Thursday 19 April 2018

Just three FF TDs in favour of change to abortion laws

Fianna Fáil and fatal foetal abnormalities
Fianna Fáil and fatal foetal abnormalities
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Just three Fianna Fáil TDs say they are in favour of allowing for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, a survey by the Irish Independent has found.

Fianna Fáil politicians are deeply uneasy about introducing any change whatsoever to the country's abortion regime - in an illustration of the profoundly conservative nature of the party.

More than a quarter of TDs are against liberalising the law, even in limited cases relating to fatal foetal abnormality.

These include party stalwarts John Browne and Seamus Kirk, neither of whom are contesting the election.

Fianna Fáil chief whip Sean Ó Fearghaíl said he had been told of cases where the unborn were diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality but were still alive today.

"I have met parents who were told by physicians that the unborn baby suffered from a fatal foetal abnormality and they went on to live and remain healthy," the Kildare South TD said.

The majority of the party's 21 TDs concur that changing the law would inevitably involve a repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal status to the rights of the mother and the unborn.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said he wants to see the law changed to allow for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality - but believes the Eighth Amendment should remain in the Constitution.

The three Fianna Fáil TDs in favour of terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality are Limerick TD Niall Collins, Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher, and Longford/Westmeath deputy Robert Troy, who is the party's spokesman on children.

Mr Troy said he believed couples in these situations should be allowed access abortion services, but only after a second medical opinion was sought in relation to the diagnosis of the unborn children.

Among the 21 TDs surveyed, nine refused to give their positions or said they had yet to formulate a view on the issue.

Most of the TDs in this group said they classified themselves as pro-life and expressed reservations about a potential repeal of the Eighth Amendment.


Included in this group are the party's finance spokesman Michael McGrath and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness. Both politicians are widely seen as potential successors to party leader Micheál Martin.

Mr Martin said: "The real question here is what would replace the Eighth Amendment in law if it was to be repealed. We need a respectful, detailed and informed discussion on that in order to deal with these important and very sensitive issues such as the question of termination in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities."

Mr Martin has previously said that he would not hold a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment if Fianna Fáil enters government.

He also allowed his TDs a free vote on a recently defeated bill on fatal foetal abnormalities, which was tabled by Dublin Fingal TD Clare Daly.

Three TDs did not respond to queries from the Irish Independent, including party vice-president Timmy Dooley.

Irish Independent

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