Newstalk survey of TDs shows starkly contrasting attitudes to the abortion debate among the two parties
A survey by Newstalk has found a split among Fine Gael TDs on repealing the Eighth Amendment, while there is a total rejection of the idea in Fianna Fáil.
As part of the ‘Ireland’s Abortion Journey’ series on The Pat Kenny Show, Newstalk undertook an anonymous survey of TDs from both of the traditionally big parties - and the results show that while the issue could prove divisive in Fine Gael, there is unanimous opposition to a repeal in Fianna Fáil.
Some TDs we spoke to, from both parties, told us they are against it on personal grounds, while some fear it will lose votes. Others also mentioned a fear of being on the receiving end of personal abuse for taking a pro-repeal stand. For many, the real issue was what comes next – with several TDs saying are reluctant to take a definitive stand on the issue until a coherent answer is available on what comes after repeal.
Fine Gael: 38 of 68 TDs surveyed
Fianna Fáil: 14 of 21 TDs surveyed
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In Fine Gael there was a split, although the majority still said they would not support repeal. Perhaps most striking was that the majority of TDs spoken to criticised Children’s Minister James Reilly for his recent comments calling for repeal - with some heavily attacking Reilly. Many see the public breaking of ranks as an act of disloyalty towards the Taoiseach.
One TD, who is close to the Taoiseach, said of Reilly: “The Taoiseach’s right. James Reilly is f**king stupid. He’s f**king losing us votes.
“We were doing fantastic in the polls up until now and this is the only thing that’s a sticking point. It has cost us votes and it will again. I’d have no problem with it myself but politically I’d not get the support in my constituency. That’s where I’m at.
“Reilly bringing it up before an election? Madness.”
Not one Fianna Fáil TD surveyed said they believe the Eighth Amendment should be repealed, and there seems to be no appetite within the parliamentary party to push the issue, with several TDs remarking that “it’s not coming up on the doorsteps.”
One Fianna Fáíl TD said: “The issue isn’t coming up on the doors. I’d be very much of the view that there needs to be some protection for the life of the unborn in the Constitution… I’m not Paul Bradford, put it that way, but I’d be concerned about the tone of the conversation.”
The fear of personal abuse – from both sides – was also strong in several TDs, with one remarking that he didn;t want to experience what he had during the Protection of Life During Pregnancy campaign,when the personal abuse was “unbelievable” he said.
“There’s always going to be someone who’s not going to be happy. Posters went up around the constituency - and I was labelled a murderer. I have a son, I’m not a baby killer. A person said to me: 'Don’t vote for that abortion and be a baby killer. Your late father wouldn’t appreciate it.'
"I certainly don’t want to revisit that. If there’s some sort of a forum, that’s the way to go but unless there’s something that really fixes it all - I’m not voting to change it.”
Listen to the report in full from The Pat Kenny Show: