News & Politics

Ireland After the Abortion Vote: the California of Europe?

(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

When I interviewed Ireland’s Minister David Stanton, I knew I’d be entering rough waters if I started asking him questions on issues like Islamic immigration, abortion, and transgender children. Ireland, after all, has seen tremendous social and political change in the last fifteen years. It certainly is not the country it was when I was a boy — when I’d hear Irish aunts and uncles on my mother’s side refer to the homeland while lambasting a relative for leaving the Catholic Church, marrying a non-Catholic (a major heresy in those days), or having the gall to divorce and remarry.

Today’s Ireland is a different country than it was in the 1960s. So different that if James Joyce were alive today and set about writing A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he would have to exclude the scene where the young Stephen Dedalus refuses his dying mother’s request to kneel by her bedside and say a prayer. In Joyce’s novel, young Dedalus has rejected the Church and everything the Church stands for, including praying at the deathbed of your mother. It’s more than conceivable that a 2018 version of Joyce’s book would include Dedalus’ mother asking not for prayers, but rather a solemn promise from her son to join the campaign for legalized abortion on the Emerald Isle.

The Irish, I think, have a doctrinaire streak that was most evident in the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, where they were known throughout the world as the strictest Catholics in existence, unlike those laissez faire Mediterranean Catholics (in Italy) who would attend High Mass on Sunday and then happily visit their mistresses on Monday. But you would be wrong if you thought that the old doctrinaire streak among Catholics in Ireland has dissipated. It has not.

In fact, it is alive and well in its newest incarnation. The allegiance to the Church has been transferred to a devotion to Leftist ideology; the Church of the Globalist Mother, or the Infallible State.

My chat with Minister Stanton reminded me of this “new” Ireland, which fits as the “California” of Western Europe.

Minister Stanton used to be a woodwork and technical drawing instructor before he entered politics (the Assembly of Ireland) in 1997. Married with four sons, he was appointed Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration in May 2016. If that isn’t a title with a major globalist kick, I don’t know what is. The Minister’s job title, in fact, foreshadows with certainty where he will stand on any given issue.

Consider a 2017 article in The Irish Independent in which the Minister told reporter Shane Phelan: “Young Muslims must be made to feel part of our society.” The Minister then added:

It is most important to ensure we work with the Islamic community and other communities here to make sure they feel part of Irish society, they have a stake here and they work with us to ensure we don’t have the type of events here that are happening elsewhere. If people feel involved and have a stake in society, they will come forward if they feel anybody out there might be a threat.

In lieu of what is happening throughout Western Europe, the minister’s comment struck me as hopelessly naïve. The minister clearly has not read up on Islam. He’s certainly not read James V. Schall, S.J.’s book, On Islam (Ignatius Press), in which Schall writes:

After all, one of the hopes of the West was that, if we have many Muslims come into Western countries, the relativism of the West will mitigate Islam’s fanaticism. It is more likely to increase it. But the fact is that, somehow, Islam has not allowed much to interfere with its internal control of minds and politics of the billion and a half human beings who call themselves “Muslim.”

Our political, academic, and cultural leaders cannot comprehend what is going on, either when a whole Western civilization loses its faith and moral standards or when Islam reawakens to the implications of its own faith and its vision of world conquest. The two — the loss of faith in the West and the rise of Islam — are connected. The decline of the birthrate and civil undermining of the family in the West is one thing. Muslim immigration or invasion has engulfed this same area. Muslims, especially young males, did not seek power and prosperity in other adjoining Muslim lands.

While immigration and integration have become hot-button issues in today’s world, for Minister Stanton the real hot-button issue for Ireland is not immigration or Islam. It is the continuation of peaceful relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit is implemented in March 2019.

Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement ended decades of internal conflict between the North and the South — but since Northern Ireland belongs to Great Britain, it will leave the European Union along with Britain in 2019. The minister said there was concern in some quarters that the border wars of old may return despite assurances from the UK and EU that there will be no hard border between the North and South after Brexit.

