Sunday 19 November 2017

War of words erupts in Sinn Féin over Eighth Amendment issue

Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibín. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibín. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

A major public row has erupted in Sinn Féin on the issue of the Eighth Amendment.

Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín has been strongly criticised by two of his own parliamentary colleagues after he claimed that the Oireachtas committee has shown a lack of balance in relation to its members and witnesses.

“When you look at the balance of the members and the witnesses -  24 witnesses are pro-choice and four witnesses are pro-life,” Mr Tóibín told RTÉ’s ‘The Week in Politics’.

“I’m a chair of a committee. Even on issues I didn’t agree with I would make sure there is a balance of people coming before the committee so there is a good honest debate,” he added.

Two members of the committee, Dublin Mid-West TD Eoin Ó Broin and Cork North Central TD Jonathan O’Brien, have strongly criticised the comments by their colleague.

“The imbalance has been caused by Pro-Life Groups refusing to appear before the committee,” Mr O’Brien tweeted.

“Don’t cry over spilt milk when you intentionally spilt it yourself so you can cry,” he added.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Mr O’Brien said Mr Tóibín is entitled to his views but that he is “not entitled to undermine the work of the committee.”

He added that many pro-life witnesses would have been accommodated but they have refused to engage.

Mr Ó Broin also tweeted, accusing Mr Tóibín of aligning himself with pro-life TDs Mattie McGrath and Ronan Mullen in “trying to undermine the work of the committee and the Sinn Féin representatives on it.”

Mr Tóibín previously lost the Sinn Féin whip for voting against the party on the issue of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

The abortion issue will be debated at the party Árd Fheis this weekend.

A raft of Sinn Féin cumanns in the home base of Mr Tóibín have signed a motion calling for members to be given a free vote on the issue of the Eighth Amendment.

Some 19 separate cumanns have put their names to two motions calling for a free vote on the issue, which will be the subject of a referendum in May or June.

And the majority of the cumanns are in Meath.

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