Harte calls for free vote on legislation
Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, whose daughter Michaela was murdered in Mauritius two years ago, has appealed to the Government to allow a free vote in the Dail on the forthcoming Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
Describing the draft legislation as "flawed", the pro-life GAA manager called for the proposed bill to be amended.
Mr Harte said politicians should be allowed to detach themselves from party whips and make "their own individual, informed choice to the best of their ability".
"They are elected for a whole range of purposes. If they had a free choice, I don't think there would be as many of them who would hold the Government view – a view they have been forced to hold," he said.
He was speaking following an address on the opening of a three-day Eucharistic Gathering in Enniscorthy, which will see up to 5,000 people attend a range of faith events this weekend. A number of speakers will give testimonies of overcoming times of trial in their lives.
In his address at St Aidan's Cathedral in the Co Wexford town, Mr Harte urged those who had suffered a tragic loss like his family had when Michaela was murdered on her honeymoon in January 2011, not to become consumed with grief but to move the dark cloud back little by little – even if the grief was always there.
He said the birth of his grandson Liam, who is now 16 months old, had brought joy to him and to his wife Marian.
After his address, Mr Harte met with the parents of Irish woman Nicola Furlong, who was murdered last year in Japan, and he shared words of consolation.
The three-day festival was officially launched by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who hit out at coverage of the abortion debate, saying something had gone wrong if front-page stories were only about the church "excluding and excommunicating".
He said this narrow focus failed to witness to the church's "radical, beautiful and attractive message of life" and failed to support those who witness to life in its fullness, such as carers, healthcare workers, and those who support the elderly, the disabled and the disadvantaged.
He also expressed alarm over society's "lukewarm response" to those who suffer severe disadvantage in difficult economic times and the "silence in the face of the horrific violence that mars our streets".