Speaking for myself I thought that the current debate on abortion would generate more open opposition within the main parties, particularly Fine Gael, but in fact its been quiet enough. I don't know of any FG TD that has flat out said they would vote against the legislation although some have made indistinct 'noises' to that effect. Before it was agreed to by the government some people felt that the likes of Minister Lucinda Creighton, among many others, might discover a conscience on the matter but it seems now that there is no great fear of that.
What people seem to forget is that the old core of Fine Gael was actually quite religious and overtly Catholic although respectful of the rights of the minority Protestant community. You can see that in the history of people like W.T. Cosgrave, a close personal friend of Frank Duff the founder of the Legion of Mary, or his son Liam Cosgrave, who voted against his own party on the issue of contraception, or John A Costello, and indeed his son Declan, who were also very religious like that, or indeed James Dillon who often talked about Catholic moral teaching in the Dail, etc etc. And that's only the leaders obviously then down the ranks you had people like Oliver J Flanagan, Alice Glenn or Joe Doyle, who was a TD in Garret Fitzgerald's constituency, who need no introduction on this topic.
So therefore I thought that it would be too much for the party to go from giving a solemn pro-life commitment during the election to now legislating for abortion only two years later. But I suppose it is like so many issues out there right now. The current FG TDs seem to me anyway to be very obsequious to their leaders and very rarely express any original opinion, or vote against their party, on any political issue. They even trooped into the lobbies in agreement with the FF government in nearly all their disastrous decisions, like the bank guarantee, with hardly a murmur of disapproval, so I suppose we shouldn't be so surprised.
But now with the opinion polls tanking on them it seems that reality might be beginning to dawn. The latest issue of Phoenix (22 Feb 2013, p.11) relates that:
In any case one answer to this mystery, about why FG TDs are cutting their own electoral throats this way, may lie in the demographics within the parliamentary party. It seems to me that the only people who seem to drive policy are the older set, like Kenny, Noonan and Shatter, who have been around the block quite a bit now in Irish politics, while the younger ones, as I said, seem content to parrot what they are told to say. Those older politicians also know perfectly well what they are doing and that their stance here might even fatally wound FG going forward but in my opinion they simply don't care."The Dismay of...Fine Gael...is palpable...as the penny drops in the constituencies and elsewhere about the shift to Fianna Fail which many now blame on the abortion question.
Polls show...a particular and driven segment of the electorate who feel so strongly anti-abortionist that they will change their voting allegiance over the issue.
The rhetoric deployed by the 'Unite for Life' vigil at a very large demonstration of middle Ireland folk last January has rarely been used against a government party by the broad pro-life movement...The demonstrators were a highly motivated crowd and they are the sort of people that vote - and get others to do the same."
The truth is that they might do what the FF grandees did just before the last election, just resign and live on their well padded pensions. Its the younger TDs who will fight the election and I suspect lose out heavily with a core vote that has been permanently lost.