Sinn Féin says March for Choice ‘goes beyond party’s position’

Party defends its decision not to take a formal role in the abortion rights rally in Dublin

Thousands of people take to the streets of Dublin for the annual March for Choice, calling for the liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

Sinn Féin has said it did not take a formal role in the March for Choice in Dublin at the weekend because the views of the organisers on abortion go beyond those of the party.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said several of its elected representatives attended the march but that the party had no official participation and did not use its banners.

“The march went beyond the party position. We are in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment. However, our position on [what provisions will replace the current prohibition] does not go as far as the rally organisers.”

The Abortion Rights Campaign, which organised the march, says there needs to be a full repeal of the Eighth Amendment in the State and access to free, safe and legal abortion “for all who need or want it”.

Sinn Féin was criticised by some participants in the march because of the absence of some its most prominent representatives. Party deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was at a party meeting in Donegal with finance spokesman Pearse Doherty.

The party’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin was in Barcelona to observe the plebiscite on Catalonian independence, as was MEP Lynn Boylan. She tweeted from Barcelona to say she was supporting the march from the Catalan capital.

Criticised

One of the speakers at the rally, Northern republican and former MP Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, criticised Sinn Féin and Ms McDonald, as well as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

“I have a message, and I am entitled, nobody is better entitled to give a message to Sinn Féin,” she said in her address. “I have a message for Mary Lou McDonald. You had better be absolutely and unequivocally behind the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment or [you will never be in power].”

Sinn Féin’s official position is it wants a complete repeal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution and enactment of legislation to allow for abortion in certain circumstances.

“Sinn Féin wants to . . . enact legislation ensuring safe access to abortions for women in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality,” its policy states.

Several of its representatives did march yesterday including Dublin South West TD Sean Crowe and the Rathfarnham-based councillor Sarah Holland. On her twitter account, Cllr Holland agreed with those who criticised the lack of official present by the party.

“Much to be done with the party on this issue,” she stated.

Official banners

A number of parties including Labour, Solidarity-People Before Profit, and the Social Democrats had official banners at the march. A number of Independent Oireachtas members and individuals from other parties attended, including Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell, and Independent senators Alice Mary Higgins and Lynn Ruane.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil did not have official banners at the march with the former maintaining that “the Irish people will decide the way forward” on the issue of the Eighth Amendment, which it has called “one of the most complex and contentious topics in Irish society”.

Fianna Fáil has said it is “engaging fully” with the special Oireachtas Committee that was established to consider the Citizens’ Assembly report and recommendations on the Eighth Amendment.

Many Independent TDs favour legalisation of abortion along the lines of the United Kingdom, while others are among the Dáil’s most vocal anti-abortion advocates.