Dervala to Ireland: Grow Up

Dervala to Ireland: Grow up
Ten years ago, the X Case made news in Ireland and around the world. A 14-year-old girl was made pregnant by a neighbor who had been abusing her for two years. Her horrified parents planned to take her to Britain for an abortion, and asked the local Gardai if they should keep sample tissue for DNA evidence. Instead, the Attorney General, Harry Whelehan, decided that under Ireland’s constitution he had a duty to prevent her from traveling for an abortion. The High Court supported him, but the Supreme Court overturned the case and ruled that pregnant women had the right to travel for an abortion in cases where the life of the mother was threatened, including by suicide.

The rapist was a trusted family friend, and the father of the girl’s best friend. Ireland is a country of ironies: she was left in his care when her parents went on a religious pilgrimage to Lourdes. He was a prominent businessman, but in order to protect the victim’s identity his name was not revealed at the time the case emerged. We did learn that he blustered and tried to pin the rape and pregnancy on a teenage boy in the neighborhood. The victim was brainwashed as surely as Lolita, fretting in her diary that if she ever got pregnant she would have to say it was A. (the neighbor boy) because otherwise the real father would go to jail since she was underage.

In 1994, he was sentenced to 14 years in jail. He was released after three years. Transcripts the appeal show clearly what an Old Boys club Ireland still is. The judge dwelled on how much this man had suffered by losing his business (subtext: he is One of Us). He acknowledged that the man had tried to pin his crime on an innocent teenager, but said it was irrelevant to the case. The defending barrister pointed out that, bad as his crimes were, it wasn’t rape, exactly, though she was twelve years old when it started. The judge seemed satisfied on this point, and stated that he was unlikely to offend again. We don’t know what evidence he had to support this opinion, but can guess it was because he was One of Us, and they are tempting little hussies, they are.

After his release he was granted a taxi licence. Within a year, he picked up a fare, a fifteen year old girl.
“You’re a lovely looking girl,” he told, and then he drove her to an alley where there were no security cameras and raped her repeatedly.
Irish girls and women are coolheaded—we have to be. She memorized his badge number, and they tracked him down.
On Thursday, this man was sentenced again. To just three more years.

On the same day, Ireland voted on a referendum that proposed to roll back the Supreme Court decision made following the X Case ten years before. The government sought to get rid of the provision that allowed suicidal women to travel for an abortion—a weird law that had local Health Boards paying the fare for young women to get Manchester abortions. The referendum also proposed a sentence of up to 12 years for anyone who procured an abortion, or helped procure one. It was not lost on the public that the X Case man got six years for his two rapes, but his victims could have got 24 years between them. The referendum was defeated, but by just ten thousand votes. Oddly, some of the most rabid pro-lifers campaigned for a No vote, believing that the proposed amendment did not go far enough to protect the unborn. I like to think it was their votes that tipped the balance.

Meanwhile, another rape victim, beaten black and blue by a man she met at a party, had to listen in court while the crime was described as ‘a social rape.’ Like croquet.

I hear the ugly, booming tones of these men who run the country in the judgments and the legislation I read. Their world is changing, and they are almost wily enough to stay ahead of the game. Schedule a referendum midweek, so the huge student population won’t be at home to vote. Distract the country with philosophical debates on the rights of the Unborn, so that the reality of how we treat the Born can be glossed over. Allow another country to clean up our messes, like a butcher in Buddhist Tibet.

But the world is changing, like it or not. One in nine Irish pregnancies ends in an abortion in Britain, according to estimates published in the Irish Times. Mr. Judge, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Taoiseach: that means your daughters, your sisters, your girlfriends, your wives, your fourteen-year-old next-door neighbors are traveling for the abortions they can’t get at home. They’re just not telling you.