Tuesday 20 February 2018

FG TD Mathews breaks ranks on abortion and pledges to vote 'no'

Thousands of people taking part in the Vigil for Life at Merrion Square, Dublin, at the weekend
Thousands of people taking part in the Vigil for Life at Merrion Square, Dublin, at the weekend
Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews with Des Hanafin, honorary president of Pro-life Campaign, and Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte at the vigil

Gareth Naughton

A FINE Gael TD has become the first government deputy to break ranks over abortion and pledge to vote against the legislation when it comes before the Dail.

Dublin South TD Peter Mathews told the Irish Independent: "I will do what I have to do and that is vote against the bill."

Mr Mathews attended the anti-abortion Vigil for Life rally at the weekend, which saw an estimated crowd of up to 30,000 gather in Dublin city centre.

He made his pledge after Taoiseach Enda Kenny rejected a call from Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, for TDs to be given a free vote on the contentious proposals.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has given his TDs a free vote, although this was against his original wishes and was granted largely to avoid a damaging split in his parliamentary party.

Mr Mathews said he would vote against the bill because it was "mistaken in its foundation". He is the first government TD to commit to voting against the proposals.

"It is a very badly formulated bill, on bad foundations and it should be withdrawn," he said. "I will not support the bill as it stands. I will vote against."

He believes legislation for the X Case is not required and insists he is prepared to face the consequences of voting against the party whip.

"Anything I do in life has its consequences and I will deal with the consequences when and if they arise."

Mr Mathews was one of thousands of people who attended the pro-life rally in Merrion Square in Dublin at the weekend. Organisers claimed that more than 40,000 people turned up for the hour-long rally – billed the National Vigil for Life – but gardai estimated that the crowd was between 20,000 and 30,000.

Many of those attending said if the legislation was passed, it would inform their vote in upcoming elections. Eamon Kelly, who travelled from Kerry for the rally, said he had voted Fine Gael at the last election because the party was pro-life.


"Now they are going back and saying that they are going to legislate for termination of pregnancy where the woman is suicidal," he said. "I would be very cynical of the politicians' approach to this at this stage."

Giant screens at either end of the square relayed the action to the thousands assembled.

Pink, purple and white balloons were flown and participants carried signs declaring "Pro-life, Pro-Women, Pro-Baby" and "Women and Babies deserve better than abortion".

A roving moderator brought a camera crew into the crowd and spoke with pre-selected attendees, including a Glaswegian obstetrician who said that she had seen first-hand the effect that abortion had on women, the health care system and Ireland as a whole.

There were also video messages from the husband of murdered Michaela McAreavey, John McAreavey, and the grand-niece of assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Celeste Beal King.

Mr McAreavey warned against the development of an "abortion culture".

"There is no more positive thing than standing up for the human rights of another person, especially the most vulnerable, and unborn children in danger of abortion are about as vulnerable as it gets," he said.

Among those watching the message was his father-in-law, Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, who addressed the previous rally held in January.

Irish Independent

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