Thursday 20 June 2019

Final Results

Repeal the Eighth Amendment?

Yes 66.40% 1,429,981

No 33.60% 723,632

  • Constituencies declared: 40/40

Referendum Hub

'This is not a case of getting votes for me' - councillor on why he changed his mind on how he'll vote in the abortion referendum

Dublin City Councillor Paul McAuliffe
Dublin City Councillor Paul McAuliffe
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

AN Irish politician has said that he knows he may lose voters by backing repealing the eight amendment, but he says he can't support our "draconian" abortion laws.

Fianna Fail's Paul McAuliffe has addressed why he thinks we should repeal the eight amendment, months after he said he would be voting no in the historic referendum.

The Dublin City Councillor shared a lengthy open letter outlining his position on Twitter last night and said he has spent months considering the issues at stake.

He said: "As somebody who wishes to shape the laws of this country, I and others are left with a difficult choice of wanting to legislate for those with a fatal foetal abnormality, those who have been raped and equally dealing with the rapid change in technology and the availability of termination by way of a pill which can be delivered by post.

"I have also considered the very large number of women who are currently availing of a termination in the UK which in all likelihood would far rather avail of that termination in their own country.

"Having considered the matter I can find no legal method which would humanely allow those who have been raped to access a termination nor can I find a legal sanction which would not inhumanely criminalise men and women who import a termination pill.

"If the 8th amendment to the constitution remains and people continue to import a termination medicine then in order to enforce the law, the government would have to go to extreme measures to seek out and criminalise those people engaged in importing this medicine.

"I could not in all conscience stand over such draconian enforcement measures such as sniffer dogs in post offices and criminal sanctions for young people who would import these pills. Equally if we do not believe there will or should be such sanctions then why do we believe it should be illegal."

Campaign posters outside Government Buildings in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
Campaign posters outside Government Buildings in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

He also said having a young daughter influenced his decision, as he said that while he believes in equal rights for the mother and foetus, he thinks this can be "cruel and unfeeling" in reality.

"I have a young daughter and if in a moment of crisis she was in the future and without my knowledge to order termination medicine online, it would break my heart top think that the states response would be to arrest her or worse to take this termination medicine alone and without medical supervision.

"I ultimately found my position that life was  equal in theory but when applied to the practicality of women's lives, it became cruel and unfeeling. Particularly when applied to the lives of those women I know," Cllr McAuliffe said.

He told today that he does not want to "preach" or "shove an opinion down anyone's throat" but he did think it was important to outline why he has changed his position.

Cllr McAuliffe noted: "I wrote the letter to Aoife, who organises the Dublin-North West Together For Yes group, they contacted me last year but I said I thought I wanted to retain the eight but I would take time to mull it over and keep listening to both sides.

"I have sent them that letter to outline where I am on it, it's difficult because in the last election I was the only candidate in my constituency favour of retaining the eight amendment, all the others were in favour of repeal so I did feel a lot of support had given me support on that basis...

"We still don't know all of the separate outcome of voting yes, I don't think anybody does or what the impact will be.

"I know people who have had fatal foetal abnormalities and the practicalities of a termination not being available for them in the country where they live is very difficult.

"I think on balance the right thing to do is remove it from the constitution."

He added that while the majority of feedback he has received on social media has been positive so far, he is bracing himself for some criticism from some people who have voted for him.

Cllr McAuliffe said: "I know people will question if you can trust politicians but we're not removed from the wishes of the people who elect us, we will always be guided by them.

"People accuse politicians of flip flopping on issues but this is not a case of getting votes for me, from an electoral perspective there are going to be a lot of people who might not support me going forward because of this.

"On the flip side, I don't expect to gain a wave of support from the yes side either as there are eight other candidates who might have done a lot more to repeal the eight than me.

"I'll wait and see what the reactions are from the people I meet on the street, they put me where I am and I know there has been some disappointment from people who are pro-life and thought I was of that position too.

"I still regard myself as pro-life, I just think this is now the way forward, I'll judge the reaction more so from people I meet from my area than those online."

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