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'I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of special Dáil committee are anti-choice' - Smith

Solidarity-PBP says a referendum on abortion should be held before the autumn.

Ruth Coppinger, Brid Smith, Richard Boyd Barrett have called for a referendum on abortion to be held by October.
Ruth Coppinger, Brid Smith, Richard Boyd Barrett have called for a referendum on abortion to be held by October.
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

BRÍD SMITH OF Solidarity-PBP said she would not be surprised if the majority of politicians sitting on the special Oireachtas committee tasked with debating the Citizen’s Assembly’s final report are “anti-choice”.

The all-party committee of 20 members is to be established shortly and will propose legislative changes by autumn.

The final line-up of the committee is due to be announced this week. It’s understood that both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil each have five members on the panel, with politicians from both parties having differing views on the issue.

“We realise we have quite the battle on our hands,” said the Dublin South Central TD, who added that there must be no further delay in setting up the committee.

Speaking to reporters this morning, both Ruth Coppinger and Smith said they would be sitting on the committee on a rotational basis.

Coppinger admitted it will be difficult for politicians to find a consensus on the issue.

“I don’t think a consensus is possible with the likes of Mattie McGrath and others – you can’t compromise on women’s health and decision-making,” she said.

McGrath is a Tipperary TD who has said he is opposed to abortion in all circumstances. He called the recent result from the assembly “a huge disappointment”, according to RTÉ.

McGrath told TheJournal.ie that he believes the committee will not endorse the “extreme legislative agenda” proposed by the Citizens Assembly.

“I think the Assembly has given impetus to the Pro-Life campaign by giving such stark and definite shape to what a future without Constitutional protection for the unborn child and mother would look like,” he said.

Deputy Coppinger may choose to believe that the assembly’s recommendations can form the basis of consensus; I believe that they have highlighted the profoundly unrepresentative and skewed nature of the assembly itself and would not stand a chance of being accepted by the people in a referendum.
In a straight vote between retention of the Eighth Amendment and the introduction of de facto abortion on demand, the Eighth would be reaffirmed by a significant majority.

Recommendations 

The Citizens’ Assembly recommended that the Oireachtas should legislate for abortion and allow abortion without restriction in Ireland.

Voters are expected to be asked whether they support the findings of the Citizen’s Assembly findings in a referendum, and the committee is now being set up to examine how to proceed.

Smith said it is important that elected members fully respect the final report and follow through on it.

“It is important the assembly’s recommendations are not watered down,” said Smith, who stated that the Dáil is “out of kilter” and “light years behind” public opinion on the issue.

“The Oireachtas have no right whatsoever to try and dilute the outcome of the Citizen’s Assembly that they so loudly heralded as the most democratic forum for discussion. They might not like the outcome but tough, they now have to deal with it and act without delay,” she added.

A number of TDs, including some ministers, have called for a referendum to be held next year. However Solidarity-ABP have said a referendum should be held before the autumn.

Coppinger said the timing would be poignant as it would coincide with the fifth anniversary of the death of Savita Halappanavar.

Halappanavar died of blood poisoning, while she was suffering a miscarriage in Galway University Hospital in 2012.

The Dublin West TD agreed that the committee should be able to get on with its work swiftly.

She said there is no need for the committee to hear from “a plethora of experts” stating that that was what the Citizen’s Assembly was tasked with, and their report has been delivered.

The group also said they would be advocating that nothing be placed in the Constitution on “policing women’s bodies or giving rights to the unborn”.

Read: Self-employed would ‘pay more tax if they got extra benefits in return’>

Read: Taoiseach gives first response to Citizen’s Assembly vote, says committee now being set up>

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