Former minister Mary O’Rourke paid for women to travel for abortions

Mary O'Rourke. Photo:Photocall

‘I didn’t look at the legalities... they came to me for practical help’

Former Fianna Fáil minister and deputy leader Mary O’Rourke has revealed she paid for two women to go to England to have an abortion.

Mrs O’Rourke, who retired from active politics in 2011, said she finally helped the two women, who were deeply distressed, to travel to Liverpool and London during the 1990s.

“I remember distinctly helping two women financially, one went to Liverpool and the other went to London to have an abortion. I distinctly remember all the details. I remember the sordid reasons, very sad reasons in which why they were going,” she told the Irish Examiner.

The Athlone-based veteran politician has made her comments in the context of the forthcoming referendum on May 25, and she said her vast experience has left her “conflicted and undecided” as how to vote.

“I have been around a long time, and it is exactly why I am undecided. But I am not sure, because I have seen too much of life to see it as either black or white. It simply it is not black or white.

“People do an injustice to those in the middle who are unsure.”

Mrs O’Rourke said she responded to the two separate requests for help from the women when she was an opposition TD in the mid-1990s.

They were two separate cases, but each case were distinctly distressed and made a huge impression on me, and that is why I am so conflicted.

She was asked if she considered the legalities or the potential for negative public fallout if the news had gotten out that she had helped the women financially.

“They were going, anyway, no matter what I said. I didn’t look at the legalities, I was not a police officer. They came to me for practical help and you know what that meant,” she said.

“Actually, I think I was in opposition so 1994 to 1997, I remember now that I wasn’t as harried as you would be if you were a minister. So I was a plain TD. But who wouldn’t try to help a woman in their hour of need?” she added.

Mrs O’Rourke also spoke about the two cases on TV3’s Tonight Show on Tuesday night.

She said the two women involved were not simply looking for the easy way out of having their baby.

“They weren’t just saying I just don’t want a baby, no they were not. So I am weighing all that up. I also feel those women did not have access to contraception and it was one of the reasons why it happened like that,” she said.

Mrs O’Rourke, commenting to the Irish Examiner, said that the two women came to her in her constituency office, which she ran from her home.

“It was very evocative. You ran your constituency office from the house, Enda [her husband] had converted one of the rooms into an office. That was how we did my business,” she said.

She says she still sees one of the women now.

“I see one of them frequently, she seems to have since had a family, but I lost touch with the other.”

Asked to why she is so conflicted on the issue of abortion, given what she did, Mrs O’Rourke said: “There is no two cases the same, I wish it could be. I wish it could be straight forward for me, but it just isn’t.”

Meanwhile, Labour TD and former tánaiste Joan Burton asked if the Charities Regulator will be subjecting all churches to the same scrutiny as the Project Arts Centre, after it ordered a pro-repeal mural to be painted over.

“If the Charities Regulator is going to take action against a simple poster which contains nothing offensive and deem it to be political, is the minister of state telling me, as holder of his office, that the same regulator will go into churches and check out the material there?” Ms Burton asked minister of state Sean Kyne.

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