Sunday 18 February 2018

Row breaks out at debate to 'Repeal the Eighth'

Ailbhe Smyth, of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, during a rally outside Leinster House. Photo: Collins
Ailbhe Smyth, of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, during a rally outside Leinster House. Photo: Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The Dáil debate on repealing the Eighth Amendment descended into a shouting match referencing the Catholic Taliban, snobbery, radical left-wing ideologies and red baiting.

One TD even goaded the Government to have her arrested after bringing an abortion pill into the Chamber.

Bríd Smith said she could be jailed for 14 years for procuring the tablet over the internet "but you ain't going to do it know that if you dare to implement it you would bring hell-fire and brimstone down on top of this house".

However, it was Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell who caused the largest ruckus when she accused the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit of using their Dáil time "to attack Fine Gael on all fronts and to try to demonise the TDs who were democratically elected by their communities to represent them".

She said their bill, which sought a referendum on repealing the section of the Constitution giving equal rights to a mother and her unborn child, was an attempt by Ms Smith and Ruth Coppinger to "disrupt the Citizens' Assembly".

"I support free, safe and legal access to abortion for any woman who wants it. I would have a referendum tomorrow if it were possible but there is still no guarantee it would pass," the Dublin Bay South TD said.

"That's why I support the Citizens' Assembly and the work it is doing to discuss the relevant legal and scientific facts around the Eighth. Those who want repeal have waited too long for a referendum to waste their opportunity to win it."

She said the "reasonable approach" for the AAA-PBP would be to support the progress this Government has made on the issue, but added: "Deputy Coppinger and her colleagues have a political radical left-wing ideology and they will rarely appeal to voters of the centre or centre-right."

She added: "You do not have a monopoly on caring about the Eighth or about women's rights in this country."

However, she raised ire from the Opposition benches by suggesting that AAA-PBP are damaging the campaign for repealing the Eighth because many people feel it is a left-wing issue.

During heated exchanges, Richard Boyd Barrett accused her of "red baiting", saying: "If I hear the phrase the moderate centre again I will scream."

During the debate Independent TDs who campaigned for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment before entering government were called "sell-outs" for compromising with Fine Gael.

The Independent Alliance and Katherine Zappone faced an angry attack from the AAA-PBP after the Coalition agreed to reject the bill seeking an abortion referendum.

It will now be at least 2018 before there is a vote on the Eighth Amendment.

Irish Independent

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