Monday 23 September 2019

Abortion committee not a sham, says Noone

Catherine Noone has denied claims by pro-life members. Photo: Tony Gavin
Catherine Noone has denied claims by pro-life members. Photo: Tony Gavin

Shona Murray

The chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Abortion has denied claims the group is "skewed" in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Senator Catherine Noone hit back at claims by Independent Senator Rónan Mullen and Independent TD Mattie McGrath that the committee is a "sham".

Mr Mullen and Mr McGrath announced they were reconsidering their membership of the group due to the issues they have raised.

The two members claim the committee "laughs at the idea" there should be balance between those who want to retain the Eighth Amendment and those who want to get rid of the amendment.

The committee, which will meet at least once a week until Christmas, is examining the likely changes to the State's abortion legislation following advice from the Citizens' Assembly early this year.

The stipulation from the committee was that all of the witnesses brought forward be classed as "experts".

Mr McGrath claimed there was no appetite whatsoever from committee members to hear from anti-abortion speakers that had been suggested by he and Mr Mullen.

In a joint statement, they said: "We regret saying it but it's hard to argue with those who describe this entire process as a propaganda exercise in favour of abortion."

However, Ms Noone, who as chair of the group is the point of contact for members to relay their desired witnesses, has denied Mr McGrath's claims.

"One of them was a lady from the US, we asked for more information from Mattie McGrath as to her credentials as the State would have to pay for her travel from the US - we got no more information," she told the Irish Independent.

Another suggestion, according to Ms Noone, was anti-abortion campaigner Caroline Simons, who was refused because she is "not an expert".

Professor William Binchy from Trinity College Dublin, a pro-life activist and architect of the Eighth Amendment, was suggested and gave evidence last week.

"There is still time for them to suggest more. I was very keen for them to make more suggestions for pro-life people. I want it to be balanced," Ms Noone said.

Of the five sittings of the committee so far, the experts included two representatives from the World Health Organisation, Dr David Kenny, assistant professor of law, Trinity College Dublin; Professor Fiona de Londras, chair of global legal studies at University of Birmingham; and Mary O'Toole, a senior counsel.

On Wednesday, the committee also heard from the Masters of both Holles Street and the Rotunda Maternity hospitals, Rhona Mahony and Fergal Malone.

Mr Mullen described much of the testimony from many of the witnesses as "spin".

Ms Noone called for them to return, saying she would welcome them back.

Irish Independent

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