Martin refuses to outline position on abortion

The Fianna Fáil leader has pledged to allow party members a free vote on the issue

Martin refuses to outline position on abortion

File photo, Micheál Martin, 19-09-2016. Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews

The leader of Fianna Fáil has refused to reveal his stance on Ireland’s abortion laws.

Micheál Martin has pledged to allow party members a free vote on the issue – adding that the people have a right to decide on what happens to the Eighth Amendment.

On Yates on Sunday this afternoon, Deputy Martin said he has always come from a pro-life background – but refused to be drawn on how he would vote in any potential referendum.

Oireachtas Committee

He said Fianna Fáil has appointed five people to the Oireachtas Committee which has been set up to examine the findings of the Citizens’ Assembly.

The Cabinet is awaiting delivery of the assembly’s final report - and it is expected voters will be taking to the polls in yet another abortion referendum sometime next year.

“We will have a free vote within the party,” said Deputy Martin. “I do believe that the people have a right to make a decision on this and the issue has to go the people.”

“The question then is - in what format and what will be the substance of the proposition that’s put to the people and that is the work that the Oireachtas Committee has to grapple with.”

Incest

In an interview with KFM during the week Deputy Martin refused to back the legalisation of abortion in cases where a mother is raped by a member of her own family.

He said the question is “not that simple” insisting that the issue will be dealt with by the Oireachtas.

Individual conscience

On Newstalk this afternoon, he said that an issue as profound as abortion has to be dealt with as a matter individual conscience.

He insisted he was not attempting to obfuscate or dodge the question and claimed that there was no need to outline his view until the Oireachtas Committee reports back.

“I voted for the protection of human life in pregnancy act – I was in a minority within our party on that occasion,” he said.

“I did it because it was the right thing to do and it was the sensible thing to do in my view and the only option facing us on that occasion; so I took a decision on that and I will take a decision on this.

“But at the moment, I think it’s fair to say that it is important that we await the outcome of the deliberations of the committee and the precise format [of] the proposition that will be put before the people.”

UN commission on women’s rights

In a wide ranging interview with Newstalk’s Ivan Yates, Deputy Martin discussed everything from Brexit, to the Garda Commissioner and Ireland’s vote on the United Nations commission on women’s rights.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan came in for criticism during the week when he refused to reveal whether Ireland had backed Saudi Arabia’s bid to join the commission.

The appointment of Saudi Arabia to the commission has led to global outrage due to the country’s repressive treatment of women.

Minister Flanagan said that due to longstanding tradition, UN elections are made by secret ballot - and voting decisions are not made public.

Deputy Martin However believes that “times have moved on.”

“There are issues there,” he said. “I understand the conventions within the United Nations but I think most people were taken by surprise at the prospect of Ireland voting for Saudi Arabia on the UN commission in relation to Women’s rights.”

“I think given the public concern and the need for transparency in that specific issue I think he should indicate the manner in which Ireland voted on that.”

You can listen back to Deputy Martin’s full conversation with Ivan on Yates on Sunday here: