Much has been written and said about the extraordinary contribution made to Ireland’s history and life by Dr. Garret FitzGerald, R.I.P., who died last week, and whose State Funeral took place on Sunday. His legacy, particularly in respect of improving relations between Ireland and Britain, and in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland (the Six Counties), will undoubtedly be remembered for many generations into the future.
There are, however, some aspects of Dr. FitzGerald’s work that will not be looked on too kindly by many people in Ireland – and that is what was called his ‘Constitutional Crusade’ to transform Ireland into a ‘pluralist and liberal’ society.
Numerous press tributes to him following his death made reference to this aspect of his legacy. For instance, the Irish Examiner for 20 May 2011 had this to say of him:
‘He had a profound influence on social change in the Republic. Besides lobbying for the separation of church and state, he spearheaded constitutional campaigns for the introduction of divorce and abortion.’
And another media outlet:
‘A supporter of the liberal wing of the party [Fine Gael], known as The Just Society, he campaigned strongly in favour of Ireland joining the EEC in the 1972 referendum. … A difficult economic situation led to tough and unpopular medicine, while in 1983 the electorate voted against Dr. FitzGerald’s advice to amend the Constitution to protect the life of the unborn, and three years later rejected the introduction of divorce.’
[To clarify this rather strange sentence – Dr. FitzGerald favoured the introduction of divorce, and he did not favour incorporating an amendment to protect the life of the unborn in the Constitution.]
There is a wonderful little book entitled The Facilitators (published by Brandsma Books Limited, many years ago). It tells you all you ever wanted to know about the ‘facilitators’ who are so successfully active in so many areas of life in Ireland today. It also gives an in-depth account of what happened in the lead-up to the 1983 referendum mentioned above. I quote from the book:
‘Two days before the referendum, Dr. FitzGerald made a long-promised address to the nation about his position on the Amendment. He repeated the main arguments of the Anti-Amendment (pro-abortion) Campaign, referring to the possibility that the measure might actually usher in abortion, the difficulties it would cause for some methods of contraception; and to the women who would possibly die as a result of it. As his trump card, he said it was his Christian duty to urge the people to vote against it'
This of course proved to be completely false in that it was precisely the passing of this amendment that has protected Ireland from the introduction of abortion. It should also be pointed out that despite Dr. Fitzgerald's dire warnings Ireland has the lowest level of maternal mortality in the world.