Sunday 23 September 2018

Strong will for change in Fine Gael - Flannery

Frank Flannery. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Frank Flannery. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Shona Murray

Former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery insists there is a "strong desire" within the party membership for a change in Irish abortion law.

Since the 1980s under Garrett FitzGerald, Fine Gael has been "constitutionally a progressive party", he told the Irish Independent. He said members were "very uneasy" with the position in which our abortion laws place Irish women.

In 1983, Fine Gael-appointed Attorney General Peter Sutherland advised against putting the text of the Eighth Amendment to the public, saying it was "ambiguous and unsatisfactory".

Although he agreed with Mr Sutherland, Mr FitzGerald went ahead with the referendum using the original wording after losing a vote in the Dáil on the matter.

Mr Flannery said that 35 years later, for most people in the middle ground, people aren't "anti-life or aren't anti-women". He said the "continual stream of women going over to England and the unregulated use of the abortion pill" could not continue.

Mr Flannery said that the Taoiseach was right to reserve his position until the final wording of the referendum was known. The issue for the Government was "can people come to peace of mind that the new legislation does what we want; which is to take the best interests of women and also give best protection to the child".

Mr Varadkar has been criticised in the press for withholding his position on whether he intends to vote for the recommendations from the Oireachtas Committee on abortion - especially since Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has come out in favour.

However, in recent months he has indicated he is broadly in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment and said his view has "evolved" on the issue over time. Mr Flannery said the tenor of the debate is much more reasoned that in 1983. Even within Fianna Fáil, "it was supposed to be a matter for the individual".

Irish Independent

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