Ireland's tiny president, Michael D. Higgins, has called together a Council of State to deliberate on a recent vote to legalize abortion in limited circumstances.
Higgins, a Labour party politician and liberal, is in favour of liberazing the law, but has called the gathering to discuss the constitutionality of the law which will see women whose lives are threatened by pregnancy, including by risk of suicide, to at least theoretically obtain an abortion.
In a statement issued by Áras an Uachtaráin (
Klingon Irish for the House of the President), Higgins said he was invoking the powers available to him under Article 26 of the Constitution to convene the Council of State.
Calling together his gang of worthies—a bit like Captain Planet's Planeteers—is one of the Irish president's only powers. As president, Higgins's other main function is to stand around the place, smiling. Hence there was consternation when he addressed the EU parliament earlier this year, complaining about austerity politics. (The Irish presidency is supposed to be a non-political entity, you see. Why anyone cared is another question altogether. As pointless and non-political institutions go, the Irish presidency has nothing on the EU parliament. More to the point, the fact that Higgins thinks the EU could be anything but the villains of the piece indicates the limitations of his political outlook.)
The fallout from the abortion vote hasn't been as significant in terms of heads as it might have been, but there is still a significant anti-abortion movement in the country and an urban-rural divide opening-up on the issue, so the next election will be interesting.
Higgins's move is a curious one. While entitled to convene his topper buddies together, no-one actually expects them to refer the bill to the Supreme Court.
Higgins and his Eloi will gather Monday.