Abortion Committee Members Declare Positions
Seven Oireachtas members who will sit on the new cross-party committee on abortion have declared themselves “pro-choice”, while two have said they favour keeping the 8th Amendment and its protection for the unborn. Others have declined to state their position on the issue ahead of the formation of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which will consider the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly. The original plan was to have 16 TDs and four Senators on the committee, but the Seanad has pushed for seven representatives.
The Irish Times asked prospective members of the committee about their positions.
Those who described themselves as “pro-choice” were Senator Catherine Noone and Kate O’Connell of Fine Gael; Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan; Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats; Clare Daly of Independents 4 Change; Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger and People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith. Deputies Coppinger and Smith will rotate a position on the committee.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Independent Senator Rónán Mullen said they were anti-abortion.
The prospective members were also asked if they favoured the repeal of the 8th Amendment, which enshrined the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn into the Constitution in 1983, and if they described themselves as “liberal” or “conservative” on the issue of abortion.
Senator Noone said she “started out being very pro-life” but was now pro-choice and was in favour of the 8th Amendment being repealed. Asked if she described herself as “liberal” or “conservative”, she said: “I would say that I am moderate.”
Deputy O’Connell said she was in favour of repeal and “liberal on the issue”.
Her party colleague Bernard Durkan confirmed he would also sit on the committee. Asked about his position, he said: “I couldn’t be relied upon to be snugly in either camp”. Mr Durkan said he had been criticised by campaigners on “both sides” of the debate. On the question of repealing the 8th Amendment, he said: “I think we need to know what the replacement is going to be.” Asked whether he described himself as conservative or liberal on the issue of abortion, he said he was in “neither camp”.
Fianna Fáil Senator Ned O’Sullivan declined to state his position. “I don’t think labels are a help at all,” he said. “I’m a pragmatist, generally speaking. I’m very conscious of the need for sensitivity on the issue and I don’t intend to comment further at this stage.
Lisa Chambers, one of four Fianna Fáil TDs on the committee, said the issue was “sensitive and complex” and choosing labels to describe the approach that would be taken was “neither helpful nor appropriate”. She has previously, however, indicated strong support for repeal of the 8th Amendment
Deputy Mattie McGrath said he was in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment and “conservative on the issue of ending innocent human life”.
Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien said he would describe himself as “open minded rather than pro-choice”.
The Irish Times. May 4. Family & Life. May 4.