Monday 9 December 2019

Pressure piled on Leo Varadkar to reveal stance on abortion

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar
Mr Varadkar has yet to outline his stance on the upcoming referendum. Photo: Frank McGrath

Shona Murray

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has increased the pressure on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to reveal his position on abortion after she told the Dáil it must provide leadership on the issue.

She said politicians must show courage and say where they stand. “This is too important an issue for politicians to shirk away from their responsibilities. In the coming weeks, the public have a right to hear the view of every member of this house.

“As elected representatives, we have a duty to outline our positions, and how we arrived at them,” she added.

Mr Varadkar has yet to outline his stance on the upcoming referendum and has been under increasing pressure to do so since Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin announced his views in the Dáil last week.

The Cabinet will meet on Monday and is expected to agree a formal position on the recommendation of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment that unrestricted abortion be allowed up to 12 weeks in a pregnancy.

Speaking during yesterday’s Dáil debate on the Eighth Amendment, Ms Zappone also criticised the broadcasting laws around referendums and the impact they have on the tenor of the debate.

“It is wrong too that some media outlets, in particular broadcasters, should feel anxious about discussing this topic because of fears about the regulations on balance and a deluge of complaints from either or both sides,” she added.

She also hit out at the “misinformation, the lies and any deceitful attempt to mislead people” ahead of the abortion referendum.

“Attempts to use misleading posters, language or lies to heighten emotions must be exposed.

“Materials which are blatant attempts to shock, traumatise or frighten voters have no place in a proper debate,” she added.

Ms Zappone was referring to the issue of abortion in cases of disability such as Down syndrome being used by some pro-life campaigners.

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath said using Down syndrome to present one’s view on abortion was “very disrespectful” to children and adults with the condition.

“It is up to each individual to make his or her own decision as to which way he or she will vote in the upcoming referendum. I ask all sides not to exploit children and adults with Down syndrome to promote their own views.

“I speak as a parent of a daughter with Down syndrome,” he said.

A number of TDs put forward arguments for their reasons not to support a repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín said abortion was a human rights issue in protecting the unborn and referred to “gender selection” and infanticide of baby girls in certain cultures that favour boys as a reason to retain the amendment.

Meanwhile, the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party met to discuss the fallout from leader Mr Martin’s shock announcement last week. He was previously supportive of the Eighth Amendment.

Disgruntled TDs vocalised their anger at not being informed of his revised stance beforehand. They also said they were being sidelined by “unelected officials” in the press office and Fianna Fáil HQ.

Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, some said it was only those who “toe the party line” who get promoted and many of them tend to be pro-choice.

The meeting lasted for more than two hours, and backbenchers said they didn’t feel like they were members of the party because everything the front bench decides was a fait accompli.

Irish Independent

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