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Mattie McGrath and Ronan Mullen say they're ridiculed and 'sneered at' on abortion committee

The two independent politicians say they’re considering leaving the panel.

1754 Anti Abortion Campaign_90526414 Ronan Mullen speaks outside the Dáil about his further participation in the Eighth Amendment Committee. Leah Farrell Leah Farrell

TWO INDEPENDENT MEMBERS of the Oireachtas have announced they are “actively considering” pulling out of the committee on the Eighth Amendment, telling reporters that they’re ridiculed and “sneered at” when they speak at the panel.

TD Mattie McGrath and Ronan Mullen, a senator, released a joint statement on their position earlier this afternoon and later hosted a press event outside Leinster House.

The committee is in session this afternoon, and members of the cross-party panel have been hearing from the Irish College of General Practitioners and the HSE.

In their statement today, the two Oireachtas members claimed that over 20 groups “pushing for abortion” had been invited to the committee “while only a handful of pro-life people have been invited”.

“There’s no escaping that this process is entirely skewed and unfair,” the statement said.

“From the get-go, we engaged with this process in a constructive manner and have worked hard to achieve fairness in what is sometimes a very unfriendly atmosphere. Given the way things have developed, it is our honest view that the credibility of the Committee cannot be restored owing to how entirely slanted the process has become.

We are now actively considering whether there’s any point in our remaining on as members.

12/10/2017 Anti Abortion Protests Issues Members of the Pro Life Campaign protesting outside the Dáil before the McGrath and Mullen's speech. Leah Farrell Leah Farrell

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Mullen condemned the balance of the committee, claiming that abortion advocates have been invited to speak instead of impartial experts.

He criticised the fact that there is “over 20 pro-abortion voices and just three or four pro-life voices” on the committee.

The consensus of the committee minus a few members is that there is no need to have balance and that is why we have 20 invited groups and witnesses who are not the impartial experts we were supposed to be getting, but who are in fact abortion advocates.

One of the 20 groups invited includes the Centre for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organisation that seeks to advance reproductive rights.

“It takes things to a whole new level and it highlights the farce that this has become,” Mullen said.

During yesterday’s session of the committee, Mullen lashed out at Chair of the Committee Senator Catherine Noone, claiming that he had not been given enough time to answer his questions.

With a similar message to that of today’s, Mullen said there is was an “imbalance” between “both the views of members and those invited” before the committee.

“I don’t want to get into an argument about that with our guests present, we are trying to make the best of the time we have,” Noone said in response to the senator.

Yet to decide 

Outside Leinster House today, both Mullen and McGrath insisted they were still considering their positions on the committee.

Mullen described the panel’s approach to balance as a “sham” and “a farce”. McGrath said the two politicians were ridiculed and “sneered at” during committee meetings.

“You would have thought that given the Eighth Amendment – a matter of human rights that respects the lives of unborn as well as their parents – that all committee members and, indeed, the chair and secretary of the committee would have seen it as their duty to ensure balance, but there is no real balance,” Mullen told reporters.

He said that, at this stage, it is “really up to the committee to decide whether there is a problem here that we have exposed” and decide “whether they are really interested in fairness and whether they are interested in spinning in favour of abortion”.

The Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment, which has 22 members, is deliberating on the next steps for Ireland’s abortion laws following the recommendations made by the Citizens’ Assembly.

It is hearing from a cross-section of experts on the legal and medical arguments around abortion, and will later deliver a report to the Oireachtas on its recommendations.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that the referendum on the Eighth Amendment will be held in May or June next year.

- With reporting by Hayley Halpin 

Read: ‘These are the cases that keep us up at night’ – GPs tell politicians about crisis pregnancy

More: Dublin maternity hospital chief says Irish abortion patient died while flying home after termination

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