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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Change of heart

'We should remove the Eighth Amendment' - Micheál Martin has changed his mind

Micheál Martin became the first of the two largest parties’ leaders to endorse the removal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. / YouTube

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has said that he believes the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution needs to be removed.

Martin said he had arrived at the decision after a “long period of reflection” and for many different reasons.

His endorsement of the removal of The Eighth makes him the first of the two largest parties’ leaders to officially signify their intentions. In contrast, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s current position is that he will reveal his own approach to the Eighth at the end of this month.

Speaking in Dáil Éireann this afternoon, Martin said that “if we are sincere then we must act”.

“Because the Eighth Amendment has been shown to cause real damage to Irishwomen,” he began.

Because it has caused real harm to the quality of care available to pregnant women at critical moments; because it has not and cannot change the reality that abortion is a present and permanent part of Irish life, because it seeks to force women to carry a pregnancy to term when they have been the victim of a rape or incest or when they have received the diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality, because it requires that pregnant women and doctors are faced with criminal sanctions.

“And because it prevents us from responding in a humane way in order to help women in the most traumatic situations.”

Because of these reasons and following a long period of reflection and assessment of evidence before the Oireachtas Committee, I believe that we should remove the Eighth amendment from Bunreacht na hÉireann and I will vote accordingly.

He added that he believes the Eighth will in all likelihood need to be replaced, rather than a straight repeal.

“Before deciding on this I would like to see the legal advice which the government says is being prepared,” he said.

However, I feel it is likely that we may need to agree a replacement which gives certainty to the Oireachtas’ right to legislate.  This need not be a complex provision, but it may be the only way to prevent significant unintended consequences in  future court cases which are inevitable.

Earlier in his speech, Martin said that “abortion is not an issue where a unanimous opinion is possible”.

He stressed  that his current opinion is a departure from the fact that “over the years I have been on the record as being against a significant change in our abortion laws”.

He made clear however, that he had decided on his approach by reading the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth’s “report, the transcripts of its hearings and written submissions”.

He added: “Most importantly I have sought to listen to the diverse contributions of women.”

“Women known to the public only by a single letter of the alphabet have exposed the cruel inflexibility and unintended consequences of the Eighth Amendment,” he said, in referral to the women involved in the A, B, C, and X cases.

He said that the testimony of obstetrics professionals “has had a deep impact on me”.

“If we are sincere in our compassion for women and if we are sincere in respecting their choices then we must act.”

As has already been said in earlier contributions, in an increasing number of cases abortions are happening here.  The availability of pills which can cause an abortion in the first 70 days of a pregnancy is widespread and growing.  This is not going to change.

“So it is untrue to say that the issue before us is whether there will be abortion in Ireland or not.”

The Eighth Amendment does not mean that Ireland is a country without abortion. Retaining the Eighth Amendment will not make Ireland a country without abortion. Nothing we say or do here could make Ireland a country without abortion.

Read: Shane Ross accidentally voted against his own drink-driving bill in the Dáil today

Read: Ward of court system is ‘inadequate, archaic and has no place in the 21st Century’

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