Most FF TDs will not try to frustrate abortion legislation - Martin

FF leader says not surprised by emphatic two-to-one winning margin for Yes campaign

Most Fianna Fáil TDs will respect the vote in the referendum and not try to frustrate legislation on abortion going through the Dáil, party leader Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin welcomed the result of the referendum and said he expects the majority of TDs, including those from his own party who opposed repeal, will now support the introduction of legislation on abortion in the Dáil.

Mr Martin said he believed the outcome of the referendum was "the right decision by the Irish people", and he had already been speaking to Minister for Health Simon Harris this morning with a view to getting draft legislation before the Dáil before the summer recess.

Asked whether he believed members of Fianna Fáil who had come out strongly against repeal would try to stymie or frustrate the legislation going through the Dáil, Mr Martin said he believed the overwhelming majority of TDs would respect the vote of the people in the referendum.

“We allowed for freedom of conscience back in 2013, and that still applies today – a lot of the parliamentary party who voted No were quite comfortable with the position I adopted in this and they said that to me at the time, and they have said it to me equally over the last 24 hours.

I was struck by the number of women who came up to me and quietly just said 'Thanks'

"Dara Calleary [Fianna Fáil deputy leader] was on radio this morning saying that although he voted No, he will be supporting the legislation and that he is not going to stand in the way of the will of the people who have spoken very emphatically through the ballot box – and TDs are clear they are going to support the legislation."

Mr Martin said he was not surprised by the emphatic two-to-one winning margin for the Yes campaign, as he had believed for months there was a very strong silent Yes vote among the electorate that would come to the fore on polling day.

"I think that idea of that silent Yes came to me after my speech in the Dáil and I remembered attending some functions in Cork the following weekend for Enable Ireland and Cork Chamber and I was struck by the number of women who came up to me and quietly just said 'Thanks'," he said.

“That gave the sense that there were a lot of people out there who wanted to articulate and get their voice out there and I think they did it emphatically in this decision through the ballot boxes, and it was also evident through the campaign when quite a lot of women told their stories.”

Significant difference

Mr Martin also paid tribute to members of the medical community who came out and spoke about how the Eighth Amendment impacted on how they can care for pregnant women and that was a significant difference from 1983 when the Eighth Amendment was passed into law.

This isn't about me or about electoral politics – it's about the women of Ireland and recognising their needs and concerns about this issue

"The evidence from the obstetricians was also very important – if you look back over the last 20 years, the big sea change has been the in obstetric community, and practicising women obstetricians like Rhona O'Mahony and Louise Kenny, who were very strong advocates on this occasion."

Mr Martin said the Yes referendum campaign also highlighted the impact of young people who used social media to energise the campaign and there were lessons for all political parties on the importance of involving civic groups in such campaigns.

Paying tribute to party colleagues Billy Kelleher, Lisa Chambers and Ned O'Sullivan, who served on the All Party Oireachtas Committee which came up with the proposal, Mr Martin said he was very comfortable with the position he adopted after reading their recommendations.

"This isn't about me or about electoral politics – it's about the women of Ireland and recognising their needs and concerns about this issue. That said, I am pleased within myself – I am happy with my own conscience and I feel very comfortable in my own skin with the stance I've taken."

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times