Cross-party event cut short as heckler targets Harris

Health Minister Simon Harris was confronted by heckles and calls for him to resign at a referendum event which had to be cut short after the interruption.

A pro-life supporter began to repeatedly shout at the minister and other politicians attending a cross-party Oireachtas event in support of a yes vote yesterday.

With only two days left of canvassing before the vote, both sides of the campaign hosted a number of events yesterday in a bid to convince those who remain undecided.

The Women’s Health in Ireland press conference, which was attended by members of Fine Gael, Fine Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, the Green Party, the Social Democrats and some Independent TDs was abruptly ended after Tim Jackson interrupted the event.

Mr Jackson, who had a videographer with him to record the exchange, shouted: “Minister for health are you happy that taxpayers money will be used to fund the killing of innocent human beings?”

Those attending the event attempted to drown out the heckles with clapping to which Mr Jackson shouted: “Can we continue to clap for the killing of Irish children?”

He was then politely asked to leave the event.

Mr Jackson also confronted Social Democrat TDs Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall, Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley, and former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald as they left the event in Dublin’s Davenport Hotel.

Before the event was prematurely ended, Mr Harris said: “For far too long in this country we have buried our heads in the sand, we have ignored the reality of crisis pregnancies that has resulted in at least nine women every single day leaving this jurisdiction to access healthcare abroad.

"It has resulted in three women every single day having to take the abortion pill on their own without any medical supervision.

“We cannot continue to ignore realities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has moved to dispel any notion that abortion could be decriminalised in Ireland without the referendum being passed on Friday.

Mr Varadkar dismissed a claim by Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív the current 14-year jail term for those who have an abortion could be reduced without a referendum.

Speaking on RTÉ radio Mr Ó Cuív pointed out that nobody had ever been prosecuted but said the statute book could be changed.

Consultant obstetrician Dr Trevor Hayes, who is advocating for a no vote, also said it may be possible to find solutions to “exceptional cases” without removing the 35-year-old rule.

“The Government had an opportunity to draft legislation for the exceptional cases, they chose not to, they went on a very liberal and radical journey of abortion on demand up until 12 weeks and a British-style abortion up until 24 weeks.”

But Mr Varadkar later told the Dáil this is “not true” and stated that legislation to reduce the term had been refused as it was deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General.

He said: “What I see now, in the final, dying days of this campaign, is a tactic by the no campaign to try to make out there is some sort of alternative amendment that we could put into our Constitution.

“I would ask those people, 30 years after that amendment was put into our Constitution, why in those 30 years has nobody put forward an alternative amendment that would deal with all of these hard cases, and why, only three days from the vote, are people suddenly raising that as a realistic argument and alternative.

“It is not a realistic alternative, it is just a tactic, and I believe the Irish people will see through that.”


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