Tuesday 24 April 2018

Irish abortion laws 'insane' - Fr Ted writer Graham Linehan

Graham Linehan, writer of the Father Ted comedy series, alongside his wife Helen, at an Amnesty International event in Belfast
Graham Linehan, writer of the Father Ted comedy series, alongside his wife Helen, at an Amnesty International event in Belfast

Ed Carty

Father Ted writer Graham Linehan has described the heartbreak of losing a child to a foetal abnormality, and called for Irish abortion laws to be liberalised.

Dublin-born Linehan, whose sitcom was one of the most successful in Irish television history, claimed the restrictions on terminations were "insane" and that women were not safe in Ireland.

A prison sentence of up to 14 years can be imposed for an illegal abortion in the Republic.

Linehan and his wife Helen Linehan discovered in 2004 that their 11-week-old foetus would not survive because the baby's skull had not properly formed. Doctors said a termination, near their home in England, was the only option.

Mr Linehan said: "The abortion law as it stands is part of a chain that extends back into Ireland's past. We are still locked into this, chained to this thing.

"We won't be free of it until we break this final link."

Linehan continued: "It is just insane to have to get on a plane, to organise your doctors, to have to book yourself in, to have no support in your own country."

He added that the couple moved back to Ireland some years later and had another child, but said that it was not safe for women in this country.

"It is terrifying, I brought her somewhere that it might not be entirely safe."

The Linehans have produced a short film calling for Irish abortion law to be repealed.

The couple's foetus had a condition known as acrania, where the skull does not close over the brain. The child would not have lived and doctors concluded that termination was the only option.

Helen Linehan recalled her experience, saying: "It was awful, tragic ... there was no question that this baby could survive.

"It is unthinkable that, had we been living in Ireland, I would have been forced to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth to a baby that would be dead within minutes.

"It is a form of abuse against women. If men had babies, the laws would be very different."

There has been growing demand for the Government to hold a referendum on legalising abortion.

Last month, thousands marched through Dublin to show their support for liberalisation of Irish abortion laws.

The death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 highlighted the issue at home and abroad.

Linehan, who co-wrote Father Ted with Arthur Mathews, was addressing an Amnesty International event in Belfast.

Irish Independent

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