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Fine Gael politicians are VERY divided on the 8th Amendment*

*But most of them would prefer to say nothing.

FINE GAEL TDS and Senators are split on whether the party should campaign for the repeal of the 8th Amendent, according to TheJournal.ie‘s survey.

However, most members of its parliamentary party remained silent on the issue when asked repeatedly this week if they would personally favour repealing the controversial pro-life amendment to the Contitution.

Just 32% or 27 out of 85 members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party participated in our survey, indicating many are uncomfortable dealing with the question.

did not respond fg.gif

Privately, some TDs and Senators said their reluctance to give a response stemmed from the divisiveness caused by the debate on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill two years ago.

Seven Oireachtas members were expelled from the party in July 2013 over their decision to oppose legislation for the Supreme Court ruling in the X Case.

Fine Gael’s official position is that it does not have a position on whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment. It will be addressed at some stage in the coming months ahead of the publication of the party’s general election manifesto.

Of those Fine Gael TDs and Senators who did respond to our survey, 9 said they are in favour of repeal, 8 are against, 2 said they didn’t know and 8 gave another answer.

fg response

The responses indicate an interesting divide when it comes to gender and geography.

Among those who back repeal are female Dublin-based TDs and Senators including Olivia Mitchell (Dublin South), Mary Mitchell-O’Connor (Dún Laoghaire) and Catherine Noone (Dublin West).

Former justice minister Alan Shatter, who has already called for its repeal, told TheJournal.ie:

It is a terrible cruelty that a woman cannot, in this State, terminate a pregnancy where there is a fatal foetal abnormality or where she is a victim of rape or incest. I voted against the 8th Amendmnent in the Dáil in 1983.

Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer, who chairs the Oireachtas health committee, has previously told TheJournal.ie that he favours repeal.

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

However, those based outside the capital, including Paul Coghlan (Kerry), Paudie Coffey (Waterford), Ciarán Cannon (Galway East), and James Bannon (Longford-Westmeath), said they were not in favour of repeal.

Many also insisted the issue was not as simple as ‘yes or no’.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has described Ireland’s abortion laws as “too restrictive” but told us:

Repealing the amendment, however, would remove all constitutional protection for the unborn and I do not believe most Irish people support that. It may be necessary to modify or replace the amendment but that will require a public discussion and careful consideration to come up with the appropriate wording.

leo Leo Varadkar Source: TheJournal.ie

David Stanton, a TD based in Cork East, told us:

It’s too complex an issue for a Yes or No answer. If we repeal it, what do we replace it with? At this stage, we need a serious debate on it, and we haven’t had that yet.

Another Cork-based TD, Noel Harrington, said he was not currently in favour of repeal, saying:

Any proposal to repeal a constitutional change made by a referendum of the people cannot just be a yes or no answer. This will be a hugely emotive debate. So, not at this stage.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach Enda Kenny articulated the party’s current position, saying: “The Government has made clear that there will be no further referendums during the remainder of this term.

Each party will be bringing forward their own proposals ahead of the next general election. The Fine Gael party has yet to do so.

The decision to legislate for the X Case caused huge unrest in Fine Gael two years ago.

At one point it was thought that as many as 20 TDs and Senators would end up voting against the government.

Many within the party felt it was reneging on a pre-election promise to NOT legislate for the controversial Supreme Court ruling which gives a woman the right to an abortion in circumstances where there is a threat to her life, including suicide.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted that the government was clarifying existing case law. In the end five TDs, including Lucinda Creighton, and two senators defied the party in opposing the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.

They were subsequently expelled from the parliamentary party with most quitting Fine Gael altogether. Creighton has since founded Renua Ireland along with her husband, Senator Paul Bradford, and fellow TDs Billy Timmins and Terence Flanagan.

Read: Most politicians want to repeal the 8th Amendment – just don’t ask Fine Gael

Read all TheJournal.ie’s 8th Amendment survey stories > 

 

 

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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