Sinn Féin rejects proposal for free vote on Eighth Amendment

Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald tell ardfheis party cannot ‘cop out’ on abortion

Sinn Féin politicians attend the party’s ardfheis at the RDS in Dublin.  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Féin politicians attend the party’s ardfheis at the RDS in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Sinn Féin has rejected a proposal to give party members a free vote on the future of the Eighth Amendment.

The party agreed a united party position to repeal the amendment and legislate for terminations in the cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormalities and when a mother’s life, heath or mental health is at risk.

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect and defend that right.

Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín told the ardfheis members should be offered some flexibility on this matter.

He joined Sinn Féin when the position on abortion was remarkably different to the one it adopted at the ardfheis. There have been three shifts in policy, he said.

The right to life was a fundamental human right, Mr Tóibín added.

A handful of delegates spoke against the Sinn Féin position and in favour of a free vote.

On demand

Matt Molloy, from south Tyrone, said the party’s position was similar to abortion on demand and said someone who was depressed or felt unwell could get an abortion under the party’s policy.

Councillor for Crumlin-Kimmage Ray McHugh told delegates Sinn Féin was supposed to be a party of equals. It was now the case that individual views were not tolerated if it was not Sinn Féin policy, he added.

A total of 19 cumann supported proposals to have a vote of conscience on the amendment but it was defeated.

The party’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said there could be no ambiguity surrounding the party’s position on abortion.

Sinn Féin cannot “cop out” on this matter and seek a la carte choice on this matter, Ms McDonald added.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have a vote of conscience on this matter but Ms McDonald described this as an abdication of their responsibilities.