Fianna Fáil and the Eighth Amendment

Sir, – At the Fianna Fáil ardfheis last October, the party’s membership voted overwhelmingly to oppose the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. This week in the Dáil, however, the party’s leader Micheál Martin not only supported the repeal of the amendment, but expressed his strong support for the radical proposals for abortion on demand that have been proposed by an Oireachtas committee.

Mr Martin is the leader of Fianna Fáil, not just a backbencher. Accordingly, what he says is inevitably seen as expressing the position of his party. He, after all, is the public face of the party and would aspire to be taoiseach after the next general election.

The people who voted for Fianna Fáil in the last election did not do so with a view to bringing about a radically liberal abortion regime in Ireland. There were other parties assertively pushing that agenda. Those who voted so decisively on this issue at the October ardfheis are the very people who Mr Martin would be expecting to be his foot-soldiers in the next election.

Having abused his position to call for abortion on demand in Ireland, contrary to the democratically expressed position of the party he leads, it is difficult to see how Mr Martin can continue to retain the confidence of his party to lead them into the next election. It might indeed be time now for Mr Martin to consider joining Fine Gael? – Yours, etc,



Sandymount, Dublin 4.

Sir, – Bravo, Micheál Martin. – Yours, etc,


Killiney, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I note that the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin used “compassion for women” in his Dáil speech in which he said that he will vote to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution.

There is nothing compassionate about abortion, the direct, intentional taking of an innocent human life. The Oireachtas Abortion Committee’s recommendations are horrific proposals, which call on the Irish people to deny recognition of the most basic human right, the right to life, of unborn children in the Constitution, and also call for abortion to be legalised on widespread grounds in Ireland. They must be rejected in their entirety by the Oireachtas. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Micheál Martin has divided his party. More seriously he risks losing Fianna Fáil’s grassroots supporters. At the party’s last ardfheis the vast majority of delegates voted for retaining the Eighth Amendment. For the few voters he may gain, it will never make up for the very many he and the party will lose if it does not repudiate his position and if the party does not replace him quickly. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 15.

Sir, – I am not surprised by the political turnaround regarding the Eighth Amendment. When people are given facts backed up by statements from medical professionals, they are almost always bound to come to the correct conclusion. An informed mind is a pro-choice mind. – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.

Sir, – I would respectfully disagree with the view offered by Noel Whelan ("Simple repeal of Eighth carries risks", Opinion & Analysis, January 19th) that a simple repeal of the Eighth Amendment would carry legal risks. The Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, having held extensive hearings with legal experts and received its own independent legal advice, made the clear recommendation for repeal simpliciter, which they concluded would best provide the necessary balance between certainty and flexibility in law-making.

The committee also expressed concern that inserting a replacement text giving the Oireachtas exclusive power to legislate, as Noel Whelan suggests, would have a profound effect on the doctrine of separation of powers by denying the courts their important supervisory function.

I believe that the committee’s recommendations are legally robust, and hope they will be followed by Government.

The legal opinion offered by Brian Murray SC to the Citizens’ Assembly, to which Noel Whelan refers extensively, merely set out different options, and did not recommend any one in particular. The repeal simpliciter recommendation was, however, supported by a group of experienced practising barristers, who warned in this newspaper some months ago that the insertion of any new text on abortion into the Constitution would carry a real risk of unforeseen consequences.

Some 35 years after the passage of the Eighth Amendment, we should have learned this lesson by now. – Yours, etc,


Leinster House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – "One way or another, the [abortion] issue does not have the capacity to cause the kind of political mayhem that accompanied the original referendum on the Eighth Amendment back in 1983" (Stephen Collins, Opinion & Analysis, January 18th). I wish I could share your columnist's confidence but I'm inclined to think that what we have here is the calm before the storm. – Yours, etc,


Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – After watching the RTÉ “debate” on the abortion referendum recently, I fear that RTÉ’s frustrating stance on equal time for each side is stifling more so than enabling any kind of debate. What we end up with is each side just laying out points while no one is actually challenged on views put forward. Would we not be better, if this is the approach that our broadcaster insists on, that each side is brought on separately and challenged on their views? Or just get Vincent Browne out of retirement. – Yours, etc,


Clonakilty, Co Cork.