Wednesday 20 September 2017

FG asked pro-life group to spread election message

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FINE GAEL actively courted the pro-life vote before the last general election, saying it would be "most appreciative" of the help of campaign groups to spread its message.

The party actively volunteered to issue a statement saying: "Fine Gael's opposition to the legalisation of abortion stands."

The statement refers to a commitment to "safeguard" the lives of mothers and to "preserve the life of the baby".

But the party also asked the Pro-Life Movement, the country's largest anti-abortion lobby group, to circulate the statement.

"We would be most appreciative of your support in spreading this message to your supporters at your earliest convenience. We will send it to all of our candidates and email directly to those people who have taken the time to contact us directly," an email from a senior adviser to Enda Kenny said just days before the election.

Individuals with concerns on the issue got a letter from FG director of elections Phil Hogan.

In some cases, this letter from "Fine Gael General Election Headquarters 2011" was sent out to TDs who had the issue raised on doorsteps.

The statement clarifying the party's position was issued the weekend before the 2011 poll.

FG actually approached the Pro-Life Movement at the time, asking what would be necessary to reassure people with concerns about abortion being made legal.

The senior adviser to Mr Kenny turned up at a press conference, held by the Pro-Life Movement, asking what could be done to alleviate fears as it was becoming an issue on the campaign trail.

Over the following days, the party worked on a statement to be issued that would reaffirm its pro-life position.

The final wording set out the party position.

"FG's opposition to the legalisation of abortion stands.

"Fine Gael will establish an all-party Oireachtas Committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications to the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights and to make recommendations.

"Such a process would, we believe, be the best way of examining the issues in a way that respects the range of sincerely-held views on this matter.

"FG's representatives will bring to the proposed all-party committee a clear commitment that women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld."

When the party went into Government with the Labour Party, which had a commitment to legislate for the X Case, the commitment became to set up an expert group to assess the European Court of Human Rights judgment.

Irish Independent

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