Conscience pointless if it is not acted upon

Posted By: June 29, 2018

Martin O’Brien. Irish News. Belfast. Friday, June 29, 2018

We live in startling and disturbing times.

Who would have thought that we’d reach the sorry pass where the DUP is the only political party in Northern Ireland that unapologetically proclaims itself to be pro-life?

Sinn Féin, displaying a penchant for totalitarianism that must trouble many of its (soon to be former?) voters, is denying their public representatives the right to exercise their God-given conscience to oppose abortion when they vote on the issue in the Dáil or in Stormont.

They rejected a motion which stated that “Sinn Féin members be allowed to articulate and vote on the issue of abortion in accordance with their conscience.”

So, TDs and MLAs must toe the politburo line or face possible expulsion.

Following the recent ard fheis in Belfast, all policy on abortion will be decided not by the party grassroots but by that ruling party elite.

Last week Carol Nolan, a TD for Offaly, had enough. She resigned from the party, having been suspended for three months for having the temerity to vote against the holding of the referendum.

Nolan said: “I feel that it is unethical to force TDs who are strongly opposed to abortion to vote against their conscience.”

Can anyone, hand on heart, disagree with her?

One cannot help thinking that there must be many Sinn Féin voters or prospective voters in Antrim, Down, Armagh, Derry, Tyrone, and Fermanagh who are troubled, to put it mildly, by this.

And some Sinn Féin MLAs and TDs in quiet moments, alone only with themselves and perhaps their Maker, must feel a bit unsettled, maybe increasingly unsettled, even if for reasons of careerism and political self-preservation they feel they must remain cowards and keep schtum.

Another Sinn Féin TD, Peadar Tóibín, who represents Meath West, who has also bravely stood out from the pack to oppose abortion, and who was suspended for six months for voting against the party line in the past, may be the next TD to be forced out, for no other reason than refusing to vote in favor of something his inner being tells him is wrong.

The clear message from the ard fheis is that there is a high political price to be paid by any Sinn Féin politician who has the guts to maintain a staunch pro-life stance, who doesn’t see the wilful and direct killing of innocent babies in the womb as “compassionate healthcare” to use leader Mary Lou McDonald’s current pet phrase.

McDonald’s deputy Michelle O’Neill was quoted as telling the ard fheis that “no one is saying that members can’t have a conscience.”

But what exactly is the point of having a conscience if you are commanded to act like an automaton and are not free to act according to your conscience, that inner voice that tells you the difference between what is right and what is wrong?

We now have a fair idea of Sinn Féin’s policy is.

McDonald has been explicit that she wants the same abortion regime north and south.

And it is obvious that includes abortion on demand for up to 12 weeks and in certain instances, right up to birth, (though you won’t see many commentators in The Irish News or elsewhere point this out) in line with the Joint Oireachtas Report which stated “it shall be lawful to terminate a pregnancy without gestational limit (my emphasis) where the unborn child has a foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth”.

The SDLP, which proudly proclaimed itself to be “a pro-life party” for decades since the Eighties and opposed abortion in the assembly as recently as February 11, 2016, has gotten itself into such a muddle over abortion that it is no wonder that its former leader, Alasdair McDonnell, admits to being confused.

He is hardly the only one.

At a special conference in Maghera last month, organised in haste ahead of the Republic’s referendum, they failed to pick a motion for debate that would self-describe the party as “pro-life”, voted to give its elected representatives a free vote on all abortion-related issues, and then issued a statement (of no real significance as it had not been endorsed as policy by conference, in a motion) reaffirming a “pro-life” position.

Could they have declined to officially self-describe as being “pro-life” at Maghera because some in the party thought it sounded too Catholic or a tad confessional?

If so, they should know that there are people of all religions and none proud to be “pro-life.”