Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to

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

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 80 Next Page Last Page

  9 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash] It should then be debated thoroughly in these Houses. I hope that this House will, after the engagement process outlined at the outset of this debate by the Minister and on publication of the report of the expert group, legislate to give effect to the X case ruling, having fully considered the implications of this report and the legislation tabled before us.

  There is an infuriating tendency in this House and the political system in general to long-finger and prevaricate, hoping that complex issues of this nature might one day sort themselves out but we know that they do not. Politicians who are serious about their job should not live their lives by opinion polls but I would implore those who are uncomfortable with taking a stand on this issue to reflect on the views of the people. Last week's Red C poll showed a huge majority, unimaginable in its scale just a short time ago, who were in favour of legislating for the X case.

  Statements from experienced and familiar opponents in this area in recent weeks advising that we all must be subject to the "court of the conscience" in regard to this issue are offensive to me and offensive to the intelligence of Members of this House. The court of somebody else's conscience should not be allowed to sentence any sick woman to be imprisoned in the narrow confines of his or her own minority views. If Members of Dáil Éireann are not prepared to uphold judgments of the Supreme Court and if the representatives of the Irish people choose to dispense with the mandate given to them in referenda by the Irish people directly then we should all reflect on our function here. I read today the statement from the Catholic bishops on their approach to this debate. I fully respect the right of the Catholic Church and leaders of other faiths to make their views known. That is their right and I will always defend that right but nobody in this House and Republic should feel compelled to be bound by it. The nature of these interventions reminds me of Talleyrand's remarks about the Bourbons and how they were doomed to learn nothing and forget nothing. No republic worth the name should impose one ideology over any other on the rights of women to safe health care and medical interventions, or on any other issue.

  Today the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers expressed its concern regarding the situation of women who are of the opinion that their life may be at risk due to their pregnancy. It also invited the Irish authorities to take all necessary measures to implement the European Court of Human Rights ruling. The council's human rights commissioner is quoted on RTE News this evening as saying:

 If you have a provision that grants this legal possibility - in very limited circumstances - then there has to be some way for people to actually access this possibility.   If you have a court ruling - we're talking about the rule of law here - we are talking about implementing a court ruling, as well as providing this provision.

Today, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton spoke very eloquently at Dublin City University about the human rights challenges facing the world. She set out four pillars on which those human rights challenges can be addressed. She said the full vindication of women's rights across the globe represents what she termed "unfinished business". I urge Members here and the citizens of Ireland to closely consider those words shared with us in Dublin today and commit to definitively resolve this critical social and human rights issue once and for all.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe This is a very difficult issue for anybody to speak on. I know that everyone who has spoken on this thus far has his or her individual views on and feelings about it. This has been a very divisive issue in Ireland over a very long period of years. If I would ask for one thing - Deputy Mattie McGrath spoke about it earlier - it would be to have a calm debate on this issue. This is the first time since I was elected to the Oireachtas in 2002 that this issue has been debated so extensively.

When I speak to some colleagues who have been here for 15, 20, 25, 30 or 35 years, they tell me their own stories. They remember the most recent constitutional referendum on abortion and how difficult and emotive it was. I have no doubt that what happened then will happen again because, as many Deputies have said, there are people on both sides of the argument who have very strong views - on the pro-life and pro-choice sides. We as Members of this House have a very difficult decision to make. Some people can make it easily while others make it with very heavy hearts. We must strike the right chord between everybody in the House and on both sides and I believe that can be done if we listen to each other's views on this issue.

Deputy Timmins said something that struck a chord with me. I heard it recently on the radio. It is when people query what a man would know about abortion, having babies, maternity units, etc. We have come a very long way in Ireland over a long period of years. I am a father of two children and was present at both births. I have seen the very thin line regarding what can happen and nature at work. It is unbelievable. One looks at this with a totally different perspective when one has children and sees their birth and what can go wrong. One can see things going very smoothly and things going very wrong very quickly. The most important thing is the health and well-being of the mother. It is paramount in this debate.

It is a very thin line when one sees the birth of any child and one does look at it in a totally different way. In another way, one can see the risks involved in the birth of a child. Deputy Mattie McGrath said that the birth of a child is probably one of the happiest moments in one's life and there is no doubt this is true. It is something one will always remember. One remembers what time your child was born at, the date of birth, who was there, whether it was morning or night, whether it was raining, the time one brought one's partner or wife to the hospital, who delivered the child and the nurses who were there. I have no doubt that every father and mother across the world remembers and relives that on many occasions.

This Government has a duty to listen to every side of the argument.

Last Updated: 06/05/2020 11:52:07 First Page Previous Page Page of 80 Next Page Last Page