SINN FÉIN IS not a pro-abortion party, Martin McGuinness has said today.
He was speaking to press during the party’s Ard Fheis, which attracted anti-abortion protesters outside the Royal Hotel and Theatre in Castlebar, Co Mayo.
Speaking to Clare Byrne on RTÉ Radio, McGuinness said: “We are an anti-abortion party but we are also a party that recognises where there is a great risk to the life of the mother”.
He said that could not be more evident than in the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway University Hospital last year. He said that the “polls on this issue clearly show that the people of Ireland recognise that where there is a grave risk to the life of the mother, something needs to be done, some legislation needs to be enacted”.
We are not a pro-abortion party and to suggest that is to totally and absolutely misrepresent the position
McGuinness added that he respects the rights of anybody to protest but some of the people who are protesting, work on the basis that where there is a risk to the life of the mother, that the life of the child should predominate.
I think that’s wrong, I can’t agree with that. And quite clearly there are circumstances where the lives of women are at grave risk and we have not got the legislation in place which can protect those women in those circumstances.
So I have a different view but I respect their view.
Asked would he support a free vote in the party on voting on the issue, he said the party has consistently taken a position that wherever a party policy is decided, it is incumbent on all members of the party to abide by the party decision.
He said that members of the party are able to express their own individual feelings on the issue, but “there is a responsibility on people whenever motions are passed at the Ard Fheis and particularly motions that the party feels is very important in terms of enacting legislation to save women’s lives who are at risk”.
I think it’s very very important that we have a discipline within the party and that we have members that are going to vote on the party position.
Today is the second day of the Ard Fheis, which is being attended by up to 2,000 grassroots members. Issues to be debated include the country’s abortion laws, the possibility of an all-Ireland football team and the economy, with 250 motions being debated overall.