Pro-life groups ‘trying to undermine’ Eighth debate, says committee chair

The chairwoman of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment says pro-life groups are refusing to attend as part of a wider strategy to undermine the referendum debate, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith

Senator Catherine Noone made the claim as some Fine Gael colleagues called for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment, others accused pro-choice TDs of being “baby killers”, and more sought sex education reforms as part of any abortion law changes.

During a debate which took place as it emerged former TD Billy Timmins — who quit over the introduction of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act in 2013 — has asked to rejoin the party, Ms Noone said she believes pro-life groups are trying to undermine the wider referendum.

Regarding the committee’s decision last month to vote not to retain the Eighth Am-endment in full, Ms Noone said: “This has now been used by those with a pro-life perspective as grounds for not co-operating and is part of an overall strategy and campaign.”

Health Minister Simon Harris said Ireland has been a “cold, neglectful, lonely, and isolating” place for a woman or couple who have needed an abortion.

TD and committee mem-ber Kate O’Connell noted how the Netherlands’ liberal abortion laws include school sex education and a five-day cooling off period after requesting an abortion. Other party members said this still goes too far.

Louth member Anne Bardon said “they’re asking for a woman to have the right to choose to kill her own baby”.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin has attacked party colleague Peadar Tóibín for his suggestion that the committee was biased.

Mr Tóibín criticised the balance of members and witnesses giving testimony.

Mr Ó Broin said Mr Tóibín’s views did not represent Sinn Féin’s view, and added that he was “very disappointed” that Mr Tóibín had aligned himself with Independent Mattie McGrath and Independent senator Rónán Mullen in trying to “undermine” the work of the committee.

This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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