Further 50 members of legal profession call for no vote

Barrister Benedict O Floinn. Pic: Collins

A further 50 members of the legal profession in Ireland have added their names to a statement calling for a no vote in the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

The barristers, solicitors and academics join a previous 100 signatories, which include Iarfhlaith O’Neill, former High Court judge and chairman of the Referendum Commission for the Lisbon Treaty, and Aindrias Ó Caoimh, former High Court judge and judge of the European Court of Justice.

The latest statement says that the signatories “hope that having considered what is at stake in the coming referendum and the far-reaching proposals of Government, our society will conclude that it would be profoundly unjust to withdraw the existing constitutional protections from the unborn”.

The additional 50 names were announced at a press conference in Cork yesterday, where barrister Benedict Ó Floinn said all the signatories have pledged their names and reputations behind the statement calling for a no vote.

“How would we look at this problem if we were looking at any other right? If I said to anybody in the room ‘let’s take away your right to private property from the Constitution, let’s take away your right to a good name from the Constitution, let’s take away your rights in relation to language or anything else in the Constitution — but it’s all right, the Government will pass legislation and they’ll protect it.’

“Nobody in the room would say that’s a sensible way to go about matters. There would be nobody who would say it was an object for debate.

“We would say that is profoundly unjust.

So why do we single out the unborn child, and say uniquely in relation to this category of human being that we’ll sweep away their rights, but it’s OK, the Government will take charge of this into the future — you can’t predict how, you may not be happy about the current framing of it, you may not know how other governments will deal with the issue, but you should sweep it away all the same.

“That’s why we say vote no. If it was anything else, this wouldn’t even be a debate,” he said.

Mr Ó Floinn said a call for a yes vote by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has been countered by other medical professionals who are against repeal.

Asked about the case of Claire Malone, a widow who said she was concerned that her life was at risk because of the birth of her third child due to existing health conditions, Mr Ó Floinn said it was important to note that her medical team did not share her belief.

“This is where the conflict sometimes comes about, sometimes opinion can get in the way of fact.

“On the one hand, it is said that trust is the hallmark of the yes side, trust doctors and trust women.

“On the other hand when in a case like this, the obstetricians and gynaecologists form a different view, we’re told to disregard what they say and instead look at some other aspect of the case,” he said.

When he was asked about the position adopted by bodies such as Lawyers for Choice, Mr Ó Floinn said that such groups would also acknowledge that a vote to repeal would remove rights for the unborn from the Constitution, but that he believes the statement calling for a no vote is more representative of the profession at large.

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