Anger over anti-abortion group's use of Oireachtas name

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A SMALL group of anti-abortion politicians who went on a fact-finding trip to the US have irked other TDs and senators by referring to themselves as the 'Oireachtas Research Group USA'.

Others have objected to the group – who all have the same views on the contentious issue – using the title because they were not officially representing the Dail and Seanad.

The group included Fine Gael TDs James Bannon, Terence Flanagan, Peter Mathews and John O'Mahony as well as party senators Paul Bradford and Fidelma Healy-Eames. It sent a report on their trip to all Oireachtas members warning "everything changes" once abortion legislation is brought in.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath also travelled, as did Fianna Fail senators Paschal Mooney, Brian O Domhnaill and Jim Walsh.

But Labour Dublin North Central TD Aodhan O Riordain said: "They are entitled to go to the United States, they are entitled to do their own research but they are not entitled to use the term 'Oireachtas' unless designated by the Oireachtas."

Another Labour TD, Ciara Conway, said it was "misleading" but Mr Bradford said: "We are an Oireachtas group, we are not a farmers' group or a youth club."

The all-expenses-paid trip, which took in New York and Washington, was organised by the anti-abortion group Family and Life.

The report makes a number of conclusions, including:

• "The overwhelming evidence presented to us highlighted the fact that abortion is not a treatment for suicide ideation.

• "No country or state has ever managed, no matter how well intentioned, to restrict limited abortion legislation, especially on grounds of suicide.

• "Rather than abortion 'empowering' women, much evidence was presented to highlight the unfair pressure placed on women to consider abortion."

The report also says the group "met with internationally renowned experts" and "received substantive presentations".

However, the presentations all came from anti-abortion figures and all of those who went on the trip have been written to by the Standards In Public Office commission (SIPO).

It is concerned the TDs and senators have breached donation guidelines by accepting the trips.

"The donation of free/sponsored travel and accommodation falls within the definition of a donation and such a donation is subject to the normal aggregation and reporting thresholds and donation limits," according to SIPO.