Thursday 15 November 2018

Fears report on the Eighth won't make it through Dáil vote

TDs should hear evidence: Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien
TDs should hear evidence: Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien

Shona Murray

Members of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment fear the recommendations they issue will not be accepted by the rest of the legislature.

It is almost certain that 13 out of 22 members of the committee will vote in favour of removing the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil both have a free vote on the matter. It's thought that some TDs will not vote in favour of the committee's recommendations because of a public backlash on such a sensitive issue.

But Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O'Brien said that he fears it won't get through the Oireachtas because most TDs haven't heard all the evidence.

Mr O'Brien, who is pro-choice, says members of the Oireachtas should sit through "presentations of the evidence from the committee" before voting.

"I had a very different view on abortion before I sat on the Eighth Amendment committee," he said. "When Professor Fergal Malone, master of the Rotunda Hospital, came before us and told us the Eighth Amendment prevents him from giving Irish women the best healthcare, I couldn't vote to keep the law as it is."

However, pro-life TD Mattie McGrath says he doesn't think the "committee was conducted fairly". He also said he regrets the fact the abortion debate is being played out in public with just a word on a jumper - "Repeal", referring to popular sweatshirts worn by many pro-choice advocates.

Senator Rónán Mullen said the committee was "biased" in favour of recommending a repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

The Oireachtas committee will cast several votes on the matter on Wednesday. The first vote will relate to the constitutional aspect of the Eighth Amendment.

A second series of votes relating to grounds for abortion will then be cast. TDs and senators will be asked to vote as to whether they agree to access for abortion in various circumstances, including substantial risk to the life or health of the mother, rape, incest, socio-economic reasons, fatal foetal abnormality, or other non-fatal chromosomal deficiency.

They will also be asked if they believe a gestational limit should apply in such cases and then asked to vote on that limit or whether none should apply.

After voting is complete, committee chair Senator Catherine Noone will collate the votes and issue a "succinct" report on the results on December 20.

Irish Independent

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