Wednesday 26 September 2018

TDs warned Dáil ban on all abortion slogans will be enforced

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Ceann Comhairle has warned that a hard-line approach will be taken if any TDs attempts to wear emblems or clothing with slogans from either side of the abortion debate in the Dáil.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl said the rules prohibiting such items will be implemented "without fear or favour" during the upcoming debates on abortion.

He has the power to ask a TD to leave the Dáil Chamber if they refuse to remove the offending item. He can also ask the House to suspend the offending member.

The report of the Oireachtas Committee examining abortion - which recommended repealing the Eighth Amendment and allowing unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy - is to be debated in the Dáil next week.

There have been incidents in the last two years where far-left TDs wore 'Repeal' jumpers in the Dáil.

The most high profile was when all six Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs wore the garments in September 2016. They did this while challenging then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny on whether he would agree to a referendum on removing the Eighth Amendment. New rules banning the wearing on items with political slogans were introduced last year.

People Before Profit TDs wear Repeal the 8th sweatshirts in the Dáil
People Before Profit TDs wear Repeal the 8th sweatshirts in the Dáil

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Ó Fearghaíl confirmed that a zero-tolerance approach will be taken to any breaches of the rules by either the pro-choice or pro-life sides of the abortion debate.

He said: "We have a protocol written that explicitly prohibits the display of any party political or campaigning logos in the chamber. And yes, we will be implementing that without fear or favour."

Mr Ó Fearghaíl declined to outline his own views on abortion, saying it's not a debate he can get involved in.

He said his personal convictions are strong but added: "I have a job to do in that Chamber and I will be doing my job."

There were heated exchanges in the previous Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment but Mr Ó Fearghaíl said he doesn't have concerns about how the debate in the Dáil will go.

He said that "for the most part in the 32nd Dáil people have behaved very responsibly".

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said he believes the tone and tenor of the language used by politicians since the 2016 election has moderated to reflect the "new political situation in which we find ourselves".

He said: "I think respect is the key to every debate that happens in the Dáil irrespective of what it's about."

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said his message to TDs has been that all 158 have an equal mandate. "Therefore what people have to say - however objectionable some people may find the other person's point of view - they're entitled to express their views. They're entitled to respect."

Irish Independent

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