Friday, June 02, 2006

Political fall out of new bill

Also on Irish Election.

On the scale of anger in this country about anything the present government has done this issue has been by far the biggest issue. Decentralisation, E-Voting PPARS has never lead to the same amount of anger among the electorate. No issue has been commented on by as many people on this website. So the question is not will the statutory rape crisis be an issue at the polls but what effect it will have.

The recent supreme court decision to over turn the decision by the high court to release Mr A has been a vital lifeline to the government. It was this case that brought the people on to the street. The original case involving a 18 year old guy thinking a 15 year old girl was 16 which is one thing, the idea that a 41 year old who plied a 12 year old girl with alcohol getting released is an altogether different thing. Now that it seems that the law did cover the majority of cases and that the only hole in the law is in the less diabolical cases. However the government is not out of the woods yet it will all depend on the rest of the cases and if another predator gets released this will spring up again. However for now the major issue seems solved.

But what of the charge that the government A.) Should have done something prior to this. and B.) that they should have had backup legislation.

From my reading of the situation and some of the legal eagles can correct me. Even if Michael McDowell had changed the law in 2002. Every one convicted prior to 2002 would still been covered by the supreme court decision. Also the change needed to correct for the supreme court decision would have been deeply unpopular. No party would dare bring in a law that loosen the rape laws. As Niall said on my own blog. “The fact is that McD couldn’t touch that law without being attacked by the Liveliners”. Hence why it took until the supreme court decision that this law was changed. All parties other then the Greens and Sinn Fein have been in power. This hole was pointed out for years but none did anything. Neither did the Greens or Sinn Fein bring this up in the course of the Dail. Listening to Liveline today while much of the anger was against the government much of it was also directed at the 166 politicians in the Dail, many were calling for the government to resign but many were also saying that no party was blameless. It might look that this will damage the government but it might actually result in a greater anti-establishment vote benefiting the Independents. But if this newly created independent vote appears it will damage the government more then the coalition. This would have major consequences with the next election looking close the next government may depend on Independents. The next few polls are going to result in a major dip for Fianna Fail and the PD’s. How much the other parties gain may be interesting.

The other scope for anger is the fact that the government should have had this law ready just encase they lost the case. Now this is strange. The line from the Department is that they did not know about the case. Even if they had brought in the law straight away what has transpired this week would still have transpired. In the end the law took 10 days to be brought in. Which is fairly fast but was it fast enough. They could of have had the law in a filing cabinet to bring out, but they could not be sure what the Supreme Court would say. What particular parts of the 1935 act they would require to redo and in what way. It would have been very difficult to prepare new legislation without knowing precisely what was wrong. However they could have had a general set of idea’s that they wanted to bring in. But that would still have taken a few days to put together and really changed little of the situation other then save the government a bit of bad P.R. for the children I am not sure much changed.

The biggest problem with all this may in the end turn out to be the fact that this legislation was rushed through the Dail. It seemed originally the minister wanted to take the time to write the legislation. However due to the speed that was demanded, the law brought in is possibly not as good as it should have been. Brendan Howlin, said: “Rushed law is normally flawed law, if not outright bad law.” he may be proved right. Ciaran Cuffe asked that a ‘Sunset Clause’ be attached to this Bill, which means that it must be reviewed in less than two years time this would have been an excellent idea. Some difficulties with the legislation have already been brought up by the opposition parties. . One area in which with may fail is in the area of gender inequality also video evidence has not been added as an option for children giving evidence. Unless this law is only used as a quick measure and an immediate process of revaluating it is brought in with wide consultation with various groups we may find future decision going wrong. McDowell seems not to like the legislation saying “What we are doing today has been forced upon us reluctantly by the Supreme Court against our better judgment. It is with that very serious warning that I commend this Bill to the House.” So maybe a new law may be drafted.

But what of the Fianna Fail PD coalition. A lot of FF backbenchers are not happy thinking that McDowell is losing them the election will they be willing to go into government with them again if the opportunity arises. Will the Greens or Labour look more enticing. Are they wishing to go back to Fianna Fail more natural leftish position. Will some of them campaign on the issue of not going back in with the PD’s?

In fact along with the general election I would not be surprised if there was a referendum to place the rights of the child in the constitution. Not only would this heal some of the backlash against the government, it would also keep PD hopeful Colm O’Gorman in the PD fold and be a generally good thing. With that in place McDowell could bring in the new law and not need to admit mistakes. A win win situation for the PD’s and children but maybe not for Fine Gael/Labour.

However if any party is deemed to be playing politics with this they will be burned.

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