Monday 14 October 2019

Taoiseach hits out at 'No' campaigners ahead of referendum

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar criticised certain “No” campaigners for suggesting an “alternative amendment to the Constitution” can be found to protect expectant mothers and unborn children.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil it was wrong of people to suggest such action was possible – especially so late in the referendum campaign.

“Why, only three days from voting, are people suggesting that,” the Taoiseach said. He argued that if such a course was possible it would have been found over the 35 years since the controversial Eighth Amendment was first put into the constitution.

“The Eighth Amendment is too hard and it imposes too hard a law on Irish women,” the Taoiseach told the Dáil.

Mr Varadkar was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald who urged the Taoiseach to challenge “No” campaigners who suggested that “hard cases,” such as victims of rape or incest or of fatal foetal abnormality, could be given remedies under legislation. She said this was not possible without first removing the Eighth Amendment from the constitution.

The Taoiseach said the draft scheme of the law which would replace the amendment permitted abortions up to 12 weeks. After that terminations could only happen on the advice of two doctors or in emergency cases where the life of the mother was at risk.

Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, also accused the Government of failing to give a remedy to schoolchildren abused by people later convicted in courts for this abuse. He pointed to the case of Cork woman, Louise O’Keeffe, who took her case to the international court in Strasbourg.

"In 2014, Louise O'Keefe won a major breakthrough for victims of sex abuse in the European Court of Human Rights. The government's response has been a significant failure to the victims of child sex abuse. It is a scandal in itself," Mr Martin told the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach defended the redress scheme for such cases.

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