Ireland can escape US fate by keeping judges apolitical, says Taoiseach

Ireland can escape US fate by keeping judges apolitical, says Taoiseach

Abortion-rights activists argue with anti-abortion activists in front of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court's decision in the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health case overturns the landmark 50-year-old Roe v Wade case, removing a federal right to an abortion. Picture: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Ireland should avoid the politicisation of the judiciary which led to the US Supreme Court overturning abortion rights, the Taoiseach said.

Micheál Martin said that the decision last week to overturn Roe v Wade which protected a woman’s right to choose in America was the result of people being appointed to the court because of their political beliefs.

“The constitution and separation of powers are at the very heart of what happened in the United States,” Mr Martin said on Tuesday.

“Above everything else, we should avoid the politicisation of the judiciary because that's what led to the decision in Roe v Wade.

“We just we had a referendum about five years ago, we have to be faithful in that referendum into the people's decision.”

Mr Martin added that Ireland differs from the US in that the state is able to hold referendums, noting that a “referendum is a powerful mechanism.”

The Taoiseach said there is a lot of research and work going into the review phase of Ireland’s abortion legislation but refused to be drawn when TD Brid Smith asked whether the Government would remove the three-day waiting period among other contentious measures.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith asked whether or not the Government would remove the three-day waiting period. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
People Before Profit TD Brid Smith asked whether or not the Government would remove the three-day waiting period. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

“We do have to make sure that it's properly framed up within the legislation and properly adhered to,” the Taoiseach said in response.

“It is fair to say that the decision on Roe v Wade was quite shocking in many respects but fundamentally because it overturns 50 years of jurisprudence.

It’s a salutary lesson also and everyone in this house that we need to protect or avoid any undermining of the separation of powers. 

“What clearly was afoot in United States for many, many years, which is really worrying, was the degree to which one could witness to put it as a citation of the Supreme Court that people were appointed on the basis of their position on this issue alone.”

Ms Smith said she wanted to know what this Government is going to do to “push back against any attempt, and I have no doubt that this will embolden anti-abortionists everywhere, but aside from them, I think we need to know that women's rights are going to be strengthened and not weakened by this Government.

“We have to push back against any attempt to undermine abortion legislation in this country.”

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