Call for care in language on abortion debate


The chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children has urged participants in the abortion debate to be “careful in the language they use”.

Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer (Cork South Central) was speaking ahead of hearings from January 8th-10th. This follows the Government decision to address the issues raised in the ABC judgment by the European Court of Human Rights.

The purpose of the meetings, according to a Government statement, is “to gather information which will be of assistance to Government in the drafting of the Heads of Bill following its decision”.

“I would appeal to all sides to be respectful and tolerant of each other’s views,” Mr Buttimer said. “It is very important also that, as members of the Oireachtas on the committee, we listen and elicit information rather than making statements or preaching and that we are measured in our language and approach.

‘Very complex’

“It is a very complex and sensitive issue and in the national debate people should be careful in the language they use.”

Clare TD Michael McNamara (Labour) said the legal and constitutional position had been misrepresented in the Christmas Day message from the Catholic primate, Cardinal Seán Brady.

“That constitutional position was set out clearly by Mr Justice [Niall] McCarthy in the Supreme Court in the X case, as follows: ‘The right of the girl here is a right to a life in being; the right of the unborn is to a life contingent, contingent on survival in the womb until successful delivery.

‘Right to life’

‘It is not a question of setting one above the other but rather of vindicating, as far as practicable, the right to life of the girl/mother, whilst with due regard to the equal right to life of the girl/mother, vindicating, as far as practicable, the right to life of the unborn’.”

Mr McNamara also noted that Minister for Justice Alan Shatter had said in the Dáil abortion on demand was not being considered “in any shape or form” as is alleged by some, “yet it appears Cardinal Brady ignored that and chooses to ignore the constitutional position and resultant proposed legislation”.

He said: “While I would agree with the cardinal’s criticisms of the budget, it is worth bearing in mind that 10 years after promising to give the State assets to assist with the cost of redress and support for victims of physical and sexual abuse in religious-run institutions, religious orders had yet to transfer about a fifth of the assets they promised and these assets were to be used by the State for the benefit of children.”