SENATOR RÓNÁN MULLEN says claims he was smirking during a meeting of TDs and Senators with women sharing their experiences of abortion outside of Ireland were “designed to portray me unsympathetically.”
He was speaking after the husband of one of the women who addressed the meeting accused him of smirking during the meeting at Leinster House last week in advance of the defeated Private Members’ Bill which would have legalised abortion in instances where the life of a mother is at risk.
Speaking on Newstalk’s Lunchtime programme, the independent senator said that during the meeting between Oireachtas members and the three women who had undergone abortions because of serious foetal disabilities he had expressed a view that abortion was not the the “best response in that situation”.
He then claimed that James Burke – who he did not know at the time – said “something like: ‘I could debate with you more easily if you weren’t smirking all the time’”.
“I began to feel really uncomfortable that it was kind of a comment designed to portray me unsympathetically,” Mullen said before speculating that the comments from Burke may have been defamatory.
Anybody that knows my views on abortion would know how distressing I find the whole topic and anybody who would have heard how I addressed the persons in that room would know…. I mean to be honest with you I am wondering if it is defamatory to suggest…
Mullen said that the atmosphere then became uncomfortable as many of the TDs and senators in the room could not offer the three women the response that they were looking for in terms of legislation.
He described the comments about his alleged smirking as not appropriate, adding: “A person is entitled to their physiognomy and to their facial expression but I actually felt in that moment that it was kind of a comment that seemed to be targeted at me.”
During the course of the interview with Newstalk’s Jonathan Healy, it was put to the senator that Burke had claimed that Mullen on two occasions had asked him (Burke) had he a bigger agenda. Mullen said “that was not the case”.
He also said he did not say “well played” as Burke had claimed and that during the course of his interaction with James and his wife the body language was “very hostile”.
Mullen reiterated his opposition to abortion in any circumstances, outlining his view that there were alternatives even in circumstances where the baby had no chance of life outside the womb.
He that he was not going to be “pushed out of the debate” because his view represented that of many men and women who had been in contact with him.
Mullen also said that the media needs to do more to bring out the views of children whose parents believe they should be allowed to live out their lives even in circumstances where they are not expected to survive.
He added that the abuse he received on social media over the course of the weekend “doesn’t bother me personally”.
“In many ways it might be a backhanded compliment that I might sometimes be effective in communicating a particular point of view,” he added.