Sinn Féin’s O’Brien opposes repeal of Eighth Amendment

Cork TD is, however, in favour of holding repeal referendum

A Sinn Féin TD has said he opposes repealing the Eighth Amendment, but will “leave my personal views at the gate of Leinster House” when he sits on the Oireachtas abortion committee.

Jonathan O’Brien from Cork said he had not spoken to the media about his views before but was happy to do so when asked. He said the party knew his views.

“I hate being described as pro-life. The minute you say you’re pro-life people assume you’re opposed to a referendum. I’m certainly in favour of a referendum because I think people should have their say. It’s time,” he said. “I personally wouldn’t be in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment. I’d never impose my views on anyone else. I’m not in favour of abortion.”

His Sinn Féin colleague Peadar Tóibín was disciplined in 2012 for failing to vote with his party in favour of proposed X case legislation.


Mr O’Brien voted in favour of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. “I was comfortable because I know I’m there to legislate. I leave my personal views at the gate of Leinster House. If I had voted against, I would be imposing my views,” he said.

“I’m very conscious as well I’m not female and I will never be faced with those decisions. I leave my own personal views at the door.”

Party policy

Mr O’Brien said he would be implementing party policy on the committee. Sinn Féin advocates repealing the Eighth Amendment, which enshrined the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn into the Constitution in 1983, and enacting legislation for abortion in limited circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest.

Sinn Féin is the only party whose representatives will be under a whip at the committee.

Mr O’Brien will be joined on the committee by Sinn Féin Dublin TD Louise O’Reilly, who is in favour of repeal. Sinn Féin’s Seanad representative on the committee will be Paul Gavan.

Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick, Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Independent Senator Rónán Mullen describe themselves as “pro-life”.


Members who have described themselves as “pro-choice” are Senator Catherine Noone and Kate O’Connell TD of Fine Gael; Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan; Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats; Clare Daly of Independents 4 Change; Independent Senator Collette Kelleher and Solidarity’s Ruth Coppinger and Bríd Smith of People Before Profit, who hope to rotate a position on the committee.

Other members assessed as being on the more conservative wing of their parties are Fianna Fáil’s Anne Rabbitte and James Brown, and Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton.

Believed to be on the more liberal wing are Fianna Fáil’s Lisa Chambers and Billy Kelleher and Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer.

Also signed up to the committee are Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan and Fianna Fáil Senator Ned O’Sullivan.

A row is expected in the Dáil next week when a vote to set up the committee is due after the Dáil business committee decided some Oireachtas groupings should not be allowed to rotate members on the committee.

The Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution must report its conclusions and recommendations within three months of its first public meeting.

It is not expected to sit through the summer, but can meet in private to select a chairperson.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times