Micheál Martin insists 'no backlash' within FF over his abortion stance

The Fianna Fáil leader says a majority of Fianna Fáil voters are in favour of change

Micheál Martin insists 'no backlash' within FF over his abortion stance

File photo: Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin outside Leinster House, 17-11-2017. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Updated 13:45 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said there has been no backlash within his party after he finally outlined his stance on abortion.

He told the Dáil last night that he would be in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment – and legislating to allow for unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

The statement puts him at odds with the pro-life stance taken at his party's recent Ard Fheis.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning however, he claimed his party colleagues will support him:

“A number of TDs have contacted me appreciating that it was a difficult call for me – and it was,” he said.

“I mean, this was not something I came about easily.

“You may recall in some earlier interviews before Christmas, I was wrestling with the issue or rape and incest because it is one thing to show empathy to that issue – but it is a completely different thing to have to do something about it.”

Deputy Martin, who voted for the protection of life during pregnancy act in 2013 and has described himself as “coming from a pro-life background,” insisted his change of position is not an attempt to boost Fianna Fáil’s popularity.

He says it's not about polling, adding that he changed his mind based on research into the issue:

“I have changed my perspective on this and leadership is about not always sticking to the same position for decades if new evidence emerges,” he said.

“It is not really about polling in my view.

“There are issues of this kind which are very personal and very fundamental and person has to make up his or her mind on it.”

Pro-life advocates have been quick to criticise Deputy Martin's stance - with the director of the Iona Institute David Quinn claiming he was never truly pro-life:

“Micheál Martin voted in favour of embryo research,” he said.

“Now, embryo research destroys the embryo; to me that is not compatible with a pro-life position.”

Pressure is now mounting on Leo Varadkar as the only party leader not to have revealed his position on abortion. 

Although. Fine Gael Minister Josepha Madigan doesn't believe he has to rush to an announcement.

"I think the Taoiseach has made the right call in relation to this," she said.

"It is far to premature in my view for him to make his decision - I think he is right.

"This is about listening as well.

"Listening to cross-party views; everybody's view, and i think then he will clarify his position."

You can listen back to Deputy Martin's appearance on Newstalk Breakfast here: