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 Header Item Financial Resolution No. 15: General (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Report of the Expert Group on the Judgment in the A, B and C v. Ireland Case: Statements (Resumed)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív] The Minister will cost a farmer with an income of €100 from farming €30 a week. A farmer with three children in receipt of the farm assist payment with an income of €200 from the farm will have to pay a total of €72 a week, while an income of €400 a week from farming would mean a cost of €132 a week. This is obscene. The Minister has placed a 100% tax on farming. This is a Government afraid to raise taxes for those earning more than €100,000 but has no problem with effectively taxing at 100% farmers in receipt of farm assist. I hope between now and when the social welfare Bill comes before the House the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, will persuade the Minister to change this meanest of cuts and on behalf of the agricultural community he and his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, will make a stand for the people of rural Ireland.

Debate adjourned.

Report of the Expert Group on the Judgment in the A, B and C v. Ireland Case: Statements (Resumed)

Deputy John O'Mahony: Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony I am pro-life and anti-abortion. I also support the protection of the mother's life. Every debate on abortion over the years has been very emotive, polarised and, in most cases, carried out in highly-charged circumstances with little respect shown to the opposing view. I would have hoped that this time it could be different but so far the signs are not good.

I was one of those who genuinely held that sufficient guidelines were in place to protect the mother's life. I was clearly of the view that the law and the Irish Medical Council guidelines allow doctors to intervene to provide essential medical treatment to women and recognise this may sometimes result in the unintentional death of the baby. In all circumstances where a pregnant mother experiences a life-threatening complication, the ethical and legal requirement should be to provide whatever treatment is necessary to protect the life of that mother.

The tragic case of the death of Savita Halappanavar, which touched the heart of the nation and the wider world, has been used by some to heighten the emotion in this debate, without the facts of the circumstances of the case being established. The facts of the case must be established and only when this happens can we use them as an example or can blame be attached.

The media will also be very much under scrutiny when the true facts emerge. How many true facts got lost in the reporting, such as that UCHG had not had a maternal death for the previous 17 years, how some parents of staff working in the hospital were visited in their homes by media outlets trying to get a sensational angle as the story developed and how UCHG staff members were confronted with vitriolic comments on the streets of Galway based on comments made in the media? I thought it could be taken for granted in a democratic country that one was innocent until proven guilty. In this context I note the journalist who broke the story is coming to the view that we should await the outcome of the inquiries before reaching judgments.

It is now being put forward that nothing has been done for 20 years so we should now make a decision and act on it within a few weeks. I do not agree with the analysis that nothing has been done, as two referenda have been held, one of them in 2002 which was narrowly defeated. In 2002 people were confused by the attempt to deal with the X case. This is evidenced by the fact pro-choice and pro-life supporters, who had dramatically opposing views, voted "No".

I will support any measure which will bring clarity to the medical profession attempting to save the life of a mother. However, I am of the view that while one can bring clarity or put Medical Council guidelines into legislation, one cannot possibly legislate for all eventualities. I also believe the suicide issue is too complex to deal with in the short timeframe suggested.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I welcome the opportunity to speak on what is a very complex issue. It is evident that this debate, which has been ongoing since 1983, is one which divides the nation like few others. Since my election to Dáil Éireann I have not received as much correspondence on any other issue as this one. The labels of "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are regrettable and do not account for the complexity of the various issues and problems which can arise during pregnancy. I believe the vast majority of the people in this country do not wish to see abortion on demand. I do not and I feel it is important to state this.

  I welcome the publication of the expert group report. The establishment of the group was a commitment given by the Government. The complexity, sensitivity and multifaceted nature of this issue demanded that it be properly examined which is why the expert group was established. Its purpose is not to direct Government policy but to assist by examining and analysing the facts to provide a series of recommendations which can then be considered, accepted and amended.

  At the heart of the debate, but strangely not commented upon to any great extent, is our Constitution and respect for the primacy of law. In 1992, the Supreme Court, which is the chief interpreter of our Constitution, passed a judgment focusing on the inclusion of the risk of suicide under the definition of the risk to the life of the mother. Therefore, with this judgment it is clear the highest court in the land has interpreted our Constitution as permitting a termination when the life of the mother is endangered either through physical or mental health conditions.

  As the expert group report notes, "The Supreme Court decided in 1992 Attorney General v X2 (the X case) that the Constitution permitted abortion in certain limited and particular circumstances, namely, where there was a real and substantial risk to the life of the woman which could only be removed by terminating the pregnancy". The reality is that this judgment has been ignored by several Governments, and as I have pointed out to people who have contacted me on this matter it is not at all healthy for a society's Government to ignore the courts. It shows a lack of regard and respect for the primacy of law which all right-thinking members of society will agree is a very necessary feature for any democracy. Other Governments attempted to mitigate the Supreme Court's decision through holding two referenda, which it must be emphasised were both rejected by the people of Ireland.

  In A, B and C v. Ireland the European Court of Human Rights found that Article 8 of the European Convention had been violated because although our Constitution contains Article 40.3.3 there is no provision in Irish law to measure or determine the risk referred to in the X case. Therefore, in effect we have uncertainty, and uncertainty is the anti-hero of properly functioning legislation.

  The recent, tragic events in Galway have exposed the uncertain environment which is operating.

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