‘Peculiar decision’ by TDs to oppose abortion vote disappoints Harris
Minister for Health dismayed so many TDs ‘voted to deny people having their say’ on issue
Minister for Health Simon Harris said he was could not understand why such a large number of politicians would seek to deny the electorate the opportunity to have their say in an abortion referendum. Photograph: PA
The “peculiar decision” by so many TDs to vote against holding a referendum on the Eighth Amendment has disappointed the Minister for Health.
Speaking at the launch of the Together4Yes campaign on Thursday, Simon Harris said it was the right of each member Dáil Éireann to vote according to their conscience.
However, he could not understand why such a large number of politicians had sought to deny the electorate the opportunity to vote in a referendum.
Mr Harris said: “I am disappointed that so many people voted to deny people having their say.”
On Wednesday night TDs voted by 97 to 27 to allow a referendum on abortion to go ahead.
After numerous votes in the Dáil, 16 Fianna Fáil TDs voted against the legislation. The Bill now goes to the Seanad. A referendum on repealing the amendment will be held in May or June.
The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, also known as article 40.3.3, recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child.
The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommended legislation should be prepared to permit terminations up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, without restriction.
Fianna Fáil members have freedom of conscience on the issue of abortion, meaning each member can vote in accordance with their own view.
Party leader Micheál Martin, however, is supporting repeal and allowing for terminations up to 12 weeks even though the majority of his party does not support this proposition.
The party’s ardfheis voted in favour of Fianna Fáil adopting an anti-abortion position.
Earlier on Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government will respect the result of the referendum.
He was responding in the Dáil to recent remarks by Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty, who said the repeal campaigners would not accept a No vote.
Her remarks were raised by Independent TD Mattie McGrath, who asked whether the Government intended holding another referendum if the May poll was defeated?
Speaking to The Irish Times last week, where she was attending St Patrick’s Day events, Ms Doherty said: “The people who have brought us, and who have been very vocal on this issue for a number of years, they are certainly not going to accept a No.
Ms Doherty also said her previous opposition to the legalisation of abortion was “born out of ignorance”.
Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae did not respond when asked by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy to withdraw comments he made during the abortion debate on Tuesday night.
Ms Murphy said Mr Healy-Rae should apologise for “hurtful” comments he made relating to people who had a termination of pregnancy following a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.
Mr Healy-Rae had said he heard Mr Harris say on radio it was terrible to think a mother was coming home from the UK after termination “with their loved ones in the boot of a car”.
“I don’t know what you meant, Minister, but I surely do know that the little dead baby did not feel very loved and it would make not a difference whether the baby was in the boot of a car in London or the north of Ireland or the south of Ireland,” Mr Healy-Rae added. “The unborn baby was dead at that stage anyway.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was also present at the Together4Yes launch on Thursday morning where she said Offaly TD Carol Nolan will be allowed to rejoin the party after three months.
Ms Nolan was suspended from Sinn Féin after voting against the party’s position on the Eighth Amendment.
Ms McDonald said she was disappointed but accepted Ms Nolan had strongly held views.
Asked if it was fair that the Offaly TD received the same sanction as Senator Maire Devine who criticised murdered prison officer Brian Stack, Ms McDonald said these were the party’s disciplinary procedures and it was not her role to set the rules.
These rules were set by the ard comhairle, she added.