The chairwoman of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment has asked two pro-life members who threatened to resign not to leave the group amid claims it is biased and “a propaganda exercise in favour of abortion”.
Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone made the request after Independent senator Rónán Mullen and Independent TD Mattie McGrath said they are actively considering quitting the group.
In a fractious press conference at the gates of Leinster House yesterday, Mr Mullen and Mr McGrath said they were boycotting the committee due to what they claim is a pro-choice bias in its approach.
Citing the alleged treatment of pro-life campaigner William Binchy last week, the planned appearance of a pro-choice New York-based fundraising group the Center for Reproductive Rights, and claims they have been mistreated, both politicians said they are considering leaving the committee.
Mr Mullen and Mr McGrath refused to be drawn on whether they would set a deadline for changes to the committee before making a decision, if they will take part in it next week, or what changes they want to see take place.
Mr Mullen said: “The reality is this committee is a sham. It is a farce. We are now actively considering whether it is worth staying. It is hard to argue with those who consider this whole process a propaganda exercise.”
Rejecting the claims, committee chair Ms Noone last night urged Mr Mullen and Mr McGrath not to quit the group and asked other members to be more “professional” in their dealings with witnesses.
Oireachtas officials have told the Irish Examiner that, in the event of any resignation, an individual would simply be replaced by a member of their technical group.
In addition, as the cross-party select committee decides committee membership, while someone could tender their resignation it would not become official until the select committee finds a replacement — meaning there would be no impact on the Eighth Amendment committee’s work.
Meanwhile, the Irish College of General Practitioners’ national GP director, Karena Hanley, yesterday told the committee women who buy illegal abortion pills online may “fear” seeking medical help for any complications as they could technically face a 14-year prison sentence.
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