Micheál Martin’s abortion stance will not dent party support, says TD

Jackie Cahill says Fianna Fáil supporters in rural constituencies will be satisfied if their local TD shares their views on the issue

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he will support the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and most of the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee which considered the State’s abortion regime. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

Fianna Fáil Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill has said that he does not believe that Micheál Martin’s decision to back repeal of the Eighth Amendment and vote for the proposal to legalise abortion on request in the early months of pregnancy will hurt the party’s conservative support.

Mr Cahill, who shares a constituency with Independent TD and anti-abortion campaigner, Mattie McGrath, said he believed FF supporters in rural constituencies against abortion will be satisfied if their local TD shares their views.

“I have a strong pro-life view and I would have articulated that for the members of Tipperary, so I would have no worries about that. I did a radio interview this morning and I got calls afterwards.

“On this issue they’d be voting for Jackie Cahill who would be pro-life so I don’t think it will do any damage in Tipperary,” said Mr Cahill, though he acknowledged that some supporters were “surprised, and maybe a bit cross”.

While he disagreed with Mr Martin’s view, Mr Cahill said he respected him for being clear: “I’d rather him state his opinion than say nothing. The Taoiseach, the other day, made a speech in which he tried to ride both horses. I’m glad Micheál didn’t do that.”

Fianna Fáil National Ard Comhairle vice-president, Arthur Griffin, a former Tipperary constituency chairman, said party members in Tipperary “will be led by Jackie for the most part, that’s about it.

“They don’t agree with him [Micheál Martin] but as long as Jackie is voting pro-life, they’re not overly bothered,” said Mr Griffin, who said he will form his own view once he has seen the legislation.

Grassroots

However, Cllr Imelda Goldsboro said Martin had not spoken for the party’s grassroots: “I don’t think he’s speaking on behalf of the grassroots. There was a lot of shock and anger and surprise when he came out yesterday evening.”

Describing herself as pro-life, she said she did not agree with the proposal to allow abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy. However, she went on: “Everybody has their own opinion. I think it’s a woman’s body and she’s entitled to do what she wants to do”.

Fellow member of Tipperary County Council, Roger Kennedy said “most people” in the party disagreed with the party leader: “I totally disagree with the way he has drawn his conclusions.

“I don’t think the taking of a human life is a solution to any problem that’s there. People should be given better counselling and better help to women with crisis pregnancies.”

In Donegal, a majority of party members interviewed disagreed with Mr Martin, but appeared satisfied that the lack of a whip on Dáil votes on the referendum and subsequent legislation will ensure that a split is avoided.

Disagreeing with Mr Martin’s view, the party’s whip on Donegal County Council, Cllr Ciarán Brogan, nevertheless, said: “I admire Micheál Martin because of the stance he has taken on this very delicate issue.

“He has stressed that this is a personal viewpoint and he has shown a lot of bravery in coming out and stating his personal view,” Mr Brogan said.

“Personally, I do not agree with him on the issue but whether people think he is right or wrong, everyone’s view has to be respected,” he said, whose views were echoed by Donegal TD and Leas Cheann Comhairle, Pat “The Cope” Gallagher, who said his own anti-abortion views are well known.