Monday, July 23, 2012

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin remains to be convinced that the Oireachtas should legislate for abortion in Ireland

The Irish Examiner reports Monday July 23rd that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin "remains to be convinced" that the Oireachtas should legislate for the X case on abortion despite what the article disingenuously describes as a 20-year failure to do so.

The report continues that Martin fears such legislation could allow for abortion in more that widespread circumstances than envisaged by the 1992 Supreme Court judgment.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Martin said that legislation could create "an open-door situation" that would turn out to be "very difficult to hold back".

His comments came as a Labour junior minister Kathleen Lynch predicted the Government would ultimately have to legislate.

"Clearly, there will be differences [of opinion] but, in terms of legislation, in this particular instance, we won’t have a choice," Ms Lynch told RTÉ Radio.

Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore refused to speculate, but played down suggestions the matter could destabilise the Coalition amid divisions in Fine Gael on the issue.

In the X case judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was permissible in Ireland in cases where the mother’s life was at risk. This included the risk of suicide.

But successive governments, including those in which Mr Martin served, failed to introduce legislation to clarify the instances where a mother’s life was deemed to be at risk.

The Government is under pressure to introduce such clarifying legislation following a separate judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010.

That court found that a woman’s rights had been breached because of Ireland’s failure to provide a regulatory or legislative procedure by which she could establish whether she qualified for a lawful abortion in this country.

In keeping with a commitment in the Programme for Government, the Coalition has referred the matter to an expert group, which will report in the autumn with options on how to deal with the EU judgment.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly vowed earlier this year that the Government would act following receipt of the report. But a number of Fine Gael TDs oppose any move to legislate, and raised the issue recently with Dr Reilly at a tense party meeting.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil’s previously stated commitment to maintain Ireland’s ban on abortion "hasn’t changed" and "is not going to change".

He said that while he would wait to see the expert group’s report, "the right to life is something we believe in as a political party".

Asked if Dr Reilly should legislate for the X case, Mr Martin replied: "I’m not so sure that he should."

He referred to the 2002 referendum, when Fianna Fáil in government unsuccessfully proposed removing suicide as a ground for abortion. "We felt the suicide option — if you legislate for that, you’re essentially creating an open-door situation, and it will be very difficult to hold back," he said.

Asked if his position was not to legislate at all, Mr Martin replied: "I remain to be convinced that it’s a doable proposition.

"It’s not as black and white as is being portrayed, and I’m not so sure that that route necessarily is going to lead to a significant improvement for anybody.

"I’m not absolutist in terms of being judgmental on people. But… I think we should do everything we possibly can to preserve the life of the unborn and preserve the life of the mother. And I think we do that in Ireland, actually."