Michelle Mulherin was one of four Fine Gael TDs to be elected from the five-seater Mayo constituency last year.

Mulherin: 'We need a discussion around who, in this day and age, is having unprotected sex'

The Fine Gael TD at the centre of the ‘fornication’ remarks defends her comments, saying: “It’s not a word I invented.”

THE FINE GAEL TD behind this afternoon’s controversial remarks that fornication is a leading cause of unwanted pregnancy has defended her remarks, saying: “It’s not a word I invented.”

Mayo deputy Michelle Mulherin’s Dáil remarks – that fornication was “probably the single most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies in this country” – caught the attention of many during today’s debates on legislation which would have permitted abortion under certain circumstances.

“The word fornication basically refers to consensual sex between adults outside of marriage,” Mulherin told Today FM’s Last Word with Matt Cooper, before explaining that she had sought to introduce a religious aspect to the discussion to try and broaden the debate.

“We need to have debates to move things along, or to effect change, or to arrive at a point where we can be comfortable in a society in relation to things that we legislate upon which have a moral element to them,” she said.

We look to the issue of abortion and in most cases – now, I don’t have statistics because there aren’t statistics, and we know approximately that 4,500 women feel they need to go to the UK to have abortions – but assuming in a lot of cases, and just I suppose from anecdotal stories and so on, evidence… we know people are having casual sex and that therefore pregnancies arise that weren’t planned and that aren’t wanted.

…We need as individuals to have a discussion around who in this day and age is having unprotected sex, with AIDS, with sexually transmitted diseases – in fact, in those sorts of scenarios, pregnancy is a welcome outcome compared to all that can happen to an individual.

Mulherin said the wellbeing of women, and “taking responsibility in these areas”, was “an elephant in the room”.

“What I have to say, is in the context of a bigger debate that needs to be happening. That was only an element of what I said.”

She went on:

Take religion out of it, okay? Is there a point at which, from the point of view of practical living, the mental health and wellbeing of people, that the ought not practice safe sex? That perhaps in some instances people should be abstaining from casual sexual intercourse?

Forget about the word: this is about opening a debate about modern responsible living in Ireland, us being responsible people for ourselves.

The first-term Fine Gael TD said it appeared that the current opinion of Irish society on topics like abortion was the result of having had morality “shoved down our throats” for a considerable period.

“The flip [side] to getting rid of religiosity isn’t promiscuity, but an awful lot of people’s attitudes to sexuality are actually very primitive, and basic, and very in the shadows,” she said.

So if people are being driven in a certain direction, and you say, towards sexual intercourse, towards pleasure, towards whatever it is… is there something darker here? Is there something harmful that is happening to some people here, because they’re not practising safe sex, because they’re not abstaining? Perhaps, in some instances, people are having sex too young?

Why can’t we talk about that, and why does it have to sound nerdy, or particularly religious?

Mulherin added that she did not believe she was required to “jettison everything that I believe in” after being elected to the Dáil. “I’m not schizophrenic,” she said. “We are holistic beings, and that includes taking in that aspect of ourselves.”

Mulherin was the fourth Fine Gael TD to be elected from the five-seater Mayo constituency in last year’s general election.

The abortion legislation was defeated in the Dáil by 111 votes to 20.

Audio: Michelle Mulherin speaks to Matt Cooper on Today FM

Read: TD: ‘Fornication most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies’

More: Dáil rejects proposals to allow limited abortion in Ireland

Poll: 75 per cent of Irish GPs “in favour of limited abortion”

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