Two rural TDs plan political lobby group with anti-abortion stance

Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins set to promote anti-abortion message

Mattie McGrath: “Members of the public are coming to us asking to join because they feel let down by other parties.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Mattie McGrath: “Members of the public are coming to us asking to join because they feel let down by other parties.” Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Plans are at an advanced stage for the creation of an informal political group to promote rural issues and an anti-abortion message, according to Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

The Tipperary TD told The Irish Times that a new year launch was envisaged for the group, which he is setting up with Independent TD for Cork South West Michael Collins.

Some councillors have expressed an interest in joining, although no names are available yet.

“Members of the public are coming to us asking to join because they feel let down by other parties,’’ Mr McGrath said.

McGrath has emphasised that Mr Collins and himself do not have a new political party in mind and are reluctant to call it an alliance because of the confusion it might create with the Independent Alliance TDs in Government with Fine Gael.

The plan, he said, is to set up “a rural independent community group’’.

Mr McGrath and Mr Collins oppose the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, with Mr McGrath, Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick and Independent Senator Ronan Mullen publishing a minority report last week, following the hearings of the Oireachtas committee on abortion.

Critical

Mr McGrath served on the committee and was critical of some of the procedures it adopted.

Mr McGrath and Mr Collins are members of a technical group in the Dáil sharing speaking time and with rights to question Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Opposition Leaders’ Questions.

The group has no agreed policy platform and is merely a parliamentary device to ensure the TDs retain a strong Dáil profile.

Some of them – Noel Grealish of Galway West, Dr Michael Harty from Clare, –formation of the new group. However, it is understood they are not now interested in being part of it.

TDs on both sides of the abortion issue privately admit the referendum, expected in May or June of next year, could be a divisive and hard-fought affair.

Tipperary and Cork-South have a conservative vote, likely to manifest itself in strong opposition to repealing the Eight Amendment, if the results of the 2015 marriage equality referendum are anything to go by.

Tipperary was composed of two three-seat constituencies at the time, with Tipperary North passing the referendum by 54.7 per cent to 45.3 percent and Tipperary South by 56.1 per cent to 43.9 per cent.

Cork South-West passed the referendum by 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

The overall national result was 62.1 per cent in favour and 37.9 per cent against.

Stag-hunting Bill

Mr McGrath was initially elected for Fianna Fáil but left the party in 2010 after voting against a stag-hunting Bill amendment.

In last year’s election, he was elected on the fourth count after coming in second in first preferences behind fellow Independent Michael Lowry.

Mr McGrath polled 11,237 votes to Mr Lowry’s 13,064.

The other TDs for the five-seat constituency are Independent Seamus Healy, Fianna Fáil’s Jackie Cahill and Labour’s Alan Kelly.

Next time, Fine Gael will be making a strong bid for a seat in what was once a stronghold. Among those seeking the nomination are veterinary surgeon Mary Newman, a sister of Dublin Bay South Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell, a strong advocate of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Mr Collins was last year the first Independent to be elected in the three-seat Cork South West constituency since 1957.

He finished third in first preferences with 6,765 votes, behind the two other successful candidates, outgoing Fine Gael TD Jim Daly (7,370) and Fianna Fáil’s Margaret Murphy O’Mahony (8,482).