Tuesday 12 December 2017

Senator wants apology over 'insulting' remark on Special Olympics

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

A LABOUR senator who has a son with an intellectual disability has called on a Fianna Fail senator to withdraw his "insulting" comments about Special Olympics athletes being prevented from being born.

But Brian O'Domhnaill, who claimed that allowing abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities would be "depriving future Special Olympics athletes of being born", has refused to say sorry.

He was speaking in opposition to an amendment to the abortion bill, which would have allowed for abortions to be carried out in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

But Labour senator Mary Moran, whose son Cillian (15) is a Special Olympics competitor, said she was appalled by his comments.

"They are scaremongering and they are insulting," she said.

Ms Moran pointed out that unborn children with fatal foetal abnormalities had no chance of surviving outside the womb and would never grow up to become Special Olympics athletes.

She called on Mr O'Domhnaill to apologise.

His comments came on the same day that Ms Moran brought Cillian and other Games competitors to the Seanad to listen to her motion on the Special Olympics programme.

She said she was disappointed that last Wednesday's debate had been overshadowed, and that Mr O'Domhnaill had not turned up for it.

"He didn't participate in the debate on the Special Olympics at all. You come out with these brash statements and you are not there," she said.

Four hundred Special Olympics community clubs across the country provide training in 15 sports with the help of 25,000 volunteers.

As part of the four-year cycle, there are competitions at local, regional and provincial level before moving to the international level. The next Special Olympic World Games are in Los Angeles in 2015.

A third of all people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland are involved in the organisation, compared with an average of 2pc in most countries.

Ms Moran said it was crucial that the €1.2m in Sports Council funding for the Special Olympics movement was increased rather than cut, because the organisation was facing a deficit of €1.69m this year.

She spoke of the scenes at the recent Leinster Special Olympics finals in Kilkenny.

DIAGNOSED

"It was a joy to see parents, siblings and athletes together and sometimes athletes waiting for others before they cross the finish line," she said.

Mr O'Domhnaill said he would not be withdrawing his comments or apologising for them.

He said there were children such as three-year-old Louise Kehoe from Cavan who had been diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality. He said her parents, John and Jennifer, had been advised to get an abortion abroad, but had turned it down.

"Louise has come through three heart operations. Her cognitive development is normal and she is expected to live a long and normal life," he said.

Mr O'Domhnaill said he had not been able to attend the Seanad debate on the Special Olympics because he had been in a meeting.

Irish Independent

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