‘Ball and chain’ of Irish abortion ban finally gone, Clare Daly says

TD applauded by colleagues after impassioned speech during first Dáil sitting since referendum

TD Clare Daly brought the Dáil to applause with a statement on the importance of the abortion referendum result and the people who deserve credit for it. Video: Oireachtas TV

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Independents4Change TD Clare Daly became emotional in the Dáil on Tuesday as she described the abortion referendum result as “an enormous weight being lifted”.

In an impassioned speech which received a round of applause from TDs, Ms Daly said it was a “ball and chain that dogged us all our adult life being finally gone”.

Speaking during a debate on the referendum outcome, Ms Daly said that for so many women it was “almost like society atoning for everything it’s done to women in this country, atoning for how we stigmatised women faced with crisis pregnancies”.

She paid tribute to students who were the “legends” in this and to to co-director of the Together for Yes campaign Ailbhe Smith who was a “giant in terms of this movement and has stood there when there was no glory to be had”.

But the Dublin Fingal TD stressed that politicians did not lead on this issue. “This has been a pit battle pushing a boulder up a hill for decades and nobody in here was involved in pushing it,” she said.

‘Boulder’

Ms Daly said “all the people in here were sitting on the boulder making it even more difficult for those outside, making it more difficult for those outside who wanted to push for change”.

She said there was a need to enact the legislation but “people are trying to outposture each other into who’s going to be the most radical” with demands to “bring in the legislation yesterday”. She called on politicians to “please just cop on with the games. It’s despicable”.

Ms Daly said it was not easy parenting alone, it was not easy raising children with disabilities without supports.

“It’s not easy finding you’re pregnant to a violent man,” she said.

It took appalling tragedy that turned into a social movement to turn it all around, she said.

Ms Daly recalled that the abortion legislation she introduced in 2012, with colleagues Mick Wallace and Joan Collins, was only supported by 20 TDs.

“But four incredible women went on The Late Late Show, the first time people in this State openly identified themselves as people who travelled for terminations,” she said.

She said the women became part of the Terminations for Medical Reasons group and it was appalling “that they had to lay bear their most appalling pain and tragedy and order to turn that into a social movement”.

‘Final phase’

Ms Daly stressed that that was not the beginning of the campaign but “the beginning of only what was the final phase” and the death of Savita Halappanavar.

“Before the glory days we should remember it was the Wellwoman Centre, the Irish Family Planning Association, the Abortion Support Network in the UK who took in our women and girls and paid their fares.”

Ms Daly acknowledged the role of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris. She said “it took ye a while to get there and I’ve no doubt that you were helped by Minister (Katherine) Zappone at Cabinet and definitely by Deputy (Kate) O’Connell at the parliamentary party.

“I’m not sure you would have got there as quickly without them. But you were at the helm and you did steer the ship and history will testify that you delivered.”

Ms Daly concluded by paying tribute to the students and young people.

She said she was part of the student movement years ago “but we didn’t succeed in changing the world. I really hope this generation does because the young people vocalised and enfranchised their members. They’re the legends out of this and I hope they make a better job of changing the world than we did.”

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