Chair of Oireachtas committee defends abortion witness list

Catherine Noone invites members to propose other witnesses after anti-abortion speaker withdraws

Oireachtas comittee chairwoman  Catherine Noone  said allegations of bias  required clarification. File image: Gareth Chaney Collins

Oireachtas comittee chairwoman Catherine Noone said allegations of bias required clarification. File image: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The chair of the Oireachtas committee examining the Eighth Amendment Catherine Noone has defended the work of the committee ahead of its latest hearing on Wednesday.

Ms Noone, a Fine Gael senator, said allegations of bias were being played out in the media and required clarification.

Two members of the committee - Independent Senator Ronan Mullen and Independent TD Mattie McGrath - have claimed the witness list and the make-up of the committee is leaned towards a certain outcome.

In a letter to individual members, Ms Noone said: “Committee members were invited to submit the names of experts whose testimony would enable the Committee to fully test the recommendations of the Assembly.

“I want to be clear, and the committees records bear this out, the committee did not refuse to hear testimony of any witness because of their known public position they held on abortion.”

Prof Patricia Casey, a prominent anti-abortion campaigner, withdrew from a scheduled appearance before the committee this week claiming its work was bound to conclude that a referendum was required to repeal the eighth amendment.

Similar statements were also made at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis last weekend.

Ms Noone invited members to propose any other witnesses the committee wished to hear from.

She said: “I would be happy to schedule additional hearing in late November for these witnesses.”

Members were asked to consider what witnesses they would like to hear from and were asked to provide the names by September.

There was one stipulation: members must submit a detailed justification as to the necessity of the witnesses’ attendance and provide evidence of their expertise in this area including published work.

If the person was travelling from abroad, additional information was required to justify the expense to the committee.