Abortion debate: Ireland’s most Catholic times were its ‘least Christian’

Minister of State opposes ‘purposeful destruction’ of a viable pregnancy

A Dáil debate on the findings of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment has concluded.

A Dáil debate on the findings of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment has concluded.


Ireland was at its least Christian point during its most Catholic years, Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell has told the Dáil debate on abortion.

Ms O’Connell, who supports the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the equal right to life of the unborn, said the position of the Catholic Church had been sewn into the Constitution in 1937, two years after the sale, advertising and importation of contraceptives was banned.

“It is when we have been at our most Catholic in Ireland that we have been at our least Christian,” she said.

“Irish women were quite literally enslaved in an act of church and State collusion that can be honestly characterised as nothing other than sexual apartheid,” Ms O’Connell said as the house discussed the report of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment.

“Their babies were sold like puppies to foreign homes or enslaved in industrial schools to be preyed upon by those in power wielding authority.”

Ms O’Connell said that some people only feel comfortable with termination being allowed in cases of rape or incest.

“If you agree with abortion in certain circumstances it is not the abortion you have an issue with it is the type of sex women have...If abortion is only allowed in cases of rape not only will women have to endure horrific sexual assault but the onus will be on them to prove it.”

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien said “you cannot compassionately legislate on the grounds of rape without having the 12 weeks in place”.


He believed “forcing a woman to continue with a pregnancy in the hope that there may be somebody willing to adopt, I find that obscene.

“That’s like saying to a woman we’re going to force you to be an incubator for the next nine months.”

Minister of State John Paul Phelan said he could not “ever support the conscious purposeful destruction of a viable pregnancy”.

“I am not a particularly Catholic person, despite my name. I am the ultimate à la carte version.”

Mr Phelan said he did not believe a fertilised egg was a human being but the proposal that abortion should be available for up to 12 weeks was not only unacceptable, “but I believe there is a considerable chance that if it was put to the general public, it would be defeated”.

Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick said the committee on the Eighth Amendment, of which he was a member, spent most of its time simply attacking and undermining the amendment.

He said they had invited in five members on the pro-life side and he was not surprised at those who did not attend because of the approach taken. He said the other group that was completely overlooked was “the families who say their child is alive thanks to the Eighth Amendment”.

Human being

Mr Fitzpatrick said the baby in the womb is a highly developed human being even from the earliest stage and could not be described as a “clump of cells”.

Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers said she found it difficult to understand how anybody “having heard the evidence we heard at that committee could be opposed to repealing the Eighth Amendment or at least having some flexibility in the law.”

Independents4Change TD Clare Daly said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had made the point, in apologising to Joanne Hayes, that Ireland was in a different place compared with the 1980s. “But it is the same place,” she added. “It took 34 years to apologise to Joanne Hayes.”

Fianna Fail TD Eamon Scanlon said that “as a father I feel that the best way I could properly love and support my daughter or any other relation or friend in crisis pregnancy is if I also supported the little child that she was carrying”.

Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae said he believed an abortion was “really hurtful. It is really so bad. What the abortionist does is inject the baby twice, first to paralyse it and then to stop the heartbeat. I believe that is murder.”