Fine Gael concerns that the abortion referendum could ultimately tear the Government apart have been underlined after a party TD accused one of her colleagues of “lies” and producing “fake” facts on the issue.
Kate O’Connell made the allegation at the latest meeting of the Oireachtas Eighth Amendment committee after party colleague Peter Fitzpatrick claimed a referendum yes vote will result in abortion being used as “contraception”.
In the first openly politicised meeting of the committee, Louth TD Mr Fitzpatrick put forward research saying a foetus can feel pain in its early stages and has a heart beat within 21 days.
After saying “statistics show 90% of babies born with Down syndrome” are aborted and that abortion “could become another form of contraception”, Mr Fitzpatrick said he is “really afraid we’ll make a mistake” on the referendum.
The comments were immediately criticised by Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan, Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger, Independent senator Lynn Ruane and Independents4Change TD Clare Daly.
However, the most vocal opposition came from Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell, who directly challenged the claims, saying they are “just untruths” and that her party colleague is “just putting out lies”.
While Mr Fitzpatrick was defended by Independent senator Ronan Mullen and Independent TD Mattie McGrath — the latter of whom insisted Ms O’Connell should retract her remarks — a number of committee members continued to criticise Mr Fitzpatrick’s comments.
The unexpected division was repeated hours later, when Ms O’Connell backed up Ms Daly during her questioning of pro-life campaigner Prof William Binchy by leaving the room to print off a Catholic Ireland article which included a quote from Prof Binchy — which he had disputed — before handing it to the Solidarity-PBP TD.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s four-hour Eighth Amendment committee meeting heard from both sides of the abortion debate.
After the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s chief commissioner Emily Logan and commissioner Siobhan Mullally called for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment as vulnerable women and those on low incomes cannot travel abroad, Prof Binchy insisted the foetus has equal rights.
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