Stephen Collins: It has not been a great week for politics or the media

Politicians and journalists have managed to undermine people’s confidence in their integrity

Tánaiste Simon Coveney: If he doesn’t trust his colleagues in the Dáil not to introduce an even more liberal abortion regime than they are currently committed to, why should the public trust them?
Tánaiste Simon Coveney: If he doesn’t trust his colleagues in the Dáil not to introduce an even more liberal abortion regime than they are currently committed to, why should the public trust them?

Politicians and journalists have something in common this week. Serious questions have been raised about whether either group can ever be trusted. The contortions of Tánaiste Simon Coveney over abortion has sent a clear signal to the public that he doesn’t trust elected politicians to deal with the issue in the future. Simultaneously, the treatment of attorney general Séamus Woulfe has shown that elements of the media have no compunction about breaching fundamental principles of trust.

In both cases convoluted justifications can be offered, but the bottom line is that the episodes will do nothing to improve public confidence in professions which, to put it at its mildest, are not always held in the highest esteem.

Coveney’s colleagues in Fine Gael are divided over whether his botched attempt to limit the capacity of any future Dáil to change the proposed abortion legislation stemmed from naivety or cynicism.

The issue has clearly posed a moral dilemma for Coveney ever since the Government strategy on the issue began to emerge. While he was always prepared to support the holding of a referendum, he made no secret of his reluctance to support a law allowing abortion on request up to 12 weeks.

Coveney has certainly given a weapon to those campaigning against the repeal of the Eighth Amendment

At the beginning of the week he surprised people by announcing he was prepared to support it, but followed that up less than 24 hours later by suggesting there should be a requirement for a two-thirds majority in the Dáil for any future changes in the law.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Ministers agreed, on the advice of Woulfe, that this proposal was unconstitutional, and could not be accepted.

Later in the day it was very publicly shot down in the Dáil by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who said he had been advised…

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