Election 2020: Abortion no longer an issue on most doorsteps

Peadar Tóibín would look to ‘revisit’ legislation when it comes up for review next year

 Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

The leader of Aontú Peadar Tóibín has said he would look to “revisit” the existing abortion legislation when it comes up for review at the end of next year.

Multiple politicians have said that the issue of abortion and the recent repeal of the Eighth Amendment has not featured as a key issue in the general election campaign to date.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary said the issue has not come up on doorsteps in Mayo while his party colleague Lisa Chambers said that of thousands of houses which she canvassed, only around 10 people had raised it.

Ms Chambers said that those who did raise it were not “angry or aggressive” and were “very polite.”

Mr Tóibín said that while he would look to revisit the legislation when it comes up for review, it is not an issue which he is being tackled on. He indicated that he would try to re-introduce amendments which did not pass in the last Dáil. These includes measures which would stipulate that terminations would be prohibited in the case of disability or gender. Minister for Health Simon Harris previously said this would render the State’s abortion law inoperable and would stigmatise women.

The legislation which was passed by the last Dáil stated the abortion law would be reviewed after three years in operation. Abortions became legal in January 2019.

“What I have found in the campaign from people on both sides is that they are saying to me ‘fair play, you stood up for something you believed in and that is a rare commodity.’ I have had people from the pro-choice side say they are giving me their vote simply because in Irish politics so many people stick their finger in the air to see what way the wind is blowing, and people see politicians as flip-floppy and careerists and doing what they need to do to keep their seats,” Mr Tóibín said.

He said that in an exit poll in 2016, only two per cent of people said their vote was influenced by the issue of abortion. “Most people vote on bread and butter issues. Our first objective is to make sure every mother has the economic confidence to raise a child. Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris have created an economic situation where many women feel they don’t have a choice.”

It comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed last weekend that some Fianna Fáil TDs are “backwoodsmen” who were opposed to “social progress”. Mr Harris then posted a tweet online where pointed out that 21 Fianna Fáil TDs voted against holding a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.