Senator: I had no part in wife’s invitation to committee

Criticism of the decision to allow the wife of a member of the Oireachtas committee hearing submissions on abortion to make her own submission has been rejected by her husband.

Fine Gael senator Colm Burke said yesterday he had no “hand, act or part” in the invitation of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children to his wife, consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist Mary McCaffrey, to appear before the committee.

“I would have told the chair [Jerry Buttimer] when I saw her name on the list that I did not want to be part of the decision-making process,” Mr Burke said.

Mr Burke said all 19 members of the committee were invited to submit names of people, which included medical and legal experts and interested parties.

Mr Burke submitted seven names, including obstetricians and perinatal psychiatrists. He did not include his wife’s name. She made her own submission to the committee and was invited to appear before it, he said.

Mr Burke said he wished to put the record straight, after inferences made on social media, including Twitter, that there was something questionable about the appearance of his wife before the committee.

Yesterday Catholic lay lobby group Ireland Stand Up tweeted “strange that Master of the Coombe is not present at Oireachtas hearing was this at expense of Mary McCaffrey? Transparency?” It is understood the lobby group also wrote to the committee outlining its objections to Ms McCaffrey’s selection.

Last night the chair of the committee, Jerry Buttimer, said MaryMcCaffrey was selected on the basis that they wanted the view of an obstetrics expert from one of the smaller maternity units.

“We needed someone from the smaller hospitals and it was decided by the committee to hear from a leading consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist who practised in one of the smaller units.”

Mr Buttimer said Ms McCaffrey had consulted with colleagues in similar size units in drawing up her submission, including John Monaghan from Portiuncula Hospital.

Mr Monaghan attended some of yesterday’s hearing before returning to Portiuncula for work reasons.

The hearings before the Oireachtas committee resume today.

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