Pro-life TD Bobby Aylward has said he is “not on a crusade” to oppose the upcoming abortion referendum ahead of special meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs and senators tonight.
Party finance spokesman Michael McGrath became the latest Fianna Fáil figure to oppose plans to liberalise the abortion laws yesterday, describing the repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution as “a step too far”.
He said that he would favour replacing, rather than repealing, the amendment, which currently equates the right to life of the unborn to that of the mother.
Mr McGrath said he “hasn’t slept very well” over the last couple of nights, while he considered the issue and called for a respectful debate in the coming months.
“I think it is inevitable now that there will be a referendum and I support the holding a referendum,” he said.
“But if the referendum is asking the question that there should be a straightforward repeal of the 8th Amendment with the intention of replacing it with legislation providing for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks, then that is not something that I can personally support. I think it is a step too far.”
The Cork South Central TD said he agreed with much of party leader Micheál Martin’s sentiments, after his speech last week in which he said he favoured repeal. But, Mr McGrath does not agree with Mr Martin’s conclusion.
“Where we are going with this question is not where the majority of Irish people sit on this issue,” he said.
Mr McGrath said if the referendum asks people to fully repeal the amendment, that voters would be “signing up to an unknown”.
He argued there is “no certainty” any subsequent legislation would simply allow abortion up to 12 weeks as some TDs are talking about setting a cut-off point “much further into the period of gestation”.
“That’s going to be a real problem throughout this referendum,” he insisted.
Mr McGrath denied his decision was in some way designed to challenge Mr Martin’s leadership. He said he would not be attending the special meeting of pro-life parliamentary party members tonight.
Bobby Aylward said he had spoken to Mr Martin over the weekend. It was an “amicable” discussion, insisted the Carlow-Kilkenny TD, and the party leader had no problem with the special Leinster House meeting going ahead. As of last night it was scheduled to take place at 6pm.
“It is a get-together on the Eighth Amendment. There is no real agenda, it is for like-minded people to myself.
"This is to ensure people don’t think we have gone liberal in the party. I’m not on a crusade, this is about ordinary members having their voice heard. There is no infighting or tension [in the party].”
However, some TDs are angry that Mr Martin last week revealed to the Dáil his views on repeal — despite telling his own parliamentary party meeting less than 24 hours earlier that he had not made up his mind.
This issue may be discussed at the frontbench party meeting today but is likely to be raised by some members at the weekly meeting for all senators and TDs tomorrow.
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