Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill
Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill chose not to attend a special meeting of fellow Fianna Fail Oireachtas members opposed to repeal of the Constitution's Eight Amendment at Leinster House on Tuesday evening.
The Thurles based TD said he didn't attend the meeting because Fianna Fail has given its TDs a free vote on the abortion referendum issue.
He said Deputy Bobby Aylward, the meeting's organiser, had legitimate reasons for calling the meeting as he felt the pro-life side of the party was not getting enough airtime. But Deputy Cahill believed the media would use the meeting to portray Fianna Fail as a divided party.
"There is divided views in Fianna Fail on this issue but it's not a split in the party. It is democracy. Thankfully we are a party that allows the expression of different positions, " he told The Nationalist.
Fianna Fail Leader Micheál Martin's announcement last week that he had changed his position on abortion and supports repeal of the 8th Amendment and the Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment's recommendation to allow unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, shocked many in his party. A majority of Fianna Fail TDs are against repeal of the 8th Amendment.
Deputy Cahill said while he didn't agree with Mr Martin, he respected his view and believed he articulated his reasons for supporting repeal of the 8th Amendment very well.
He said his own stance on abortion has always been pro-life and he is opposed to repealing the 8th Amendment. He is particularly concerned at the high percentage of babies with disabilities, like Down's Syndrome, who are aborted in countries where abortion is freely available.
"To say we would be different is to stretch it. I don't think that is right. We all know people with disabilities and it's my view they have a right to life."
The former ICMSA leader, however, said he supported holding a referendum and stressed he will respect the wishes of the electorate if they vote to repeal the 8th Amendment. He will not oppose the legislation that will give effect to a vote in favour of appeal.
Independent TD Michael Lowry, meanwhile, said he is in favour of retaining the 8th Amendment because he is opposed to the Oireachtas Committee's recommendation of unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, which he regards as too liberal.
"I see a problem for the Government if they put that proposal to the electorate. The sense I get is that it will be opposed and beaten,” he said.
Fellow Independent Mattie McGrath's opposition to abortion and repealing the 8th Amendment is well known. He was a staunch pro-life advocate on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment.
Tipperary's two left wing TDs, Independent Seamus Healy and Alan Kelly, however, are both in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment and allowing abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Deputy Healy told last week's Dail debate on the Oireachtas Committee's report that Irish abortions exist even though they are carried out in other jurisdictions for those who can afford it, and more recently by use of the abortion pill.
"It exists in a totally uncontrolled and potentially harmful way. It must be dealt with urgently and in a compassionate and understanding way. We cannot continue to have a situation where women's lives are at risk and where the medical profession is unclear about the legal position.
"We must protect the health and safety of Irish women. I am satisfied this requires the repeal of the 8th Amendment and requires enshrining the Joint Committee's recommendations in legislation."
He said he opposed the inclusion of the 8th Amendment in the Constitution in 1983 because he believed it would have seriously detrimental effects on the well-being, health and lives of women, and give rise to widespread uncertainty and confusion in legal and medical terms.
"Sadly, that is exactly what happened. We have had numerous referenda, Irish and European court cases and, sadly, deaths of women