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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Senior Judge Catherine McGuinness defends Supreme Court role in X case

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 09/01/2013 | 15:20

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Catherine McGuinness

RETIRED Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness has defended the Supreme Court's role in the divisive X case and said the decision can only be changed by way of referendum.

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The former head of the Law Reform Commission said that the Supreme Court decision in the 1992 X case remains an authoritative interpretation of the 1983 pro-life amendment.

"This interpretation stands," Judge McGuinness told the public hearings on abortion today.

Judge McGuinness, who said that the electorate had twice rejected moves to remove the risk of suicide, said that legislation is needed for more detail on the X case.

The judge, who has been ill for several weeks and recently suffered an accident, said that she was not representing the judiciary in any way.

"My views are not relevant at all, I am here as a lawyer," she said.

Judge McGuinness said that the Supreme Court, in the X case, made a genuine effort to resolve the huge human dilemma put before it: "They (the Supreme Court) made excellent arguments in regard to the way the Constitution should be interpreted," said Judge McGuinness.

"To say we have no abortion in Ireland, is simply not true, we have it elsewhere," Judge McGuinness told the committee.

"I can see suicide creates difficulties for you," Judge McGuinness told the committee.

"If you want to change X, you are going to have a referendum".

Earlier, a leading pro-life lawyer told the committee that the Attorney General should be consulted on whether the X case needs to be followed as the result of the A,B,C case before the European Court of Human Rights.

Barrister and former law lecturer William Binchy has told the public hearings on abortion that "entirely healthy" babies will be terminated if the Government legislates along the lines of the Supreme Court ruling in the 1992 X case.

Mr Binchy said that the treatment of pregnant women in Irish hospitals is "wonderful", adding that doctors needed legal protection for existing medical practice.

The difficulty, said Mr Binchy, was that the Supreme Court in the X case, interpreted the right to life amendment as involving a different legal and medical scenario than existing.

Physically entirely healthy mothers would be able to terminate physically healthy babies if the X case is legislated for, Mr Binchy told the all party committee.

Mr Binchy implored the Joint Committee on Health and Children to seek legal advice on the terms of reference which the Government have.

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