7:33 a.m. July 26, 2013

Abort, Abort!

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.

Back channel chatter

  1. Maybe it's just my familiarity with the American political system talking here, but I've always found the institution of President in some European countries (and Israel) odd. I can understand (if not exactly like) a lingering figurehead like a monarch if a society can't decide whether to chuck them out entirely or not. But creating a figurehead in a parliamentary system rather than enduring it as a holdover from an archaic one seems odd. Is it just an award for old politicians before they're put out to pasture?

  2. I can't really get into the history of it right now, but the idea is essentially to have an elected person analogous to constitutional monarch. MDH is pushing the boundaries, as did his two predecessors Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, taking on a semi-activist role. This irritates me because everyone cheered them on. Had they been conservatives there would have been a festival of screaming. The precedent is bad.

    Have a non-political office or have a political office. Don't have both. My preference is for the latter, but not using the former and then playing political peek-a-book when it suits.

    Semi-relatedtly our senate, Seanad in Klingon, is facing abolition at the moment (good riddance!). It is populated by failed and future politicians, "elected" by the county councils and graduates of the two posh universities (and none of the rest and certainly no non-graduates), plus appointees by the prime minister (taoiseach). Total joke and if it had any power it'd be a menace. It's full ow worthies, wastrels and the washed-up.