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Toibín dismisses talk of SF rift after defeat on abortion 'free vote' motion

Peadar Toibín says he is “determined” to ensure that he is on the same page as Sinn Féin when the Dáil votes on abortion laws.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

SINN FÉIN TD Peadar Toibín has dismissed speculation that he could be forced to quit the party, after the defeat of a motion at the party Árd Fheis which would have offered a free vote on proposed abortion laws.

Meath West TD Toibín spoke in favour of the motion, which was tabled by five party branches including his own, at the Árd Fheis in Castlebar.

The motion would have allowed all Sinn Féin members “to articulate and vote on the issue of abortion according to their conscience”, but was defeated.

Toibín abstained in the Dáil vote on Clare Daly’s abortion bill last November – absenting himself from the vote which would have legalised abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk – and was deemed to have broken the party whip, after his Sinn Féin colleagues voted in favour of the bill.

As a result, Toibín was stripped of his €9,500-a-year position as Chairman of the Oireachtas committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions – a new committee whose chairmanship is being offered to an opposition party – but remained within the Sinn Féin fold.

The defeat of the ‘free vote’ motion at the Árd Fheis, however, raises the prospect of Toibín again clashing with the party position when the Department of Health legislation in line with the X Case is presented later this year.

This morning, however, Toibín said his commitment to Sinn Féin was “100 per cent” and that his determination was “to do everything possible” to ensure that the legislation presented was something both he and his party could support.

“The heads of bill [the first draft of the legislation] haven’t been developed as of yet,” he told TheJournal.ie today. “I haven’t seen them so no individual can indicate what way they’re going to vote until the heads of bill are actually published, and even then there is a long way to go.”

He said it was the opinion of everybody within the party that “every mother – no ifs, no buts, no exceptions – should have every medical procedure necessary afforded to her to survive”, and that nobody wanted doctors to be confused about the legality of possible treatments.

“There’s a lot that unites everybody in the party,” he said, saying he was “with every single cell of my body, an Irish republican,” and arguing that Sinn Fein was “the only vehicle available to achieve those objectives”.

He added that Sinn Féin was “very open” about allowing members to air their opinions.

Read: Second minister appears to reject calls for ‘sunset clause’ in abortion law

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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