Saturday 16 December 2017

Martin faces grassroots backlash for 'cop-out' over whip on abortion

Micheal Martin
Micheal Martin

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FIANNA FAIL leader Micheal Martin is expected to face a backlash from party grassroots representatives over his decision to grant a free vote on abortion legislation.

Mr Martin went against the staunch anti-abortion position expressed in votes at the party's ard fheis six weeks ago by supporting the legislation.

And he backtracked on his own stance of adopting an agreed policy on the legislation.

Some members are annoyed the party isn't opposing the legislation and more that he is allowing a free vote.

The party leader's stance will be brought up at a meeting of the Fianna Fail national executive, the party's ruling body, tomorrow night at Leinster House.

"It will definitely come up at the national exec. Seven or eight (national executive members) who I spoke to were very displeased. They're going to ask the party leader why did he say there would be a whip and then there was none," a national executive member told the Irish Independent.

"The fact is he said prior to the ard fheis there would be no free vote. It's a cop-out."

Fianna Fail's anti-abortion stance was brought up at a previous meeting by the brother of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, ex-junior minister Noel Ahern.

PRO-LIFE

"Noel Ahern did make it very clear, at the January meeting down in Cork, that he wanted to make sure the party was fully pro-life no matter what," a source said.

Noel Ahern remains on the national executive as the delegate for the Dublin North-West constituency.

Fianna Fail members feel finance spokesman Michael McGrath's call for a free vote, following his refusal to support the legislation, was "the turning point".

His base in the same constituency as Mr Martin added to the pressure on the party leader.

But there is also a belief that many of those TDs and senators saying they would have gone against a party position of supporting the legislation wouldn't have followed through.

"When push came to shove, they weren't going to breach the party whip," a source said.

Mr Martin has defended his decision to go against the votes at the party's ard fheis by claiming the legislation is consistent with pro-life views.

Irish Independent

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