Tuesday 18 December 2018

Fianna Fáil backlash against Martin over U-turn backing of abortion plans

Micheál Martin Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Micheál Martin Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Shona Murray, John Downing and Cormac McQuinn

An overwhelming majority of Fianna Fail TDs are against the U-turn taken by party leader Micheál Martin on abortion.

An Irish Independent survey canvassing the opinions of every Fianna Fáil member shows Mr Martin's intervention during the Dáil debate on the Eighth Amendment has not brought any of his party colleagues along with him.

Frontbench TDs Willie O'Dea and Dara Calleary are the two most senior members against repealing the Eighth Amendment. Mr O'Dea insisted he had "very serious reservations about the 12-week provision".

"Because of that I do not think I can vote in favour of repeal," he added.

Mr O'Dea said he saw no reason why Mr Martin's statement should cause problems within the party, despite it being at odds with the majority view.

Mr Calleary said he was against repealing the Eighth Amendment in the circumstances being proposed and also confirmed he did not support 12 weeks' unrestricted abortion.

He said Fianna Fáil was allowed a vote of conscience on the issue and the party leader was also entitled to that.

Twenty-seven Fianna Fáil TDs are against the proposal for allowing unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, with just six saying they would support it.

A further 12 TDs are either undecided, have not yet laid out a clear position, or did not respond to the survey. Mr Martin's decision to change his stance on abortion shocked some of his colleagues.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward said he was "completely taken aback" and "very disappointed" at Mr Martin's confirmation that he supports repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Mr Aylward told RTÉ Radio: "My stand would be pro-life and against a repeal of the Eighth Amendment."

He added that he was disappointed that some of the party's frontbench were "very pro-choice", adding that he was hoping to "counteract that".

Meanwhile, Kildare-North TD Frank O'Rourke said he planed to attend a meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs who are against changing the abortion laws, scheduled for next week.

He said: "I'm pro-life and I'm not in favour of any change to the Eighth Amendment."

Long-serving Cavan Monaghan TD and former minister Brendan Smith said he was strongly against any repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Mr Smith said he was also utterly opposed to the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee.

He said there was "widespread disappointment" in his constituency at the party leader's Dáil statement.

He added: "I have been contacted by supporters, elected representatives and party members on the issue since Mr Martin made his statement."

Elsewhere, Dublin West TD Jack Chambers confirmed he was against repealing the Eighth Amendment, while Dublin Fingal TD Darragh O'Brien said he had "an issue with abortion for up to 12 weeks" but agreed with some of what Mr Martin said during his speech.

"I can see both sides of the argument and it's not cut and dried," he told the Irish Independent. "I think Micheál Martin made a very courageous speech; I really respect him for it."

Deputy John McGuinness said he was "pro-life" and would "be voting in that way" in the abortion referendum.

"I thought he [Micheál Martin] was pro-life but everyone is entitled to change their mind," he said.

He also added that he was "sympathetic" towards women who were given a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis and in cases of rape and incest.

Irish Independent

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