Fianna Fáil leader to meet no-vote members

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is to have individual meetings with TDs and senators who campaigned against repealing the Eighth Amendment in a bid to gain their support to legislate for abortion.

The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party last night met in Leinster House for the first time since the referendum.

More than half of Fianna Fáil’s TDs and senators had opposed the draft legislation put forward by the Government.

Some 31 TDs, including Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary and finance spokesman Michael McGrath, gathered for a photoshoot in Dublin’s Merrion Square during the campaign to signal their opposition to repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Last night, Mr Martin, who supported the repeal campaign, told the meeting that elected members must now respect the will of the people, which he said was definitive.

The Fianna Fáil leader encouraged those at the meeting to reflect on the vote and to realise the Constitution belongs to the people.

He said the resounding yes result in the referendum means far more than the personal views of TDs and senators.

Stressing how unified Fianna Fáil was going into the 2016 general election, Mr Martin said he would be meeting all members, including those who advocated for a no vote, in the next three weeks to rebuild and strengthen that unity.

Speaking directly after Mr Martin, Barry Cowen hit out at some members who had strongly campaigned against the referendum, accusing them of “gamesmanship”. He suggested they had taken a political gamble in trying to come out on the right side of the vote.

Mr Cowen said those who had come out against repeal ahead of the ballot should now offer the whip and back the introduction of legislation which the Government will bring forward in the coming weeks.

Sligo TD Marc MacSharry, who campaigned for a no vote, also spoke at the meeting after talking with Mr Martin yesterday morning.

He told members Fianna Fáil had “laid out their path” ahead of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act in 2013 when a free vote was offered to TDs and senators.

He said this had given space and tolerance on the matter and it was the same in the case of the recent referendum. He added that his personal responsibility has now been trumped by his legislative responsibility.

Mr MacSharry told colleagues that “unity comes from shared ownership” and called on the Fianna Fáil leadership to share strategies on all issues with elected members in future.

It is understood that TDs Mary Butler, Éamon Ó Cuív, and Declan Breathnach, who just days before the vote said they would table amendments to any legislation, did not speak at last night’s meeting.

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