Tuesday 18 December 2018

Martin hits back at FF backlash on abortion stance

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Caroline Crawford

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has defended his decision to change his mind and support a change in abortion law.

Mr Martin rejected the point that his position was "incongruent" with the rest of the party, which has by and large come out against a repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Speaking on RTÉ's 'Prime Time' last night, he said: "Back in 2013 I said that each member of the party is entitled to freedom of conscience on this issue.

"I felt the Dáil chamber was the optical way for me to comprehensively set out my position. I am of course conscious of where the members of the party are on this and I would accept that a majority are properly against the repeal of the Eighth."

His comments came as a Fianna Fail "splinter group" met in private last night to discuss their opposition to Mr Martin's revised stance on abortion.

At least eight TDs turned up to a meeting arranged by Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward. Mr Aylward says he was "satisfied" with the turnout.

He sent an email on Monday night to all parliamentary party members inviting them to the forum and 18 others responded saying they would have liked to attend, but there was likely "pressure on people not to turn up". They met for around 90 minutes and had an "open and frank discussion", according to Mr Aylward.

"Micheál Martin as a man is entitled to his position, as am I and the rest of the party, but Micheál Martin is also the leader of the party and when he made his statement ... then it changed the stakes because we [already] had frontbench people being pro-choice," he said.

Confirmed in attendance were John McGuinness, John Curran, Eamon Scanlan and Mr Aylward.

Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív said while he expected his party leader to make his personal views known, the timing of the announcement took many senior members by surprise.

Éamon Ó Cuív. Photo: Frank McGrath
Éamon Ó Cuív. Photo: Frank McGrath

Mr Ó Cuív told the Irish Independent Mr Martin had given the general indication to members that he was still considering his position last week, but then just 24 hours later was making a public statement.

"I'm not easily upset but some of the members seemed to be very disappointed by the fact he told the Dáil before he told them, and I think some people feel a little let down by that," he said.

Irish Independent

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