McGrath and Mullen to ask Eighth Amendment committee to hear families’ views

Oireachtas committee to consider its proposed witness list tomorrow

Mattie McGrath.  Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Mattie McGrath. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

The Oireachtas committee examining the Eighth Amendment is to consider its proposed witness list at a meeting tomorrow.

The 21-member committee, chaired by Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, will hold a private meeting on Wednesday to discuss its work plan.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Senator Rónán Mullen have proposed six witnesses including barrister William Binchy, solicitor Caroline Simons and Liz McDermott, a member of the support group One Day More.

Mr McGrath and Mr Mullen are also proposing to hear from families, despite the committee agreeing it would ask only experts to appear before them.

In a letter to committee members, Mr McGrath and Mr Mullen say Martin and Sinead McBreen can offer their perspective on “the real experience of families”.

“Martin and Sinead’s daughter Grace has Down syndrome. When she was 16 weeks [into her] pregnancy, Sinead was told that Grace (now three-years-old) would not survive until birth, and abortion was recommended.”

If accepted, the committee would have to hear from a family on the pro-choice side of the debate and may delay its final report.

The Independent members of the committee also propose to invite Dr Marty McCaffrey, professor of paediatrics in neonatal-perinatal medicine at University of North Carolina, and Prof Monique V Chireau from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina.

Advocacy groups on the anti-abortion or pro-choice side will not be invited to appear before the committee.

Instead, the public hearings will focus on the evidence of experts and their first witness on September 20th will be chairwoman of the Citizens’ Assembly Ms Justice Mary Laffoy.

The Programme for Partnership Government mandates the committee to examine the recommendations of the citizens’ assembly and make its own proposals within three months.

The assembly, chaired by Ms Justice Laffoy, voted in favour of abortion in a wide range of circumstances.

The committee will consider each individual recommendation of the assembly and the constitutional implications of their proposals before voting on whether to accept them.

It will then hear evidence from experts selected by the committee members in respect of retaining, repealing, or replacing article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

The committee will then be asked to assess the reasons for which termination of pregnancy should be lawful in Ireland, as well as any gestational limits that should apply.