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

Monday, 17 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews] The answer to that is that it is better that we make the right decision and create the right framework of principles for the lives of the citizens of the State, trusting the professionals who have delivered one of the world's service in looking after pregnant women and the delivery of babies to date, trusting them to have the values and principles we have articulated to deliver that service. We are not sure if there were any grandmothers were on the expert group or how many were parents.

A life once it begins has required two people to create it, a co-responsibility of the men and women of this country. We should take our time and not rush to legislate or regulate and we must make sure first principles are correct.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I have received more correspondence on this issue than any other since my election to Dáil Éireann, hundreds of postcards and letters, and thousands of e-mails. My consideration of this matter did not begin with the tragic death of an expectant mother and her child in an Irish hospital recently and I do not believe it did for any Member of this House. When deciding to enter politics, the issue of abortion is a question that immediately confronts us. We are expected to have a fixed position, to be in a camp. People immediately try to put us in a box, pro-life or pro-choice. Such labels or terms are extreme, however, and in no way do they sufficiently capture the complexity of the issue, the genuine uncertainty that people may have, the possibility that one's own thoughts can change by degree over time, or the myriad of different views that are held on the issue. It is far too simplistic.

  Since I entered politics I have tried not be captured by this narrow and reductive attempt by others to frame my own views on the matter. There is a responsibility with this job to try to stand above the fray when deciding upon national issues, to remove oneself from temporal considerations of the matter at hand and consider the longer term consequences, to divest oneself of any electoral considerations, particularly on matters of conscience, and always to exercise one's own judgement as distinct from the opinions of those one represents. This is essential. Every single view possible on this issue is held within my constituency and within my party. How can I represent each view independently and coherently? I cannot; I can only use my own judgement in the matter, or else I betray them all.

  There has been some talk around this issue on the necessity of having a free vote when the matter is finally decided on by Government. I support this idea, and not just on this issue. What is a vote worth if it is not free? People fear a breakdown of the whip system if we remove or relax the whip on certain issues and some argue that it undermines the party system. I do not accept these arguments. In other, older parliaments, there is such a system and I believe these parliaments and their political parties to be stronger for it.

  On this issue parliamentarians should be allowed to vote based on what they actually think, and to defend that vote, rather than being forced in to a position they do not agree with. By enforcing the whip on this issue there is a risk that we could possibly end up weakening the decision that we ultimately take. Who will be served by such an outcome?

  To come straight to the matter, I do not favour abortion. That is my own personal view on this issue but do I have a right to force that view on another person? Whether as a legislator or not, do I have a right to tell a woman what she must do with her body? Does the State have that right? As the State has a responsibility to all our lives, it has a responsibility to unborn life but I do not believe this responsibility to be superior to the State's responsibility to a woman's life, her mental health or her health. I believe that the State has a responsibility to provide for the lawful termination of pregnancy in certain circumstances and some of these circumstances would require a change to the Constitution.

  Saying that a person can always travel if absolutely necessary is not the answer. I do not believe I have the right to tell another person what she can or cannot do when it comes to this most important of issues, and I do believe the State has a responsibility to make certain provisions in law. In so far as the report of the expert group on the judgment in A, B and C v . Ireland is concerned, I thank those involved for drafting this report. Although no explicit direction is given, it seems clear to me that the option outlined in paragraph 7.4.3 is the most suitable: legislation plus regulations.

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