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Transcript: 'I'll drink a big bottle of champagne after this passes'

Questioner: Am, the only other thing I wanted to talk to you about, am was termination of pregnancy.

Questioner: Am, the only other thing I wanted to talk to you about, am was termination of pregnancy.

Anne Ferris: Sure.

Q: Am, just I was quite disappointed that Labour didn't vote for Clare Daly's bill?

AF: Yeah.

Q: You know what I'm talking about anyway.

AF: I do, I absolutely do. Clare Daly bill . . . Em. She knows that the Expert Group are meeting at the moment and they are to report back in July, so it was a little bit of political [inaudible] . . . political kudos bringing this thing in.

Q: OK.

AF: We couldn't support that. And, in fact, her bill went to the Attorney General's office and had said that there would be, in the wording of her bill there would have been constitutional problems with it.

Q: OK.

AF: So, for a variety of reasons, we couldn't. Now, it is one of the . . . at the Labour party conference . . . over in Galway, we passed an even stronger motion, not only about the legislation for the X Case, but if you go in to Anne Ferris you'll see it and you'll see the various speeches I have made and the meetings I have been at. Em, I've been lobbying for this since forever almost, you know all my adult life nearly.

Q: OK, yeah.

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AF: And I honestly really feel strongly and I know people have opposing views and very strongly held opposing views, but I really, and I have three daughters, right . . . it really galls me that men are telling them and myself what to do with our bodies, you know – if we have a pregnancy what we should be doing. It's our choice – that's what I really believe in.

Q: Mmm.

AF: Sorry there's a cat out there, which actually looks like my cat.

Q: Followed you into work?

AF: I hope not!

It is my cat.

Q: Do you want to get it?

AF: No! Go home! Em, Ringo.

Q: OK.

AF: So, you . . . all I'm saying to you is, it kind of . . . it galled me as well [voting against Clare Daly Bill] and I did say to Eamon Gilmore "Look, I have difficulties not supporting Clare Daly's Bill."

And, so, we went to the Attorney General. He [Eamon Gilmore] said to me, "look don't do anything like go in there and vote for it against the party", right? Because, he said "there are an awful lot of people in Fine Gael, that when it does come back – the Expert Group comes back – and it's going to propose legislation that . . .

Q: OK.

AF: Em, and when the legislation is drawn up, there will be a . . . The Labour party will be 100 per cent behind it; Fine Gael will not be 100 per cent behind it.

Q: OK.

AF: And this is what Eamon said to me: "If you break ranks now, it'll leave it open in time for the Fine Gael party – when it does come back and we have the wording right and it is constitutionally OK – they will say 'well look, some of the Labour party broke ranks'."

Q: Yeah.

AF: But look, you can be absolutely assured of our commitment. We are 100 per cent.

Q: OK, but, am, but I suppose X and you're talking about the fetal abnormalities – that doesn't really help kind of young women like me, or . . .

AF: No, it doesn't. Yeah, it doesn't. Because then the ABC. And one thing I said is "How many more letters of the alphabet are we going to use before we actually get this in?" You know? Am, but, it's like taking baby steps. You know, this is the first thing we're going to get in. There'll be tremendous . . . em, it'll go back, it'll be like the Eighties and Nineties again there'll be people marching out on the streets and marching outside the Dail and photos of the . . . I don't know if you've seen the Youth Defence billboards?

Q: The ones right now?

AF: Yeah, I mean, you know, as my daughter – I've one daughter living at home, she's 27 – and she said to me: "You know, if I had had an abortion, and saw this I'd be devastated, you know, even though I made the right decision." But there will be . . . so it is a little bit at a time.

Q: OK . . .

AF: But, and you know, we campaigned on divorce, we campaigned on everything, the various amendments. But this, you know, this is not . . . we're not going to let this go.

Q: OK

AF: And this is Labour Party policy. To go further.

Q: Yeah, I know that. But I suppose, because there has kind of been for so long lots of groups, or expert groups or whatever, you know and effectively we're in the same situation we were in 20 years ago.

AF: We are.

Q: So do you feel that this is really going to be it?

AF: No, no. I this . . . because the Fianna Fail government – they were in power for 14 years and they wouldn't touch it because they are quite conservative, rural-based, you know, afraid of . . . you know, they wouldn't go near this issue.

And, it was one of the things I . . . well, not campaigned on, because you don't go around knocking on doors, "I'm campaigning for abortion", you know?

Q: Mmhmm.

