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Eighth Amendment Committee to publicly discuss allegations of bias this afternoon

Two members of the committee have accused the proceedings of being biased.

Senator Ronan Mullen and Independent TD Mattie McGrath hold protest against bias outside Leinster House
Senator Ronan Mullen and Independent TD Mattie McGrath hold protest against bias outside Leinster House
Image: Leah Farrell via Rolling News

THE OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE on the Eighth Amendment will hold a public meeting today to discuss allegations of bias made against the committee.

The committee is tasked with weighing up the arguments for and against the retention of the Eighth Amendment.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy called for the meeting after two members of the committee accused the proceedings of being biased.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Murphy said that she understood the meeting is to be held in public, and not in private as has been reported.

Committee chairperson Senator Catherine Noone also confirmed in a tweet that a short debate on the question of bias within the committee will be held in a public session at 1.30pm this afternoon.

The meeting will address the issue of impartiality within the committee and the work being done to ensure balance within the witness list.

Murphy explained that she called for today’s meeting because accusations are being made about witness bias, which she said does not exist.

“There’s very inaccurate information being put out there,” Murphy said.

“We have people who are professionals in the field, for example, the head of the National Maternity Hospital and the Rotunda, people who have written special reports… all being put into a particular camp.

This isn’t the case. Many people are coming along giving information that could be put into the neutral camp.

“We need to address the issue because we need to address the narrative [of the committee].”

In today’s public hearing, the committee will discuss the international legalities and services with Dr Patricia Lohr, medical director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

In the second half of the hearing, the committee will consider termination in cases of foetal abnormality with Liz McDermott from the support group One Day More.

Accusations of bias

Over the past number of weeks, committee members Senator Rónán Mullen and Independent TD Mattie McGrath have repeatedly accused the committee of having a pro-choice bias. They have said over 20 groups “pushing for abortion” have been invited to attend the committee’s hearings “while only a handful of pro-life people have been invited“.

On 25 October, McGrath stormed out of the committee hearing, after he called it a “charade” and its chair, Noone, “biased”.

Before he left, McGrath also hit out at the committee chairperson Noone, accusing her of being biased and failing to keep control. Other committee members quickly defended her, the witness O’Keane included.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

During last week’s hearing on 15 November, Mullen said he understood why pro-life groups don’t want to come before the committee, accusing it and Noone of being biased.

Noone hit back and criticised his “constant attack” on her role as chair and requested he be reasonable. She has denied any bias within the committee.

Read: Mattie McGrath storms out of ‘biased’ Eighth Amendment Committee

More: As it happened: ‘Women from all walks of life and from every county in Ireland travel for abortion’

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