Wednesday 19 September 2018

Madigan under fire for link to activist 'glad ex-TD is dead'

Josepha Madigan TD Photo Gareth Chaney/Collins
Josepha Madigan TD Photo Gareth Chaney/Collins

Shona Murray

The minister responsible for co-ordinating Fine Gael members seeking a Yes vote in the abortion referendum is coming under pressure from the anti-repeal side for sharing a platform with a person who sent a tweet celebrating the death of former TD Peter Mathews.

The participation by Culture Minister Josepha Madigan in the Roscommon launch of the Together for Yes campaign has been labelled an "error of judgment" by No campaigners.

She is due to speak at the event with Janet Ní Shúilleabháin, an abortion activist who is not affiliated with any organisation. Ms Ní Shúilleabháin previously greeted the death of former Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews by tweeting: "Frankly I am glad he is dead." Mr Mathews was a pro-life activist.

In a statement, the Together for Yes campaign said Ms Ní Shúilleabháin would be attending at the event in a personal capacity along with other women sharing their abortion stories.

"This referendum is the time for women of this experience to speak about their abortion experiences as a result of the harmful Eighth Amendment and Together For Yes is giving these women a platform to have their voices heard. We should be encouraging these women to tell their stories, not trying to suppress them."

Meanwhile, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is taking an official position calling for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment. The Institute took a neutral position during the 1983 referendum when the country voted to insert the Eighth Amendment.

According to its chair, Peter Boylan, its members have since seen the "unintended consequences" of the legislation, where it was a "mistake" to introduce it.

Dr Boylan testified at the Oireachtas Committee on abortion outlining the medical reasons in favour of a repeal and he also warned of the health consequences of taking illegal abortion pills.

He said that when pills are used under medical supervision "they're very safe" but "there are serious dangers" if women take them without medical support, such as a ruptured uterus and serious haemorrhaging. But he said any woman in distress after taking them would be treated with "compassion" and confidentiality by Irish hospitals.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris said he found it "very frustrating" that those on the No side failed to "grapple" with the reality that abortion was already "here in this country". It was not a case where people were "being asked to vote for or against abortion on the 25th of May, it's about accepting the reality" and putting in place structures to make that safe, including introducing legislation that would make late-term abortions illegal.

"There are those who are happy for Irish women to have abortions in Britain while criticising the regime in Britain," he said. "We're proposing a different system. For example, there will be a ban on late-term abortions, unlike in the UK."

It comes as Fine Gael junior minister Seán Kyne said he was still undecided on how he'd vote in the abortion referendum, but said: "I am coming around to the very strong case for repeal".

He said he would support Government legislation to introduce abortion if the Eighth Amendment was removed by the people in the referendum.

Independent Communications Minister Denis Naughten is also undeclared but voted against limited abortion legislation in the past.

Irish Independent

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