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Peadar Tóibín: 'One child’s life is more important than my job, and every TD's job'

The Sinn Féin TD said he will oppose such proposals in the Dáil.

Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín
Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated 4.55pm

SINN FÉIN TD Peadar Tóibín has said that the government’s 12 weeks abortion proposal “is still a contested issue”.

And speaking to TheJournal.ie‘s Christina Finn before the referendum result was announced, he said the regrets any difficulties he has caused – and that it’s not the end of the world if he loses his job.

“I am a committed Shinner. I have been 20 years in the party and I want to be another 20 years in the party,” he said.

Listen, I regret any difficulty I have created for the party on this issue. I know some party members are obviously unhappy with the fact I have articulated a strong view on this but for me if there just one child under threat, nevermind thousands over generations, if there is one child I would have no choice but to grab with both hands the chance to save that child’s life.

He continued: “People have said to me, ‘well what if you lose your job over this’, and I said, it is not the end of the world if I lose my job, but if abortion comes in for the child, it is the end of the world. One child’s life is more important than my job, and every TD’s job.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, Tóibín refused to clearly state which way he would vote on upcoming legislation giving effect to last week’s referendum.

The Meath West TD’s position on abortion has put him at odds with his party leader Mary Lou McDonald, who last said last night that she would “square that circle” about the issue.

In his first interview since the Eighth Amendment was repealed by a landslide vote, Tóibín said that although he respected the result, RTÉ’s exit poll showed that people are conflicted about the 12 weeks proposal.

Tóibín said he won’t “prevent” legislation for terminations in cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormality, but said the 12 weeks proposal is different and he would oppose it.

The legislation will all be contained in the same Bill, however.

“There’s a large majority that have voted for the repeal of the Eighth and that is the democratic will of the Irish people and people from both sides must respect that,” Tóibín said.

My views are clear, I oppose abortion, I believe that everyone should be protected. But right now there is a democratic desire in the State for the Oireachtas to decide what kind of abortion legislation is developed in the future.

“I think it’s easier to extrapolate with the benefit of the RTÉ exit poll which broke down the reasons why people stated they were going to vote Yes. I think the vast majority probably want to see abortion made available in the cases of life-limiting conditions or fatal foetal abnormalities and in the case of rape and incest.”

And I suppose the realpolitik dictates that that desire has to be respected. And it’s my objective to make sure that I don’t prevent legislation coming in which actually allows for that.

“I don’t agree with the abortion on demand for 12 weeks and I very strongly hold that view. And the RTÉ exit poll stated that roughly 50% of the population who actually voted actually don’t agree with abortion on demand up until 12 weeks as well, and I would oppose that particular element of the legislation.”

In the RTÉ exit poll Tóibín refers to, 52% of voters were in favour of abortion being available on request up to 12 weeks.

Tóibín said he felt the No campaign perhaps did not focus enough on the 12 weeks proposal but he adds that it’s still a live question.

“That issue is still a contested issue and anybody who doesn’t admit that is not reflecting the views of the Irish public that were stated in the exit poll,” he said.

PastedImage-68235 Source: RTÉ Poll

Sinn Féin’s current policy, as per its last Ard Fheis, is that the party supports terminations in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.

The party will hold a special Ard Fheis next month at which leader Mary Lou McDonald will be among those seeking a change to allow deputies support the government’s 12 weeks proposal.

Tóibín said today that he would “campaign strongly” against this change.

“I wouldn’t be presumptuous at all about the result of the Ard Fheis, if we were to be presumptuous around it, there’d be no point in having that Ard Fheis,” he said.

Asked if the proposal was passed by the Ard Fheis would he support the 12 weeks proposal in the Dáil, Tóibín refused to answer.

“It would be foolish of any TD currently in the Dáil to guarantee a vote on legislation they haven’t seen. Because there is radical differences in how legislation can be worded,” he said.

It is understood that the Sinn Féin leadership does not expect Tóibín to dissent from his views but McDonald said last night that members must toe the party line.

“We will have a unified, decided position on the legislation. People are grown ups and they have to meet their responsibilities,” she told Claire Byrne Live.

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Rónán Duffy

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