Fears there will be attempts to 'frighten' undecided voters ahead of abortion referendum - Simon Coveney
TANAISTE Simon Coveney admitted he was concerned that attempts would now be made to "frighten" undecided voters in the Eighth Referendum debate before the May 25 poll.
Mr Coveney acknowledged that undecided voters now hold the key to whether the controversial 1983 amendment to the Constitution is successfully repealed as sought by the Government and major political parties.
His warning came as it emerged undecided voters remain at stubbornly high levels of as much as 30pc in some opinion polls.
With a slippage in support for a 'Yes' vote and slight increases in 'No' support, Mr Coveney admitted that undecided voters clearly hold the key over the next 28 days.
His warning came as Fine Gael launched a major 'Yes' campaign in Cork attended by Mr Coveney, Minister Jim Daly, Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune and Sen Jerry Buttimer.
Mr Daly said be believed it was only a matter of time before Ireland faced a tragedy involving someone using abortion pills purchased secretly over the internet.
He said Ireland had once been shocked by the death of 15 year old Ann Lovett, who died after giving birth alone in a Longford grotto.
"It is very likely that another girl called Ann will die alone - this time alone in her bed having taken an abortion pill (bought unsupervised over the Internet)," the west Cork TD said.
Leading medical experts also attended the launch.
Mr Coveney urged 'Yes' campaigners to use information, facts and the stories of the women and families who have fallen victim to the cruelty of the Eighth Referendum to win over doubters.
"I think there will be attempts to frighten people in this campaign," the Tanaiste said.
"(People will be told) If you don't know, vote 'No'. We need to counter that. Is the status quo OK? Of course it is not."
Mr Coveney said that the Eighth Amendment voted through by Ireland in 1983 is now acting as "a strait-jacket" on attempts by various Governments to compassionately and sensitively deal with "the biggest social issue of our generation."
"Are we simply pretending that abortion doesn't take place in Ireland. Because of the Constitution? Or are we willing to recognise that yes, it is happening."
"Whether we agree or disagree with the decisions that people make, are we seriously suggesting that we should send people abroad or allow them, in the privacy of their own homes, on advice that they get online, to end a pregnancy?"
Mr Coveney said it was unacceptable for a State to effectively export its problems to other counties.
It is believed 3,265 Irish women travel overseas each year for abortions.
Many involve fatal foetal abnormalities.
"This proposal, in my view, if we can legislate, and if people vote 'Yes', this proposed law will offer women a lot more support and care at home," Mr Coveney said.
"I strongly believe that the status quo was letting women down to a point where it was endangering them.
"I also knew that thousands of women were having abortions in secret and abroad, often on their own, away from home.
"Or, hidden in their own homes - purchasing drugs online and with no medical support or advice except from a Google search.
"As Tanaiste, I know I have a responsibility to change this ugly reality.
"Also to face up to some truths - that, as a country, we haven't been able to face up to for whatever reason.
"This Government had committed to a comprehensive process of consideration as to how best to do that, there have been no quick decisions here.
"This is about trying to bring about, over time, a national discussion that can lead people to more informed choices.
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"A Citizens Assembly reported and they did a good job.
"But they pushed the boundaries. Not everything they said I was comfortable with - and others weren't either.
"But they successfully got a national conversation going.
"An Oireachtas committee examined the recommendations and produced their own report and they did a very fine job on a very divisive and difficult issue."
Ms Coveney continued to call for "respectful" debate from campaigners on both sides of the bate.
He said: "Now, we have a basis for an informed choice in a referendum. By and large, we are having respectful conversations."
"Of course there will be exceptions on the edges."
"We cannot get away from that on an issue like this."
The Tanaiste said he believed a 'Yes' vote would have to go hand-in-hand with increased efforts to help reduce unwanted pregnancies.
"We also have a responsibility - to make sure that we do everything possible to reduce the demand for abortion and termination of pregnanc."
"We are proposing free contraception, better sex education and more supports to prevent crisis pregnancies in the first place."