Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín has been suspended from Sinn Féin for six months for voting against the party whip on abortion legislation.
Mr Tóibín, who has long held anti-abortion views, voted against the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which will allow for unrestricted abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The Bill, currently proceeding through the Oireachtas, will give effect to the abortion regime outlined by the Government during the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.
Mr Tóibín was previously suspended for six months by Sinn Féin for voting against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013.
In a statement, Mr Tóibín said his suspension could be seen as a “de facto expulsion” because of the prospect of a general election being held during the next six months.
“It is my understanding that while on suspension I would be prevented from standing for Sinn Féin as a candidate and would not be allowed to re-enter the party subsequently if I seek re-election during the suspension,” he said. “The six-month suspension presents significant difficulties and uncertainty.
“I have been a member of Sinn Féin for 21 years. From a young age I have been inspired by the selfless sacrifice of generations of republicans from Wolfe Tone to Bobby Sands. I joined Sinn Féin when it was not easy to join Sinn Féin. In the intervening years, I have poured all my energy into building a movement to achieve a united Ireland and economic justice.”
He said it would be hard to work towards these aims “if I am being prevented from paying a full role in the Sinn Féin team”, adding he will give serious consideration to his suspension in the coming week.
He also said voters who do not agree with the measures in the Bill should be represented in the Oireachtas, adding that there were “few issues as contentious as abortion”.
“It is also important to note that the 34 per cent of the population that voted to retain the Eighth Amendment plus the 20 per cent of Yes voters who don’t agree with this Bill should have a voice in the Oireachtas. It is reasonable that TDs should give voice to the opposing views on Simon Harris’s abortion Bill in roughly the proportion that exists in society. There is no better way to push voters to the extreme than to deny them a legitimate democratic voice.”
‘Overwhelmingly endorsed ’
Dublin South Central TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the Bill “is in line with Sinn Féin’s policy position as agreed democratically at our ardfheis”.
“The position has also been overwhelmingly endorsed by the people in May of this year. The party’s position on this legislation is to support it.
“The whip was in place and all TDs were instructed to be present and to vote for the legislation. Peadar Tóibín’s decision to vote against the legislation is a serious breach of the party’s rules and he has now been suspended for a period of six months. He has now been informed of the party’s decision.”