AF: But my track record is well known, and I've had doors closed in my face because of it, but it is . . . we will legislate certainly for what the European Court has told us to and then we can go further than that. Because it's like introducing, it's like . . . people hate change in any form, but we get the first part done and then we will go on to the next bit.

Q: Mmhmm.

AF: And we will. We will do it. Em, I made it quite clear to our leadership that if we don't even get the first part done in this term – in this five-year term, we've four years left – like, I will leave the Labour Party. I just, I really feel that strongly about it, you know?

Q: Mmm, OK.

AF: So I have commitments that it will be done. And then we will just keep working away.

Q: Yeah, and I suppose, yeah if you can get kind of a start.

AF: A start. And the other thing too is because, a lot of people think it's elderly people who are against it, but the elderly people of say the Eighties – they're mostly dead, you know. It's the young people – like in Youth Defence – that scare me.

Q: Yeah.

AF: Totally right wing. You know, they really are scary.

Q: Mmhmm.

AF: But I think, middle ground now, at this stage now, we have a good middle ground.

Q: OK.

AF: And I think if it went before the people, it would be passed.

Q: OK. Am, and do you think . . . Like, what would happen if the expert group doesn't come back and say we have to legislate?

AF: They have to. They will come back. Now, you see, they will come back but they will come back saying something like, you know point, point, point – "this is what we are recommending the legislation on". Now, the Government can take that or leave it.

You know, they can add to it or subtract from it. I can't see them being, I suppose, brave enough to say "Ok, every woman has a right to choose" – you know, it would purely be on the terms of reference.

Q: OK yeah, because I've read, I don't know if you know, there's a Facebook page am Make Termination For Medical Reasons Available in Ireland, it's those women who were on . . . and I know that only for a very specific thing.

AF: That's right, yeah.

Q: But they met Minister Reilly and they said on the Facebook page that they were assured that the expert group was going in the right direction.

AF: Yeah . . . Minister Reilly is very supportive as well, by the way. There'd be other people in Fine Gael, and I'd say Enda Kenny would be kind of [makes hand gesture, indicating ho-hum] – but you know, Eamon said to me that he's told Enda Kenny that he has to whip his people into line.

Q: On abortion?

AF: Yep. And, you know, that we'd be united. Sinn Fein won't endorse it and I don't know what's going to happen when the vote actually comes to the Dail because a lot of their people have come out publicly and said they're against it.

Q: OK, in Sinn Fein or just generally?

AF: In Sinn Fein. In Sinn Fein. So I don't know what TDs will do, the Sinn Fein TDs, you know. The independents, it'll be half and half.

A lot of them won't vote for it, because they'll say that either it doesn't go far enough or they'll come up with some reason to oppose it for opposition sake. But I . . . You know . . . It will go through though, there'll be enough of a majority to get it through.

Q: OK, so, just because we've been . . . I've been reading, you know Choice Ireland has a blog, and it just seems – well obviously I wasn't around in the Eighties to remember . . .

AF: Yeah.

Q: But it just seems like there's been a lot of consultation and a lot of, sort of, groups and that we've been kind of down this road before, but . . .

AF: But not in government. There's been a lot of groups and a lot of meetings and a lot of lobbying and a lot of, you know?

Q: Mmm.

AF: You know, . . . and even expert groups, but outside . . . The Oireachtas has never set up an expert group.

Q: Within . . . to recommend for legislation, is it?

AF: Yeah

Q: OK . . . OK.

AF: So this is the first time that they've ye know, apart from the . . . the referendum, when was it? Was it 1992?

Q: I remember there was one when I was in primary school.

AF: About the right to travel and information . . . I mean we had to have a referendum on that . . . ye know for people to be given information. Otherwise, if you went to the Irish Family Planning Association or any of the Wellwomen clinics and were given a piece of information on abortion, they were breaking the law and you were breaking the law . . . What's the Facebook page?

Q: I think it's TFMR, it's termination for medical reasons.

AF: Okay, yea, I'll find it.

Q: It's the women we were talking about earlier . . .

AF: I know, but even so, when they were in giving their briefing am we had one of our senators, Ronan Mullen, who is just . . . he's off the wall . . . and he actually gave them a terrible time.

Q: Oh really? What did he do?

AF: Yeah . . . and you know he was just absolutely obnoxious. And they actually mentioned it, they didn't mention him by name but they mentioned a senator on The Late Late Show. You know. He's ultra right-wing Catholic, ye know . . .

Senator Mullen yesterday told the Sunday Independent: "I'd picked up a bit of a frisson of dislike from Anne, so I am not too surprised. I wasn't exactly feeling the love. But I try to say what I think. And Anne and other pro-choice people should be more open about what they expect to achieve once they get legislation for the X Case.

