Tuesday 24 April 2018

Uproar over abortion debate as vote passes

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Michael Brennan and Fiach Kelly

The Government comfortably won the latest vote on the abortion bill by 33 votes to 14- rejecting all opposition attempts to remove the section allowing abortion on the grounds of suicide.

Having disposed of the committee stage of the abortion bill, the Seanad is due to discuss the report and final stage of the bill next Monday. The bill is then due to go to President Michael D Higgins either for signature into Irish law or referral to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has condemned some of his own senators for their graphic description of abortion.

And Taoiseach Enda Kenny moved to brand Senator David Norris's comments towards a female TD as "absolutely disgraceful".

The intervention of the two party leaders compounded a week of controversy for the Seanad. It has included Mr Norris accusing Regina Doherty TD of talking "through her fanny" and rows over the vote on the bill to allow for a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad.

There was also controversy during the Seanad debate on the abortion bill, where Fianna Fail Senator Jim Walsh spoke in graphic terms.

He talked about how a late-term abortion could involve the baby's legs being taken out, having a scissors jammed into its skull and a tube inserted to suck out its brains.

And fellow Fianna Fail Senator Brian O Domhnaill also read out descriptions of an aborted foetus being taken apart in the womb and brought out bit by bit. But Mr Martin said there was a need to show respect and to avoid the use of emotive and provocative language. "It is a source of regret that some contributions, including from within my own party, have fallen short of that standard," he said.

It came after Fianna Fail was in open warfare in the Seanad, with the party's Seanad leader, Darragh O'Brien, saying he was "deeply upset" with the graphic remarks made by some of his party colleagues.

Mr O'Brien is one of the 11 Fianna Fail senators opposed to the abortion bill – with the remaining three Fianna Fail senators voting for it under the party's "free vote policy".

But it is understood that the majority of Fianna Fail senators are horrified with the graphic language being used.

There was a defiant response from Mr Walsh, who said he would not change one iota of what he had said.

During a day of sharp and bitter exchanges, a visibly upset Labour senator, Marie Moloney, appealed for an end to graphic descriptions of abortions.

"I had a baby inside in me that didn't live and it was dead. And that baby was taken from me, it was taken under anaesthetic, and I absolutely think the carry on here is disgraceful," she said.

Mr Walsh said he was sorry if Ms Moloney was upset – but he was not sorry if people could not stomach the graphic nature of what he was talking about.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly insisted that the graphic abortion methods described by Mr Walsh were not in use.

Irish Independent

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