Members of Oireachtas committee on abortion reveal positions
Of the members who answered, seven said they were pro-choice, two anti-abortion
Prospective members were also asked if they described themselves as “liberal” or “conservative” on the issue. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Seven Oireachtas members who will sit on the new cross-party committee on abortion have declared themselves pro-choice, while two have said they are anti-abortion.
Others have declined to state their position on the issue ahead of the formation of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which will consider the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly. The original plan was to have 16 TDs and four Senators on the committee, but the Seanad has pushed for seven representatives.
The Irish Times asked prospective members of the committee about their positions.
Those who described themselves as pro-choice were Senator Catherine Noone and Kate O’Connell of Fine Gael; Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan; Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats; Clare Daly of Independents 4 Change; Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger and People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith. Ms Coppinger and Ms Smith will rotate a position on the committee.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Independent Senator Rónán Mullen said they were anti-abortion.
The prospective members were also asked if they favoured the repeal of the eighth amendment, which enshrined the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn into the Constitution in 1983, and if they described themselves as “liberal” or “conservative” on the issue of abortion.
Ms Noone said she “started out being very pro-life” but was now pro-choice and was in favour of the eighth amendment being repealed.
Asked if she described herself as “liberal” or “conservative”, Ms Noone said: “I would say that I am moderate.”
She added: “This is an issue that is not black and white for anyone. Life happens in the grey areas.”
Ms O’Connell said she was in favour of repeal and “liberal on the issue”.
Her party colleague Bernard Durkan confirmed he would also sit on the committee. Asked about his position, he said: “I couldn’t be relied upon to be snugly in either camp”. Mr Durkan said he had been criticised by campaigners on “both sides” of the debate.
On the question of repealing the eighth amendment, he said: “I think we need to know what the replacement is going to be.”
Asked whether he described himself as conservative or liberal on the issue of abortion, he said he was in “neither camp”. He added: “I would regard myself as impartial. We have to come to conclusions that are fair and honest and deal with the issues.”
Fianna Fáil Senator Ned O’Sullivan said: “I don’t think labels are a help at all. I’m a pragmatist, generally speaking. I’m very conscious of the need for sensitivity on the issue and I don’t intend to comment further at this stage.”
Lisa Chambers, one of four Fianna Fail TDs on the committee, said the issue was “sensitive and complex” and choosing labels to describe the approach that would be taken was “neither helpful nor appropriate”.
Ms O’Sullivan also said she did not favour labelling. She said she was in favour of repeal and was liberal rather than conservative.
Mr McGrath said he was in favour of retaining the Eight Amendment and “conservative on the issue of ending innocent human life”.
Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien said he would describe himself as “open minded rather than pro-choice”.
Ms Murphy said she favoured repeal and was liberal.
A spokeswoman for Ms Coppinger said she was pro-choice, in favour of repeal and liberal. A spokeswoman for Ms Smith said she was in favour of repeal and liberal on the abortion issue.