The presidential race scheduled to take place in Ireland next week is almost as much of a circus as our own in the US. But one candidate, Dana Scallon, stands out for her anti-choice views, her odd career as a pop singer and sponsor of "pro-life art", and her connection to a man accused of child sexual abuse.
Now, the Irish president isn't like the American one. It's mostly a ceremonial title — they have a limited amount of power and serve a role similar to a diplomat. The real power lies in the office of the Taoiseach (tee-shuck) which is the Irish Prime Minister. However, the president is still an important figurehead that meets with foreign heads of state and does retain a certain amount of power.
This years crop of presidential hopefuls is particularly bizarre. There's Martin McGuinness, a former member of the IRA that was convicted in 1973 of terrorism, and though he claims he never killed anyone, he was a senior member of the organization and many have noted that it would be hard to imagine him receiving heads of state like Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles with that past in mind (also since McGuinness is a citizen of Northern Ireland which is in the UK, he can't even vote in the election). There's also Sean Gallagher, who is currently on a reality program called Dragon's Den wherein inventors peddle their ideas to a panel of entrepreneurs, and was on a program called Charity Lord of The Rings in 2009, wherein contestants literally box it out for their favorite charity. And David Norris, who unfortunately wrote a letter back in 1992 when he was a Senator seeking clemency for his former lover, an Israeli man accused of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy.
Then there's Dana Rosemary Scallon. Dana (Dan-nah) won the Eurovision Song Context for Ireland in 1970 (her picture above was taken that year) with the song "All Kinds of Everything." Have you guys ever seen the Eurovision Song Contest? It's crazy, over the top, ridiculous and fabulous. This year Ireland sent a twin duo called Jedward — they are terrible singers but goddamn if this song doesn't get stuck in my head.
Anyway, back to Dana. She then went on to make Christian music throughout the 1970s and when her tribute to Pope John Paul II "Totus Tuus" hit number one in the Irish charts in 1980 she decided that the American Christian market was much bigger and focused on getting her music out there. In 1991 she moved her family to Alabama and continued to make popular Christian music and host a television and radio show. She also technically became an American citizen — and not to be all birther on this or anything, but part of that oath includes cutting any allegiances to other countries. I think running for president of another country might complicate that.
She moved back to Ireland in 1997 and started to get into politics, acting as a member of the European Parliament representing Western Ireland. She has spoken out against the morning after pill and IUDs, arguing that life begins not at conception but at implantation. She launched a national children's competition for "Pro-Life art". She's anti-abortion, and pro "family values", a term I still can't really wrap my head around despite its ubiquity in political campaigns. She doubts she would have to sign a bill banning the legalization of abortion if she took office because she's pretty sure that it won't come to pass. It is worth noting that her brother and advisor, John Brown, has been accused by their sister and brother-in-law of sexually abusing their young daughter lasting over a decade, an allegation which both Brown and Scallon have denied.
Dana isn't doing well in the polls, and it's unlikely that she'll win the election. Still, in a country like Ireland where it is even in life-saving instances abortion is illegal, a stance like hers is troubling and dangerous
That's right, abortion is still unavailable for women in Ireland, often even in extreme cases. In a famous case known as "The X Case," a 13-year-old girl was raped and impregnated by her neighbor; her family planned to take her to the UK for an abortion but were stopped by the Attorney General. The girl later miscarried. The Irish Medical Board states that "the deliberate and intentional destruction of the unborn child is medical misconduct." So if a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy, she has to go to England or elsewhere, which can cost a lot of money (for the travel and procedure itself). Not to mention the mental toll of traveling miles from your home to a strange city for an oftentimes emotionally difficult procedure. And remember, we're talking about a country where up until 1996 women — some of whom were not even "illegitimately" pregnant but just thought to be too flirty and therefore likely to have pre-marital sex — were sent to Magdalene Laundries, slave-like institutions where the women would be denied contact with their families (most of whom didn't want anything to do with them anyway) and the outside world, sometimes until driven to mental breakdown or death, and many of whom suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the nuns and priests who ran them.
Recently, Ireland has come under attack for its anti-abortion stance from both the European Union and the UN. However, they have rejected the suggestions made by both bodies. The abortion issue often doesn't seem to be an "issue" at all over here — I've seen anti-abortion advocates passing out pictures of aborted fetuses on the streets, but the only remotely pro-choice retaliation I see is in the form of posters on the back of bathroom stalls urging women to make sure they get honest counseling if they find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy. That's not to say that there aren't people fighting for it — the organization Choice Ireland went undercover to expose the false information being disseminated by so-called women's centers in Ireland (including the false links between abortion and breast cancer, cervical cancer, and abuse of future children) and who works today to bring the right to choose to Irish women. But it is largely an issue that goes undiscussed. Hopefully with the continued pressure of the UN and EU, change will come soon. But progress is unlikely if someone like Scallon takes office.