Tuesday 20 February 2018

Fresh scrutiny for Mitchell over abortion stance

FG presidential hopeful would prefer if women didn't 'sneak off' for terminations, says his PR


GAY Mitchell, Fine Gael's presidential nominee, would prefer if women "didn't sneak off" to other countries for abortions, but rather sought help here to raise the baby.

Mitchell, who says he is "strongly pro-life", is under increasing scrutiny ahead of the election about his views on homosexuality, gay marriage and abortion.

When asked by the Sunday Independent this weekend, his spokesman, John Downing (a former spokesman for Green minister John Gormley), said Mr Mitchell was "disappointed and concerned" that more than 4,000 women each year go overseas for abortions.

"Gay would far prefer they sought help here, keep the child, and that they look for help here rather than feeling obliged to sneak off for abortions overseas," Mr Downing said.

He said Mr Mitchell's views were pro-life but were "tempered by compassion" and that he was strongly concerned about the rights of the unborn but also about protecting the wellbeing of the mother.

Mr Mitchell's Christian Democratic credentials are seen by many within Fine Gael as the major drawback to his candidacy, given the present disaffection with the Church in Ireland, particularly among young voters.

Mr Downing also sought to distance Mr Mitchell from the extremist campaigner Dr Alveda King, whom he invited to speak at an event in Dublin last year.

During his introduction of Dr King, a niece of Martin Luther King, who has referred to homosexuality as an abomination, Mr Mitchell twice spoke of his "great pleasure" to have her there at the event.

Mr Downing said that Mr Mitchell feels she has "some strange views" which are certainly not his: "He invited her to speak but he has no relationship with her."

Last week, Mr Mitchell himself distanced himself from Dr King's views: "I don't agree with them, I don't share them . . . they are not reasonable views at all. They are quite outrageous views."

When asked whether he would sign an abortion bill if it came before him, Mr Mitchell said that as president, he would have a sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and the law and if he had doubts about it that he would refer it to the Council of State and then to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court deemed it legal, he would sign it, he said.

Last week, Mr Mitchell said he also stands over remarks he made after he hit out at the German ambassador, who lampooned Ireland's Celtic Tiger excesses and received a diplomatic rap on the knuckles for his trouble.

On a walkabout in Dun Laoghaire, Mr Mitchell insisted that remarks made by ambassador Christian Pauls were unbalanced and inappropriate.

Mr Mitchell wasn't the only one annoyed by the remarks -- then Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern was reported to have been furious.

The ambassador got a dressing-down from a senior Department official and was told his comments were "inaccurate, misinformed and inappropriate in a public forum". The ambassador refused to apologise and said many of his comments were "lost in translation".

Sunday Independent

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