Of course there will be no border wars, and that’s because the Protestant-Catholic divisions of old have been whitewashed into a secular sameness. The Catholic Church in Ireland is a ghost of its former self, a skeletal presence with no “there there.”

I met Minister Stanton in Philadelphia’s Old Pine Community Center at 4th and Lombard Streets after the city’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade. The interview took place in the Old Pine library, a quiet room overlooking a cemetery. The conversation began with a handshake (Minister Stanton’s grip is as firm as a woodworker’s c-clamp). The minister was accompanied by an aide, and sat directly in front of me at a small table. He promised me ten minutes, although we wound up talking for nearly twenty. He was gracious with his time but I still felt the clock ticking. It was Saint Patrick’s Day, after all, and he had a million commitments.

I asked him how he felt about the proposed changes to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution — it would, and did, give women the right to abortion up to 12 weeks.

Prior to my question, I had been unable to find any statement of his indicating how he felt about the referendum. This suggested he was remaining neutral until the final vote count. When gently pressed on the issue, he declined to give an opinion but said that the Irish people would decide the issue in the May 25th referendum. Of course, now that the Irish people have given pro-abortion forces the landslide victory they were looking for, Minister Stanton can go with the flow, his political career intact.

At various points we segued into lighter topics, such how drinking in pubs on Good Friday was finally permitted after a 91-year ban. The minister said the ban was creating a lot of confusion because places like hotels were exempt while people were stocking up on alcohol long before Good Friday. He made it known that he didn’t think the lifting of the ban would affect the long-standing ban against the selling of alcohol in public houses on Christmas Day. The Irish people overwhelmingly support the Christmas ban, so no changes in this law are expected in the near or distant future. But in the new secular California/Ireland, presume that the clock is ticking on this one.

I mentioned Ireland’s National Party, and its claim that the country owes “absolutely nothing to people who have no connection to Ireland.” The National Party was founded by Justin Barrett in November 2016. Barrett campaigned for Ireland’s original abortion referendum in 2002, and wrote a book entitled The National Way Forward which called for the formation of a “Catholic Republic.”

The National Party’s website states:

Throughout Europe and the world there is growing, energised resistance to the politics of globalisation. Concerns about mass-immigration, loss of identity, lack of job security, the hollowing out of the middle class, the decay of social values. A growing constituency of ordinary people are unrepresented by the political establishment.

The minister dismissed the rise of the National Party as a microscopic blip with little significance. From the look in his eyes, I felt that he regarded them as insane asylum lunatics and that he was a little annoyed that I brought the topic up.

The National Party, of course, is against the 4,000 Syrian immigrants the country has promised to take in and settle. The NP believes that too much immigration would lead to the destruction of Irish culture. The minister reminded me somewhat sternly that Ireland is committed to integrating the refugees with everybody respecting one another’s culture and beliefs.

“And if the refugees refuse to assimilate?” I offered, as is now common in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. The minister responded that so far the integration process has been smooth with everybody getting along.

Then he told me a story about his visit to Philadelphia’s Irish Memorial and how moved he was while viewing it. “The Irish people didn’t forget where they came from, and how they had to integrate into society,” he said. Then he cited the terrible plight of the refugees and their war-torn environment, and how most of them have been through “hell on earth,” and that it is important to help them.

I did congratulate the Minister on his 2008 protest against education cutbacks (“A vicious attack on the young people of Ireland,” he said at the time). I also gave him a thumbs-up on his 2017 testimony before the UN Expert Committee on Torture, when he said that a small number of the Irish prison population is without flush toilets in their cells.

“Ireland today has the highest economic growth in Europe,” he told me. That’s all well and good, of course, but what happens, as Fr. Schall might posit, when those 4,000 Syrian immigrants become 15,000 or 30,000 refugees?

“The West,” Schall writes, “insists on seeing Islam through the lenses of its own modern, liberal theories about religion, freedom, and human motivation. Islam is just another religion; we are told that it acts like other religions, even when it does not.”