Labour formally backs Oireachtas committee stance on abortion

Minister Eoghan Murphy says abortion is a matter for a ‘woman and her doctor’

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said his party would  campaign in a respectful and dignified fashion to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said his party would campaign in a respectful and dignified fashion to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


The Labour Party has confirmed it will be supporting the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

This is a step further than Labour’s previous position of allowing for the legalisation of abortion in cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormality or where the mother’s health was at risk.

The Oireachtas committee on Wednesday recommended a series of changes to abortion laws in the State.

These included access to terminations without restriction up to 12 weeks, the repealing of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which gives the unborn and the mother an equal right to life, and the decriminalisation of abortion.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the party’s executive board endorsed the position adopted by its representative Jan O’Sullivan at the committee. Labour’s parliamentary party already endorsed the position on Tuesday.

“The Labour Party will support a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment, and the proposal to allow for abortion up to 12 weeks as endorsed by the Oireachtas committee,” Mr Howlin said.

“Labour will campaign in a respectful and dignified fashion, respectful of the views of others and their entitlement to hold them, and mindful that there are deeply held views on both sides of this debate,” he added.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said was minded to support the report’s finding, although he stressed members of the Cabinet had their own personal views on the issue of abortion.

“We all have our personal views on this. I won’t have a problem accepting the recommendations of the committee from what I understand to date,” he said. “To me this is an issue between a woman and her doctor. From what I understand, I will be supporting it.”

Mr Murphy was speaking to reporters in Dublin along with his colleague Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

Views changed

Mr Donohoe noted that some members of the committee had changed their minds on the issue of abortion having listened to the evidence presented. He said he had made it clear in the past that he believed abortion should be available in more circumstances than it is at present.

“I will be supporting a referendum bill. We do need a referendum on the matter,” he said. “I will outline my own views on the issue when I have read the (committee’s) report in the New Year.”

In an interview with Hot Press last year, Mr Donohoe said stated that he was in favour of abortion in cases of rape, incest and where there is a fatal foetal abnormality.

In Brussels on Friday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his position has evolved over time on the issue of abortion.

“I suppose as you grow up and as you meet more people and as you experience more things your views on things can soften and modify over time.

“What’s happening now in terms of the process is that the joint Oireachtas committee is going to produce its report next week.

“Out of deference to the amount of work they have done, to the members of the committee and the chairman Catherine Noone, I’d like to actually give the time to produce their report, I’d like to read it over the Christmas recess, and before I express my own views, I’d like to hear the views of my parliamentary party,” he said.

“We’ll have a meeting on that in the second week of January, a debate in the Dáil and then a discussion at cabinet.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Thursday stopped short of publicly supporting the final recommendations of the committee. He declined to state if he would back the proposals of the committee but said he would make his positions known in the new year.

Meanwhile, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty says she changed her views on abortion on the basis of the people she met who told her their own experiences.

She is the first Fine Gael minister to publicly state their support for free access to abortion up to 12 weeks.

“I didn’t plan to be the first person,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. “I very much changed my views over the past seven years. I changed my views on the basis of the people I’ve met.

“I would have been one of those unpleasant people who said abortion is wrong in any circumstance. But I’ve come to realise that women don’t make this decision lightly.”