Aylward calls FF meeting of ‘like-minded’ on abortion

TD emailed party members to create forum for discussing opposition to repeal of Eighth

A Dáil debate on the report of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution ran for two days and contributions were both emotional and surprising. Video: Oireachtas

 

Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators opposed to repealing the Eighth Amendment have been invited to a “coming together of like-minded people” on Tuesday.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward emailed each individual party member, seeking their attendance at a meeting in Leinster House at 6pm.

Mr Aylward said he had been approached by a number of TDs and Senators “who are anxious to come together and discuss the matter further”. However, few have confirmed their attendance so far.

Those who will attend include Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness, Waterford TD Mary Butler, Kildare North TD Frank O’Rourke, Sligo-Leitrim TD Eamon Scanlon and Cork East TD Kevin O’Keeffe.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, party leader Micheál Martin confirmed he would support removing Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution and allowing for terminations up to 12 weeks.

His comments caused anger within the party, with some TDs insisting he should have informed them ahead of his speech in the House.

Senior figures in the party believe the matter will be resolved when Mr Martin addresses the matter at a parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday. Mr O’Keeffe said he did not expect a group to be formed on the back of the meeting but it was essential for like-minded TDs and Senators to discuss a way forward.

Sending a message

“This is about sending a message to headquarters and the communications section that we want equal coverage in any debates on the Eighth Amendment,” he said. “We want it to be clear that there are other voices in Fianna Fáil than Micheál Martin’s or Billy Kelleher’s.”

Louth TD Declan Breathnach confirmed he supported the holding of the meeting, but could not attend due to a clash in his diary.

Galway East TD Éamon Ó Cuív and Donegal TD Pat “The Cope” Gallagher are also expected to attend.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on finance Michael McGrath, spokesman on public expenditure Dara Calleary, Cork South-West TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, Laois TD Seán Fleming all confirmed they would not support the meeting, despite their opposition to repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Speaking on Monday on RTÉ radio, Mr McGrath said he did not want to be part of any group within the party. “We can’t have a situation where the party agrees there is a freedom of conscience vote, but that freedom doesn’t apply to the leader.”

Support

Fianna Fáil TD for Longford-Westmeath, Robert Troy, said he supported repealing the Eighth Amendment to allow for terminations in certain situations. Mr Troy said he had “serious concerns” about the proposals to allow for abortions up to 12 weeks but stressed he would not be attending any fringe meeting of the parliamentary party.

Speaking on Monday on Cork’s RedFm, Mr Martin said he accepted there were many differing views to his but called for respect in the debate.

Despite the rumblings of discontent within the party, Mr Martin said he was committed to leading Fianna Fáil into the next general election and back into Government.

The Dáil will continue to debate the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment this week.

A number of church leaders have expressed their opposition to allowing unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks. Representatives from the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ministers last night. It is understood they outlined their reservations to the proposals made by the Oireachtas committee.