A small number of Fianna Fáil TDs influenced many others in voting against a bill to allow a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, say party members.
While there will be no repercussions for TDs who went against the views of party leader Micheál Martin and voted against the referendum bill, some Fianna Fáil members claim just “five or six” managed to “influence” others in their decision.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will campaign for repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
Speaking in Brussels, Mr Varadkar said he is “certainly” going to be involved in the repeal campaign .
“This is a proposal that Government is making to repeal the Eighth Amendment to allow us to remove this almost absolute constitutional ban on abortion from our Constitution, so I am going to advocate for change,” said Mr Varadkar.
There was surprise on Wednesday when 21 Fianna Fáil TDs voted against holding a referendum on the issue.
It is understood that Mr Martin, who previously came out strongly in favour of repeal and access to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, was furious after the vote.
Fianna Fáil TDs who voted against holding a referendum yesterday rejected accusations that they acted to block democracy.
Many defended the stance, claiming they could not accept the wording put forward by the Government.
Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward said: “I am a democrat, I had no problem with the question going to the people, but when I saw it set down and the wording that we were putting to the people, I couldn’t accept it.
“I agonised yesterday morning, because, as I say, I am a democrat, I had to put that against the wording, and when I read the Government’s wording, that’s when I decided to vote no.
“I personally could not put my signature to what I believed went against my core beliefs.
“I am glad this is going to the people, but I could not vote in favour of it.”
Tipperary’s Jackie Cahill said he could not accept the wording, which would task the Dáil with legislating if the referendum is passed.
“I was not voting against a referendum,” he said. “I believe there should be a referendum but I was against the wording.”
Louth TD Declan Breathnach also disagreed with the wording and claimed he had not been given the opportunity to table amendments.
“I am a believer in democracy. I always said from day one that I was in favour of a referendum,” he said. “I believe this has been badly handled from within the Dáil.”
Another of the 21 Fianna Fáil TDs who voted no was John McGuinness. He said: “I voted no at second stage just to exercise my right to comment on the actual process and the referendum insofar as they are talking about repealing the Eighth Amendment and taking away the protection for a child and a mother in the Constitution
“They are going to then rely on the Dáil to introduce legislation at any time.
“I was one of the ones who didn’t continue voting. I wanted to put down a marker that I didn’t agree with the process or the wording.”
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