Insights from the UK and beyond
By Padraic Halpin
The Irish financial meltdown has turned Ireland’s politics on its head, prompting nuns to consider Marxism, plumbers to track debt markets and the Irish people to abandon the party that has ruled them for most of the last 80 years.
Ravaged by austerity and embittered by years of feckless government, voters who descended upon polling stations on Friday are unrecognisable from those who seemingly sleepwalked to the polls four years ago to re-elect a Fianna Fail party despite decades of corruption allegations.
In post-crisis Ireland, the common man is more engaged by the high interest rate imposed by Europe on the country’s EU/IMF bailout than the weekend’s football action.
“There is no way we can afford to pay back all the debt,” says Alan Pinder, a 49-year-old plumber, father of two and advocate of sovereign debt default. “We have to realise that we are broke, that we can’t afford it. It’s Europe’s problem as well.”
(Photo: European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, January 30, 2009/Vincent Kessler)
The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Ireland on Thursday for stopping a Lithuanian cancer sufferer from terminating a pregnancy, in a blow to the predominantly Catholic country and its tough abortion laws. In a final ruling, the rights court found Ireland had not respected the privacy and family rights of the Lithuanian woman, who was living in Ireland and feared a pregnancy could trigger a relapse of her cancer, in remission at the time.
The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ordered Ireland to pay 15,000 euros ($19,840) in damages to the woman, who was forced to travel to Britain, where the laws are more liberal, to have an abortion. Terminating a pregnancy has long been a fraught issue in Ireland, where some of the toughest abortion laws in Europe allow terminations only when the mother's life is in danger.