Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Garret FitzGerald – “a Politician Often Judged on his Intentions Rather than his Actions”

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The former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Garret FitzGerald has died aged 85 years of age – a very sad event for people who were close to him.    Many credible testimonies are recorded showing he was a kind and courteous man in his personal relations.  His public political career stretched from 1965, when he was elected to the Seanad (Senate) on the Fine Gael ticket up to a couple of weeks ago – he wrote a regular Saturday column in the Irish Times which was often interesting.

Many media professionals liked FitzGerald (no harm in that), but very few were willing to face him down on key issues of public policy (dangerously harmful).

Most of today’s broadcasters fall into that trap, with one small telling exception : Vincent Browne, presenter of TV3’s late night week day current affairs programme :

Tonight With Vincent Browne – TV3

Browne regularly collaborated with FitzGerald on political and literary projects, the journalist giving the politician scope to use his legendary mastery of statistics for electoral analysis.  Browne reported on this morning’s Today with Pat Kenny Radio programme that the two were friends for a long time, but that the relationship cooled many times because FitzGerald did not “appreciate” the adversarial approach which Browne was willing to take – which implies that the politician had something to hide.

The politician cannot be blamed for creating a “voter-friendly” image – but what about the majority of professional journalists, who allow their personal friendship for the politician to prevent exploration of key public policy issues?

Part of FitzGerald’s self-image is that he favoured a liberalisation of Irish Society, in the sense of removing legislation inspired by ultra-Conservative Catholic Church teaching on issues such as contraception, divorce, and abortion.

Nobody can doubt the former Fine Gael leader’s intentions – but what about his actions?

In 1982 People’s Democracy published a pamphlet on Abortion : “No More Chains – Why You Should Oppose the Constitutional Ban on Abortion”

Here is the opening paragraph

“Introduction – Backlash and Blackmail

Early in 1981 a small group of ultra-Catholic surgeons and lawyers met the leader of Fine Gael Garret Fitzgerald to discuss abortion.  FitzGerald agreed there should be an amendment to DeValera’s 1937 Constitution specifically protecting “the right to life of the unborn child”.  Soon afterwards the leader of Fianna Fáil Charles Haughey made the same promise.  A meeting was also held with Frank Cluskey, then leader of the Labour Party.  Conflicting accounts followed this meeting; initially the impression was created that Cluskey had agreed with the proposed amendment.  As opposition grew Labour began to deny that it had made any commitment.  over a year later in July 1982 a different leader Michael O’Leary belatedly joined the growing campaign to stop the amendment”

You can download and read the full pamphlet here :

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Written by tomasoflatharta

May 19, 2011 at 11:16 pm

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