Pro-life TDs quit Eighth Amendment committee in protest

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Irish Examiner Political Correspondent

The Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment has formally signed off on its landmark recommendations to repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, despite three members quitting the group and confirming that they will publish their own unofficial report next week.

The 18 remaining members of the committee agreed to a 14-page report detailing Wednesday’s historic votes during an hour-long private meeting of the group yesterday.

After three months of public hearings, the committee on Wednesday voted to recommend the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and its removal from the Constitution.

It also recommended new legislation allowing for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, the decriminalisation of abortion for women and licensed medics who provide it, and abortion in cases of rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormalities.

In addition, it recommended that abortions should also be allowed when there is a risk to the life and physical and mental health of the woman.

Independent senator Rónán Mullen and Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

Speaking during a short public meeting to confirm the recommendations have now been agreed by the committee and will be published by the Oireachtas next Wednesday, Fine Gael senator and committee chair Catherine Noone said: “The amendments that we have made are to reflect the votes we took and the evidence we heard overall. It has been a very, very challenging experience.

“I personally found it challenging. We’re handing over to the Oireachtas along with our colleagues in facilitating a vote of the Irish people who will ultimately be the decision-makers on this. And that’s very important to clarify.”

While she was given a round of applause by the 17 other remaining committee members, the view was contradicted by three pro-life members, who yesterday quit in protest at the committee’s recommendations and announced plans to publish an unofficial minority report next week.

In a joint statement yesterday afternoon, Independent senator Rónán Mullen, Independent TD Mattie McGrath, and Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick said they will not put their names to the official report.

While all three took part in Wednesday’s votes — a move which means their concerns will be formally recognised in the official report — they said they will not sign off on the document as it is biased and does not represent their views.

“As members of the committee, we have attempted at all times to seek a fair and thorough analysis of issues pertaining to the Citizens’ Assembly report and recommendations on the Eighth Amendment,” they said in a joint statement.

“Despite our efforts, and our reservations expressed from the outset, the committee failed to do its job.

“The systemic imbalance in the functioning of the committee precluded any fair assessment of the issues. An unacceptably flawed process has led inevitably to cruel and unjust recommendations.

“We believe yesterday’s votes represented a tragic denial of the human rights of unborn children. We think the votes reflect badly on the committee and on those who voted to recommend stripping unborn children of legal protection.

“We will not associate ourselves with any report basing itself on such an unacceptably discriminatory and exclusivist view of human rights and human dignity as these votes represent.

“No process and no report has the right to recommend the denial of anybody else’s human rights.”

Mr Mullen, Mr McGrath, and Mr Fitzpatrick are due to draw up and publish their own findings and recommendations in an unofficial report next week.

While it will be made publicly available, it will not be sent to the Dáil and Seanad like the official report from the committee — in a similar manner to former Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins’ minority report on the banking inquiry.

This article first appeared in today's Irish Examiner.


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