‘Abortion rights an election issue’, says Clare Daly

Ireland at ‘critical juncture’ ahead of general election, pro-choice conference hears

Clare Daly TD told an event organised by the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment: “It is the political establishment that is the key barrier to the change that is necessary and wanted on this issue.” File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Clare Daly TD told an event organised by the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment: “It is the political establishment that is the key barrier to the change that is necessary and wanted on this issue.” File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Abortion rights is an election issue try as the Government might to avoid it, socialist TD Clare Daly has said.

Ms Daly was reacting to comments made by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny who said he will not commit to holding a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which gives an equal right to life to the mother and the unborn.

“It is the political establishment that is the key barrier to the change that is necessary and wanted on this issue,” Ms Daly said at an event organised by the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

“The very fact that he had to field questions on this issue shows how far events have moved . . . The last thing Enda Kenny wants to be talking about at all is abortion. And the reality now is that, try as they might to avoid it, the struggle for abortion rights dogs them everywhere they go,” Ms Daly said.

“We are at a critical juncture in terms of abortion rights in Ireland . . . We’re on the verge of a new Dáil and that new Dáil can deliver and can be forced to deliver very significant change in the struggle for abortion rights.”

She encouraged those present in the weeks and months ahead of the general election to contact TDs of every party: “Change will be delivered on this issue, like everything else, by organised people power often against the politicians rather than because of them,” she said.

‘Sea change’

Ms Daly said there had been a “sea change” in the attitudes towards abortion in Ireland while the approval of the same-sex marriage referendum had blown away the “myth” of a conservative majority in Irish society.

“While we’re not exactly pushing an open door . . . we do have to register that the door is definitely unlocked and we can push it open,” she said.

She said, while there was a “highly military, organised anti-abortion lobby” in Ireland, that this group was an “utter minority”.

Goretti Horgan, a lecturer in social policy at the University of Ulster, asked for people in the State to back 12 women in Northern Ireland who are expected to hand themselves into the police to say they have helped procure abortion pills by the year’s end.

“They all know there’s a chance they will be convicted but the idea is that we will appeal it . . . as far as the Supreme Court in London and if they turn us down, then to Europe,” she said.

Earlier in the day Deirdre Duffy of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said opinion polls showed that the public wanted more liberal abortion laws and that Irish abortion laws were “way out of line” with the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee and other bodies.

“A failure to implement liberal human rights standards in Irish abortion laws will simply leave the Government in an untenable position in terms of their leadership on human rights issues globally.”