Fianna Fáil TD pledges to fight Martin ‘within the party’ on abortion

Bobby Aylward is urging like-minded TDs and Senators to ‘counteract’ pro-choice stance

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

 

A Fianna Fáil TD has warned party leader Micheál Martin that he plans to “fight within the party” against Mr Martin’s support for repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Bobby Aylward TD, who is Fianna Fáil’s junior spokesman on farming and skills, said he was “completely taken aback and very disappointed” by Mr Martin’s declaration in the Dáil on Thursday.

“We had a parliamentary meeting on Wednesday evening and we had a debate on the Eighth Amendment and Micheál spoke at that meeting. He didn’t make it known what he was going to say the day after in the Dáil.

“I had a suspicion that he might be in favour of the repeal of the eighth but when he went the whole hog and said he supported the 12 weeks termination period as well, I was completely taken aback and I’m very disappointed.

“I would be against repeal, I am pro-life. I have concerns like everyone else about fatal foetal abnormalities, rape and incest. I’d like to see the wording that’s being put in this referendum but my stand would be pro-life.”

The Carlow–Kilkenny TD told RTÉ Radio’s News at One he had already been disappointed by the fact that “some on the front bench, some of our hierarchy in the party are very pro-choice... Four or five of our front bench have already declared pro-choice but I think the majority of the party in my opinion would be the opposite.

“Now Micheál has come out on that side as well it looks like the party’s attitude at the top level has changed and I don’t like that, and I’m hoping to counteract that. Next week I’ll be calling on likewise TDs and Senators to have a meeting and get together and see if can counteract this promotion of pro-choice.”

He said at the last Fianna Fáil ard fheis 85-90 per cent of members were “in favour of pro life”.

“Some people have to represent that view and I hope that people will come onside and that we would get together, make our voice known to show that it’s not all one sided in the parliamentary party,” said Mr Aylward.

“I’m not going to leave the party or anything like that. I’m going to fight within the party, whatever stand I can make. Whatever group of TDs and Senators within the party that are pro life that we let the media and everyone else in the country know that there is a section in Fianna Fáil have different views to our leader and other prominent front bench people. That’s our mandate and that’s what we should do.”

Cavan–Monaghan TD Niamh Smyth said she also disagreed with her party leader but she said “Micheál has made that clear to our own party that we can all have our own view on it without being condemned for it”.

She said: “I am a pro life person. I admire Micheál for giving us the opportunity to think about, debate it, read the report and come to our own conclusions. He has taken his own position very clearly. I respect that. I am of a different view, I think he, and everyone else in the party, respects that.”

Cork South-West TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony said Mr Martin’s view was “very different to mine” but “thanks to him we are entitled to have our own opinion”.

She said: “Our views are very different. How a child is conceived isn’t his or her fault. Everybody deserves a right to life.

“I think we as a part reflect society in general. This is a very divisive issue. So far the debate in the Dáil chamber has been very respectful and I hope that will continue,” she added.

Galway East TD Ann Rabbitte, who supports retaining the Eighth Amendment but amending it for abortion in certain circumstances, said her viewpoint changed while attending the Oireachtas committee which examined the issue.

She was “fully supportive of amending article 40.3.3 in cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormalities but cannot support unlimited abortion up to 12 weeks.

“Our leader has a wealth of knowledge and understanding on this issue he would not have come to this position very lightly,” she added.

Front bench TD Niall Collins was one of those expressing support for his party leader’s view.

“What Micheál Martin articulated yesterday is a view I would concur with and subscribe to... I would reject any view that is being offered by anybody that this is a populist move or that it is a move made against a backdrop of an impending election and trying to gather votes.

“Really, it’s actually quite insulting I think because the whole issue around the Eighth Amendment is something which is extremely complex and extremely personal in terms of how people arrive at a decision and it is a matter of conscience.”