FG’s Mathews apologises over controversial televised remarks

A high-profile Fine Gael TD has apologised for claiming serious health risks for pregnant women are not a reason to allow abortion as “we’re all going to end up dead anyway”.

Peter Mathews made the controversial remarks during a lengthy panel discussion about the wider abortion debate on Monday’s edition of the TV3 show Tonight with Vincent Browne.

Speaking during the programme, Mr Mathews was asked if serious and potentially fatal health risks are an “acceptable risk” in pregnancy, or whether they are grounds for abortion in some cases. He responded: “But sure we’re all going to end up dead anyway.”

While discussing the same issue with presenter Vincent Browne, Sunday Times journalist Sara McInerney, and NUI Maynooth pro-choice campaigner Sinead Kennedy, he also suggested the risk was like that faced by men who worked in coal mines.

“Look, Vincent, men went down the mines and ways, [repeats] men went into the mines and ways to provide for their family and their health was impaired and they died young.

“Look, for goodness [sake], life is tough. Vincent you know that song ‘The Road Less Travelled’. ‘Life is tough’, that’s the first sentence of it.”

When contacted by the Irish Examiner last night, Mr Mathews said that the controversy was an “entrapment situation” and that the comments were “taken out of context completely”.

However, he apologised if anyone was offended by the remarks. “I would regret unreservedly for anyone taking up what was said in the wrong way. I would be mortified if I offended anyone, I am hugely sensitive to people.”

Fine Gael had earlier moved to distance itself from the Monday night comments.

In a statement, a party spokeswoman said Mr Mathews was “speaking in a personal capacity” on Tonight with Vincent Browne.

While she said Fine Gael “does not comment publicly on internal party matters”, she added that the TD’s “views do not reflect the opinion or position” of the party.

“This is an extremely sensitive issue, and the Fine Gael party would never seek to knowingly cause offence over this or any other issue,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Choice Ireland said the group “really welcomes the apology” from Mr Mathews for any distress caused.

However, she said regardless of the Fine Gael TD’s intentions the original comments were in her view “quite callous” and “dismissive” of the concerns of pregnant women facing serious health risks.

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