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John Whelan said not allow Ivana Bacik to speak on his behalf or to be "branded as pro-abortion". Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Labour councillor demands internal investigation into Senator's Savita case comments

Clontarf councillor Jane Horgan-Jones has called for an internal investigation into comments made by John Whelan.

Updated Friday, 16 November, 16.01

A LABOUR COUNCILLOR has called for a full internal party investigation into comments made by a party member in relation to the death of Savita Halappanavar.

Jane Horgan-Jones, who represents Clontarf on Dublin City Council, is seeking an investigation into the comments of John Whelan who last night criticised the party’s Seanad leader, Ivana Bacik, for her comments on Savita’s death.

Bacik had called for legislation to allow abortion under the circumstances of the Supreme Court ruling in the X Case in 1992 – prompting furious comments from Whelan.

The Portlaoise-based Senator, who joined the party shortly before last year’s general election, told TV3 he resented “the attempts by people to exploit tragedies like this for their own political purposes, and their own political agenda, on both sides of the argument as if the only two kinds of people in this country are so-called pro-life or so called pro-choice”.

“I’m pro-life, I’m pro-woman, I’m pro-women’s health but I will not be characterised or branded as pro-abortion,” he said, “and I certainly will not have Ivana Bacik or anyone else speaking on my behalf in this regard, in this fashion, and she’s certainly not representing the Labour Party.”

Whelan had spoken in the Seanad earlier regarding the death of Savita Halappanavar, and there described the situation that had arisen as a result of the case as being of “a very complex and delicate nature”. (See full transcript below).

Horgan-Jones this afternoon said she would be using the party’s internal complaints mechanism to formally complain about Whelan’s comments, which she claimed went against the party’s own policy.

“Senator Bacik is the leader of the Labour Party in the Seanad and, let me assure you, when she calls for legislation for X she does speak for the Party and with far more authority on the topic than you have,” she wrote in a letter to Whelan.

While acknowledging that Labour was in a coalition government and could not enforce all of its own policies, Labour policy had “been clear for some time and that is that legislation for X is the only way forward”.

“I feel that Senator Whelan should reconsider making statements that deviate from stated party policy in future, or perhaps seek to realign his party allegiance before the next Seanad election,” Horgan-Jones said, calling on Labour TDs and Senators to “discharge the heavy responsibility” they had to “fix this mess immediately”.

Update: John Whelan contacted on Friday to say: “I at no stage in the Senate or in the TV3 interview opposed the Government policy of addressing as appropriate the legal limbo and lack of legal clarity which currently arises subsequent to the supreme Court X case ruling of 20 years ago. I will of course be supporting such measures when the Minister for Health comes forward with proposals agreed by Cabinet in the near future.”

He spoke in the Seanad on Thursday in relation to the death of Savita Halappanavar.

This is the transcript of what he said in the chamber:

I am nervous and reluctant, because I agree with sentiments expressed earlier, to speak about the complex and delicate nature of the case that has arisen in Galway and the implications of that. I commend Senator Heffernan on the sensible and sensitive tone he set calling for a more compassionate and reasoned discourse on these issues and I also commend Senator Reilly.
This was a terrible tragedy and it will be compounded if people try to exploit it to pursue their own selfish political agendas. I sometimes despair coming to the House for the Order of Business because it seems some Members have nothing else on their mind only abortion and nothing would suit them better – and they are on both sides of the House – to push this issue towards another divisive referendum. That would be appalling.

(An Cathaoirleach: We are not discussing this issue today. Has the Senator a question for the Leader?)

My heart goes out the poor family in Galway and to the obstetricians, gynaecologists and midwives who have to make life or death decisions in a matter of seconds in stressful circumstances. It is important we take seriously our responsibilities as legislators. It is clear the medical profession requires legal clarity on this complex issue, for which one would have to have the wisdom of Solomon to divine. It is important the Minister for Health discloses at the earliest opportunity the recommendations of the expert group in order that, as legislators, we can take our responsibilities to ensure no mother dies in child birth in these circumstances ever again.

You can see his full speech here:

via IrishLabourParty/Youtube

Read: Gilmore: We need to bring legal clarity to abortion issue

More: Savita tragedy continues to attract international attention

Poll: Should Ireland legislate on the X Case ruling?

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