Thursday 22 February 2018

1980s abortion referendum was one of my biggest mistakes, Garret FitzGerald admitted

Garret FitzGerald, who died in May, was hailed as a towering intellect
Garret FitzGerald, who died in May, was hailed as a towering intellect

Fionnan Sheahan and Lise Hand

AGREEING to hold a contentious referendum on abortion in the 1980s was one of former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald's greatest regrets, a minister says.

Dr FitzGerald's Fine Gael - Labour Party coalition put forward the 1983 referendum, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

Following a highly divisive referendum, Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution was amended to read: "The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

Junior minister Brian Hayes said the former Taoiseach acknowledged shortly before his death that the referendum was a mistake.

"Six weeks before Garret FitzGeralds's passing I had the opportunity to meet him for a very lengthy lunch and conversation. At the end of our discussion I asked Dr FitzGerald what were the issues he made mistakes on during his time in politics.

"He spoke honestly and eloquently about his deep regret in agreeing for demands for a constitutional referendum on this issue in the early 1980s.

"The issue became, as he described, entangled in party politics and in the fevered political atmosphere of the time where effectively we saw three general elections in 18 months."

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