Kicking and Screaming

Ken Keable reviews Kicking and Screaming – Dragging Ireland into the 21st century by Ivana Bacik, O’Brien Press, ISBN 0-86278-860-9, £8.99 pbk

“AN OVERVIEW of recent social and legal change in Ireland, and indeed in some cases stasis or lack of change, from an unashamedly liberal, activist campaigning perspective” – this is how the author describes the aim of this book. The law, she rightly says, is resistant to change, so it must be dragged forward, kicking and screaming, to force it to reflect changes in Irish society.

Unfortunately Bacik (pronounced “bachik”) shows minimal awareness of the effect of partition in bringing about the very problems of which she writes, and still less concern to bring it to an end. It does not seem to have occurred to her to consider the possible beneficial effects that an end to partition might have on church-state relations or on the other problems that concern her here. Consequently, as in the quotations above, “Ireland” and “Irish” refer only to the 26 counties – a usage that she briefly excuses at the beginning.

Although a law professor, frequently referring to the constitution of the Republic, she likewise displays little awareness or concern at the threat of the proposed EU constitution to the actual Irish one.

That said, it is a useful and interesting book. It covers church-state issues (especially concerning education and health), changes in family structure, gender equality, reproductive rights, sexuality and sexual offences, censorship and freedom of expression, ethnicity and immigration, the environment and social policy.

Many historic battles in these areas are detailed, and proposals made. It is a useful work of reference on all the issues covered and, for those who agree with her views, it offers suggestions for a way forward. The power of the Catholic church, and the church’s many abuses of that power, come under severe criticism. At 35 Bacik is the youngest person ever to be appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law at Trinity College, Dublin, following in the footsteps of ex-president Mary Robinson and President Mary McAleese. She has also taught at the Universities of Kent and North London. She is a practising barrister, political activist and campaigner, and was a candidate for the Irish Labour Party in the EU elections of June 2004.

The book regrettably has no index, but is well-written and has a useful appendix giving the relevant parts of the Irish constitution.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2005-02-08 11:38:41.
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