Ian O'Doherty The Irish Independent Monday May 14th 2007
There's no doubt that this is the best time to be living in Ireland. And, every now and then, we can be forgiven for assuming that we really have moved on from the grim, monochromatic hell-hole that was Ireland in the past.
I often find it amusing that when I talk to my younger brother and sister about the Ireland I grew up in during the 1980s, they look at me as if I'm mad. But last week, my brother Daniel and sister Katie, 21-year-old twins who grew up in a different, more confident Ireland saw a disturbing snapshot of what this country was like before they arrived on the scene.
It's not just that some official in the HSE tried to stop a young woman from travelling abroad by contacting both the Gardai and the passport office in an effort to prevent Ms D from leaving the jurisdiction.
It's not even that this poor young woman had to go through the indignity of a court case merely to ascertain that she could travel like a normal person.
It was, in fact, the cranks, weirdoes, religious zealots and morons who gathered outside the courts to hassle and barrack her. And that was what shocked my younger siblings so much.
Friends of mine who were in and around the Four Courts last week say that it was like a timewarp straight back to the 1980s. As Ms D - a young woman desperately in need of support and sympathy - entered the court, the so called "pro-life" brigade swarmed around to insult and threaten her.
One woman of my acquaintance was told by some of these charming people that Ms D was nothing more than a murderer.
The people from groups like Choice Ireland, who had arrived to show support for Ms D and her predicament, were insulted and threatened. And, not surprisingly, the usual suspects were there.
I recognised, for instance, one former Youth Defence apparatchik - a man who once threatened with me with physical violence and boasted that he knew where I lived after I interviewed him a few years ago - leading the cavalcade of hate, just like the bad old days.
In fact, it seemed that all the old faces from the dark days of the Irish abortion debates had once more crawled out of the woodwork, ready to try to force their obnoxious beliefs down our throats.
But if these lunatics and their feeble protests proved anything, it was how utterly callous and cruel the so called "pro-life" brigade can be. Although I do accept totally that people of good conscience can disagree on abortion.
When I was asked during a radio interview a few years ago about whether I would be happy to see a loved one or girlfriend of mine have an abortion I answered the only truthful way I could - I simply don't know. I am honestly conflicted.
Which means, as a man, that I should not try and force my own beliefs onto any woman. It really is that simple. Ultimately, it is not my choice.
But what shames the "pro-life" mob, no matter how worthy their arguments might be in theory, was the fact that they were protesting against a girl terminating the pregnancy of a child who will die shortly after being born.
And it's this fact alone which highlights the moral bankruptcy of these people. Can you honestly, with your hand on your heart, tell a young woman that she should carry to full-term a baby which will die when she delivers it? How sick is that?
Thankfully, the courts came to the right decision and the girl is allowed to travel and do the right thing.
But if the whole sorry saga proved one thing, it was this - the lunatics haven't gone away, and given half a chance they would drag us back to the sick, bad old days of dear, pious Ireland.
Perish the thought.