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Archbishop warns against abortion protests near GPs

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Dr Diarmuid Martin disagrees with protests at GP surgeries. Picture: Tony Gavin

Dr Diarmuid Martin disagrees with protests at GP surgeries. Picture: Tony Gavin

Dr Diarmuid Martin disagrees with protests at GP surgeries. Picture: Tony Gavin

Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has said he disagrees with protests outside GP surgeries, but believes that anti-abortion demonstrations can still be legitimate.

He also voiced his support for doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion who "clash with the law", saying they should not face any professional sanction.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One's 'This Week', Dr Martin said that "everybody has a right to make a protest", and the Government needs to ensure that the rights of all people are protected.

"We have a Constitution which protects freedom of expression. Everybody has a right to make a protest.

"Protesting within the rule of law and the rule of the Constitution, you can't be against it.

"I would be particularly cautious about protesting against GPs because everybody is going there, and people go there for all sorts of reasons.

"I'm not a person personally for protest, but what the Church should be doing is strengthening its resolve to help women in crisis and to educate people about the broad range," he added.

Asked about the prospect of exclusion zones around medical facilities where abortions are provided, Dr Martin said they need to be introduced within the realm of the Constitution.

"Protests can be legitimate, but you can't absolutise, it's up to the Government to ensure that the various rights of people are protected."

Health Minister Simon Harris has said his priority is to introduce "safe access zones" to prevent anti-abortion protests.

The archbishop also voiced support for medical professionals with a conscientious objection to abortion who "clash with the law".

"Respecting the rights of conscience of individuals, even where they may come to clash with the law, is a very important thing in any democracy. Where you begin to trample the rights of conscience, then you're moving into a very different form of government," he said.

Dr Martin added that conscientious objectors in the medical profession might have to clash with the law, and that he hoped in such cases there would be no professional sanctions for them.

He said he did not believe the question of abortion would be revisited in the near future, and the Church should play a role in attempting to ensure that abortions are rare.

"One of the things in Government policy that was constantly stressed is that abortion should be rare.

"We have to do something to help people to make sure that is the case, and that people who want to keep their child can do it, and can do it with dignity," he added.

Asked about his own future, the 74-year-old said he was approaching a time when it would be good for him to retire.

"It would be good, not just that I retire, but that there would be a different leadership in the Church, a younger one, because we are facing very different challenges."

However, he added it was up to the Pope to decide when this change would happen.

Irish Independent