In a remarkable and wide-ranging interview, to be published in full in Hot Press tomorrow, among a range of intelligent and potentially controversial views, the Junior Minister for Finance has come out against the idea of criminalising the purchase of sex.
Eoghan Murphy, Junior Minister for Finance in the current Fine Gael minority government, has come out against the so called Swedish model on prostitution.
A bill had been tabled by the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, which will criminalise those who pay for sex. However there were no consultations, in the preparation of the bill, with sex workers. The near universal view among those who provide sexual services is that the proposed legislation is a thoroughly retrograde step – a view which was also expressed recently in a controversial interview in Hot Press by the independent TD and Minister for Skills, John Halligan.
This view has now been repeated, in a wide-ranging and fascinating in depth interview with Fine Gael minister Eoghan Murphy, which will be published in Hot Press tomorrow.
“I think Eoghan Murphy comes across really well in the interview,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes says. “While he is often highly political, there is an honesty in what he says, and and he is nuanced in how he says it. He is genuinely concerned about understanding things – and in coming to the right decisions. I think it is fair to say that the interview is full of the right kind of surprises.”
During the interview, there is a detailed discussion of prostitution, which mixes personal observations with objective analysis.
"What’s your take on the so-called Swedish model of arresting men for paying for sex?” the Minister is asked by Hot Press interviewer, Jason O’Toole, who adds. "There was an interesting article in Time magazine showing that this system doesn’t work."
"I know it doesn’t work,” Eoghan Murphy says. "I’ve looked into it. We don’t have the resources to police prostitution. We don’t have the resources to police the women in prostitution. We definitely don’t have the resources to police the people who are purchasing, because it’s obviously a much larger number. I don’t see it as a solution."
A very considered exchange follows, during which the Minister discusses issues concerning trafficking, and well as personal rights, and what might be the right response on the part of Government.
“If a woman is not being trafficked or abused, what is the problem with her being paid for sex?” he is asked.
"You’ve got a liberal instinct to say it’s a woman’s body or a man’s body and they have a right to do what they want,” he acknowledges. "But then you come to the actual reality and that challenges your principles, you know? What I try to do when I think about these questions is to come from a point of view of the individual. The responsibility of the government is to protect that autonomy and responsibility – and those person’s rights’ as they want to live them.”
And he is asked: "So, you basically agree there’s no harm in it amongst consenting adults?"
"There is potentially no harm in it,” the Minister states. "I think there is a need for it in society. But how we get there I don’t know.”
Eoghan also is clear that we need to Repeal the 8th Amendment. Asked is he pro-choice, he responds: “Yes."
These exchanges are part of an interview that should get other members of the Government thinking again on a variety of fronts. What the Minister has to say in a discussion on God, religion and what happens after death, is also likely to spark wider debate.
"I don’t believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God,” the Minister says at one point. "But I do believe that we are more than just biological machines. I think there’s something else going on somewhere. I don’t know what it is. I do (want to) believe that we go to a better place. I would like to – but I can’t."
He also comes out in favour of legislation to deal with end-of-life issues. Acknowledging that it is ‘a tough one’ he expresses an important aspect of his thinking in relation to all of these matters, as follows:
"People should have autonomy and responsibility over their own bodies,” he says. "The role of government in society is to protect that freedom."
In the interview, Eoghan Murphy also discusses his botched appendix operation in Thailand; his strange entry into politics; his relationship with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny; the fun he had during his college years; drugs in Ireland, including whether or not he inhaled; religion, atheism and agnosticism; the so called ‘five-a-side’ controversy in Fine Gael; the spinning of what was said at Parliamentary Party meetings to the media – and lots more besides.