Rabbitte trying to muzzle debate on abortion, claims Fianna Fáil
FIANNA FÁIL has strongly criticised Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, accusing him of “poisoning the atmosphere” over the abortion issue, showing disrespect for the Catholic Church and trying to “muzzle” debate.
The Pro Life Campaign also criticised Mr Rabbitte, claiming he was trying to suppress discussion and “intimidate” the church from being involved in the public arena.
Mr Rabbitte had told Sunday’s This WeekRTÉ radio programme: “I don’t have any objection to any of the churches stating its position and making it clear, but I think it would be a retrogressive step if we were to go back to the days of the Catholic Church dictating to elected public representatives how [they] should address an issue.”
With the Government’s expert group on the issue due to report soon, Fine Gael TDs Tom Barry and John O’Mahony said they would not vote for any legislation to liberalise abortion laws, joining other party colleagues taking a similar position.
The programme for government committed the Coalition to setting up an expert group to examine what action should be taken in response to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights that legislation should be introduced to give effect to the judgment of the Supreme Court in the X case. The 14-member group was set up last January and may report as early as next month.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher accused Mr Rabbitte of a disrespectful attitude to the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Seán Brady, when the cardinal indicated the clergy might canvass public representatives on abortion. “One thing that all sensible observers agree on is the need for restrained and respectful engagement with the issues,” Mr Kelleher said.
“Unfortunately, Pat Rabbitte’s contribution on Sunday’s RTÉ This Week programme, when he said the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland should not be involved in any political debate on the issue, was neither restrained nor respectful.”
He claimed Mr Rabbitte had “succeeded in poisoning the atmosphere for engagement” and was “creating conflict” before the expert report had even been finalised.
Labour Party chairman Colm Keaveney TD said while the Catholic Church was entitled to be listened to, the cardinal’s comments were “in excess" of the church’s current standing in society.