Lobby groups should be invited to abortion committee - FF member

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte says she got 1,500 anti-abortion and 86 pro-choice emails

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte said she had been “flooded” with emails about the committee’s work since last Friday.  File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte said she had been “flooded” with emails about the committee’s work since last Friday. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

Advocacy groups on the anti-abortion and pro-choice side should be invited to appear before the Oireachtas committee examining the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, a Fianna Fáil member has said.

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte said she had been “flooded” with emails about the committee’s work since last Friday, with 1,500 from the anti-abortion side and a smaller number, 86, from the pro-choice side.

“I’m not objecting to that. I know it’s a generic email in many cases, but at the same time they represent a lot of people. I do think the advocacy groups should not be excluded,” she said.

In August, committee chair Senator Catherine Noone said advocacy groups would not be invited to appear before the committee, which met in public for the first time on Wednesday and has three months to complete its work.

Ms Noone said members were conscious they should not repeat the work of the Citizens’ Assembly and should focus solely on its recommendations.

Advocacy groups

Ms Rabbitte said she had agreed with that stance at the time but now believed one day should be given to two advocacy groups from each side.

However, committee member Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats cautioned that the committee was under time pressure.

“We all committed to reading the material from the Citizens’ Assembly over the summer and then focus on the report that has come from the assembly,” Ms Murphy said.

“You could talk about this for the next year. We’ve been given three months to do this work. We want to be as productive as possible with the time available to us.”

Meanwhile, two anti-abortion members of the committee, Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Independent Senator Ronan Mullen, have claimed the committee’s witness list is imbalanced.

The pair has complained over the inclusion of representatives of organisations such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and the Guttmacher Institute, based in New York.

In March, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, chairwoman of the Citizens’ Assembly, defended the presence of representatives of the organisations at sessions of the assembly.

Among the other witnesses scheduled to appear at the committee are William Binchy, barrister and adjunct professor of law at Trinity College, Dublin, and Patricia Casey, professor of psychiatry at University College Dublin.

Separately, Mr McGrath has highlighted the resignation of a member of the audit committee of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, John S Pittock.

Zappone’s stance

Mr Pittock said he was resigning because he did not want to be associated with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone’s stance on abortion.

Ms Zappone has called for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and said women will only be equal if Article 40.3.3° was removed from Constitution.

Mr Pittock told Spirit Radio: “I just felt I didn’t want to be associated with her or her views or what she’s trying to promote in any way.”

Ms Zappone’s spokesman said the audit committee had no direct relationship with the Minister, and no function in relation to Government policy or to the views on issues that may be taken by individual Ministers.