"I try to be courteous to everybody I encounter in politics, including the group who came in.

"Reports of my engagement with them gave rise to an apology by The Irish Times to me some months back.

"My faith isn't the driver of my pro-life position. Protection of the unborn and best medical care for mothers in pregnancy is a human rights issue for me."

Q: Are you confident that [legislation will be recommended]?

AF: It will definitely. I'm confident certainly that the first bit will pass, be done this time and then it's really keep working then . . . I mean I'll go out and drink a large bottle of champagne on the night that this referendum passes you know because I've been working so hard for so long and, but no it definitely will.

Q: I've seen online because I've been following online. . . I'm not terribly involved but would be concerned about it and there is one of the groups having a campaign to tell the expert group not to come back with legislation. And . . . like do you think they're having any influence . . . ?

AF: No they're not, no absolutely not.

Q: Is there any risk that they would come back and say 'don't legislate'?

AF: No, no because we have to. I think they're just trying to come up with what we need to legislate on and, you know, because we've been told by the European Court that we have to legislate, ye know, and so therefore we have to legislate.

So in a sense I think what James Reilly did, ye know, refers to the expert group not to distance himself but slightly to distance himself . . . rather than say his department having to come up with the wording let this expert group . . . and ye know they're fairly eminent people ye know am let them come back so it's almost . . . well these people all say we're working in the field . . . in the area . . . am ye know I think what's to do as well is to try to get as many people . . . their input and also sold on the whole issue ye know, so it won't be directed at James Reilly that [he] introduced abortion into Ireland, that kind of thing.

Q: Am, like I said, I suppose when the expert group comes out my understanding is that's just for A, B, C, and X.

AF: Yea, it's not including this. I know there is pressure.

Q: After that . . . say they recommend legislation and the legislation is passed, which you think it will be . . . after that would Labour be able to introduce . . . to expand that.

AF: Well we certainly will . . . well we will do our best but again it will be . . . we certainly keep agitating for it, but once you are in coalition again it's our policy not Fine Gael's policy. Ye know but at that stage . . .

Q: How realistic do you think it would be that there would be more legislation, because . . .

AF: I think . . . ye know, I'd say to people if we'd more Labour TDs in there than let's say Fine Gael TDs we'd get more of our policies through . . . And we will . . . but it won't happen this term.

Q: This term of government?

AF: No, but I do expect we'll be in coalition I'd say with . . .

Q: Next time around?

AF: Next time around because they're isn't an alternative ye know really. That people aren't going to vote Fianna Fail back into power again, so I would say then next term it will happen.

Q: And, is it possible for us to legislate without having to go to a referendum . . . like legislate further . . . further than let's say A,B,C?

AF: I know, it depends on the wording of what's in our Constitution.

Q: So I suppose if you get the wording right? I mean I do have empathy for those cases certainly but for my friends in college I know one or two who have gone through it . . . that wouldn't help them.

AF: Oh, not at all no, no, but I just feel that if we can get the legislation through to say that abortion will take place in Ireland for whatever reason ye know, for whatever reason it is it opens [mark] the door, that's actually a term what the anti people will be say oh, it'll open the door . . . but I think we (inaudible) I've no doubt that terminations are carried out in hospitals.

Q: Right now?

AF: Yea, for medical reasons I would say. Probably private hospitals . . . for medical reasons. And it puts say doctors, gynaecologists and medical staff under threat of . . .

Q: I never knew that.

AF: . . . and they want this legislation or legislation brought in so it's clear for them . . .

Q: Safeguards them.

AF: Exactly! Ye know, but I do think that half the battle is allowing terminations to happen legally in Ireland.

Q: So hopefully I suppose then . . . it seems like the expert group should come back and say . . . and if they don't Labour will bring in a bill . . .

AF: Oh, we will bring in our own bill . . .

Q: If they don't come back?

AF: Yes, we will bring in our own bill . . . definitely bring in our own bill, I promise you that . . . that's one thing, and I don't make promises, I never have, but I promise you this, we will, and it will be an Anne Ferris bill and a [inaudible] bill.

Well it won't be my bill but a Labour . . . but we definitely will and then let's watch what the other party in government does.

Q: What Fine Gael does?

AF: Yes, but I think they're enough of them to . . .

Q: Change in time?

AF: Absolutely.

But we will, I promise you that. I've told our Labour leader, beloved Eamon Gilmore, that ye know if they don't, if the government doesn't that the Labour Party will.


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