Latest: GAA players launch campaign for No vote in abortion referendum; Time for Ireland to 'come of age', says Taoiseach

Update 3.05pm: A group of GAA stars have today launched called for a No vote in the May 25 referendum on the 8th Amendment.

The launch today at the Ballyfermot Sports Centre was attended by Joe Sheridan (Meath), Patrick Gallagher (Antrim), Aoife Cassidy (Derry, All Ireland Camogie winning Captain), AnneMarie McDonagh (Galway Ladies Football) and Micky Harte (Tyrone Manager).

The group also plans to issue a series of videos from well-known GAA players over the coming month, in which the players will give their reasons for voting No.

“Sport is a place where people come together to test themselves, to strive for greatness, to fulfil their potential, and to express their unique gifts as part of a team," a statement from the group read.

"Working together, we become one team, one society, one nation, and one human race.

"Those are our principles – inclusiveness, compassion, respect, dignity, teamwork.

"In keeping with those principles, we are coming together today to ask the Irish people to vote NO on May 25th.

The proposal the Government has put forward is not inclusive. It specifically seeks to exclude one group of people, the unborn, from our society. It strips them of rights, it declares that they are not on our team."

"The proposal is not compassionate.... The proposal is not respectful.

"It would compel hospital porters, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to take part in abortions even if they believe, in the deepest pits of their being, that they were being asked to do something terribly wrong.

"The proposal strips away our dignity. It asks us to condone abortion not just in the difficult cases, but for healthy children, for any reason. These children will not get a coffin, or a burial, or a funeral. They will be treated as if they did not exist.

"Finally, the proposal fails the test of teamwork. This is a society of people of many talents, with boundless potential and vast resources. If we work together, we can come up with a better solution than to cast away the rights of our unborn children and call it a solution. We can, and we must, do better."

The statement concludes: "We respect and cherish women. We support them, and we believe that as a society, we have much more, so much more, to offer our women than the death of their children.

"We’re asking people to vote NO.”

Update 2pm: Time for Ireland to 'come of age', says Taoiseach; GAA players to call for No vote later

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said "it is time for Ireland to come of age" and treat women equally in Irish society by removing the Eighth Amendment from the constitution.

Speaking at the official launch of the campaign for pro-choice Fine Gael members, Mr Varadkar said Ireland as a nation cannot continue to brush the reality of abortion "under the carpet" and pretend the status quo is justifiable.

In a detailed speech at Smock Alley in Dublin City, Mr Varadkar said "it is time for Ireland to come of age" and take advantage of the "once in a generation chance" to repeal the eighth amendment.

He said while Irish Governments "have spent many years recently righting the wrongs" inflicted on women in previous generations, "truth be told we are still wronging women" by imposing the Eighth Amendment upon them.

Mr Varadkar said the reality is the Eighth Amendment only allows people to hide abortion "under the carpet" by pretending it is not taking place, even though nine women a day travel abroad for terminations and three women a day illegally obtain abortion pills.

He said "the Ireland of 2018 is still turning a cold shoulder" to women facing extremely difficult choices, and said: "if the referendum is not approved nothing changes and this will continue to be a problem for women".

Mr Varadkar also used the official Fine Gael campaign launch to raise pro-life concerns a yes vote will lead to widescale abortion.

He said in the 1995 divorce referendum it was claimed almost half of marriages may be cancelled while in the 2015 marriage equality referendum it was claimed marriage itself would be undermined.

However, the Taoiseach said in both cases this did not happen, and said removing the eighth amendment will not lead to women having abortions for reasons unless they are needed.

The Fine Gael launched was attended by a number of other Government figures, including party referendum co-ordinator and Culture Minister Josepha Madigan, Health Minister Simon Harris, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, Kate O'Connell, Frances Fitzgerald and others.

Mr Harris said abortion must be made legal in Ireland as too many traumatic incidents have happened to women and couples in Ireland due to a law that not working.

During the launch people who have been directly affected by the Eighth Amendment explained their stories, while Dr Mary Higgins outlined the reality of the current law for doctors.

Dr Higgins said while this is a yes versus no referendum campaign, should the referendum pass there will not be a celebration or party, but instead there will be "a sigh of relief".

"The difference between empathy and compassion is compassion means you do something about it," she said.

A group of prominent GAA players will today come out in support of a No vote in the referendum.

The group will release a series of videos over the coming month giving their reasons to "save the 8th".

The GAA as an organisation has said they will remain neutral on the issue of the 8th Amendment.

John McGuirk, communications director for Save8.ie, said: "We're delighted to be joined today by some of the leading figures in the GAA including Micky Harte, Joe Sheridan from Meath [and] a whole range of others," he said.

"Like us, I think they're people who are very concerned that this proposal just goes far too far for most poeple."

Update 1.25pm: Taoiseach calls for Yes vote as GAA stars prepare to launch No campaign

The Taoiseach has said it is incumbent on people who want a "Yes" vote in the abortion referendum to make the case to voters.

Leo Varadkar will this morning launch the campaign for Fine Gael members who want the 8th amendment to be repealed.

He'll be addressing an event at Dublin's Smock Alley Theatre, along with Health Minister Simon Harris and campaign co-ordinator, Minister Josepha Madigan.

The Taoiseach began canvassing in his own constituency last night.

"I really think what's incumbent now on all of us who want a Yes vote is to go out there, talk to people and explain to people why a Yes vote is the right thing to do - why we should become a country where we trust women and trust doctors to make the right decisions when it comes to crisis pregnancies and a country in which we don't send women on the boat anymore," he said.

A group of prominent GAA players will today come out in support of a No vote in the referendum.


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