The abortion debate

Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 00:06

Sir, – When the time comes for the Oireachtas to vote on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013, I trust that all the newspapers in the country will publish a list of how each TD and Senator voted, including abstentions and absentees. – Yours, etc,


Beechwood Park,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – In Stephen Collins’s article (Opinion, June 15th) he contrasts the Taoiseach with his predecessor, John A Costello, in the context of their reactions to criticism by the Catholic church to family legislation.

Mr Collins states Costello “famously said” to the Dáil on April 12th 1951 that “I am an Irishman second, I am a Catholic first, and I accept without qualification in all respects the teaching of the hierarchy and the church to which I belong”. Costello never uttered those words to the Dáil, they were spoken by the Labour TD, Brendan Corish (later leader of the Labour Party and tánaiste) on April 29th, 1953 during a Dáil debate about Nato. A simple online search of the Dáil reports confirms this. The quotation was originally and correctly ascribed to Corish by the historian John A Murphy, in a book of essays published in 1979 entitled Ireland 1945-70, edited by JJ Lee. Unfortunately Prof Ronan Fanning quoted the passage from Murphy’s essay in his 1983 book, Independent Ireland: the first fifty years, but incorrectly attributed the statement to Costello.

Over the past 30 years several historians and political scientists, with the notable exception of Costello’s two biographers David McCullagh and Anthony J Jordan, have repeated the error with the result that Costello has achieved, in some quarters, a thoroughly undeserved infamy. – Yours, etc,


Millbrook Court,

Milltown Road, Dublin 6.