There is nothing wrong with the Minister publishing a Green Paper and following all that up with a White Paper. A Green Paper is a set of policy options and a White Paper is a proposal. There is no reason why the Minister could not have published a White Paper on this. There is no reason why the Minister could not publish a White Paper on the many other controversial things which he is proposing as well. I think it should be said to the Minister that while respecting the wise conclusions he has come to I certainly do not respect the manner in which the affair was dealt with over the last two years. I would like to recommend very strongly to the Government that far more use should be made of the White Paper procedures.

But, faced as we are with the actual proposal, I think those of us who believe in a pluralist society and those of us who believe in the dignity of the human person [709] and the freedom of choice of the person have no choice whatsoever but to support his Bill. It will add considerably to the creation of a society in Ireland where adults will be treated as adults and the State will not be interfering in matters which should properly be outside its competence.

Mr. Lanigan: I move the Adjournment.

[710] Debate adjourned.

Mr. McDonald: It is proposed to sit at 12 noon on Wednesday, 6 March 1985, when it is hoped to finish the Second Stage of this Bill and, by agreement, take all the remaining Stages.

The Seanad adjourned at 5 p.m. until 12 noon on Wednesday, 6 March 1985.