Presidential hopeful Joan Freeman 'would sign law' to allow abortions

The Senator told councillors she wants to start a conversation about Ireland's well-being

Independent Senator Joan Freeman has said if she is elected president, she would sign the law to allow abortion - despite being a No voter.

She was addressing Waterford County Council aiming to secure its nomination to run for president.

Senator Freeman, who is the founder of suicide charity Pieta House, said she hopes to start a conversation about Ireland's well-being in the form of a National Assembly.

"I know that the role of the president is above policy-making, but is not above the role of principle.

"If the Irish people elect me, in the first six months of the presidency, I will create a national assembly on the well-being of our country with some of the key stakeholders".

Ms Freeman was asked about her views in relation to the recent Eighth Amendment referendum.

But she said she would sign the law if made president.

"I voted No - but I didn't vote No for religious reasons, I voted No because I've spent all my adult life trying to preserve life.

"But I absolutely respect the vote, I respect the vote that it is a Yes vote, and would be happy as president to pass that (and) sign that in to legislation".

While in his pitch to the council, businessman Gavin Duffy said he and his wife will be stepping away from their business to run for the Arás.

"We've stepped away entirely and what you'll see is - as somebody who once owned a large property portfolio - when we do a SIPO (Standards in Public Office Commission) declaration you'll see they're not there.

"They were sold on and the proceeds put into a pension.

"I'm 58, Orlaith's 58 coming up to 60, there is an advantage in doing that".

Senator Freeman was also asked about her Iona Institute connections, to which she said her niece (Maria Steen) was heavily involved in the No campaign of the Eight Amendment referendum - but that her daughter was heavily involved in the Yes side.

The Senator said she had never been a member of Iona Institute.

She was also asked a question as Gaeilge, and admitted while she cannot answer it and did not understand it, she has a great appreciation for the Irish language.

She also pledged to take classes.

This was the first time in the campaign that we heard from Ms Freeman.

Mr Duffy gave weekend interviews on radio, TV and in newspapers.

He has said Michael D Higgins talks to people's heads, but he wants to be the one to talk to their hearts.

Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil councillor has written to councillors around the country calling on them to nominate TD Éamon Ó Cuív as a candidate.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last month confirmed that the party would support President Michael D Higgins’ bid for a second term.

However, Galway Councillor Ollie Crowe sent the letter to councillors warning that "sitting on the sidelines is simply not a suitable or appropriate option."

"Our party’s role is to run in political races not turn away from them."

He wrote that Deputy Ó Cuív would make for an "outstanding candidate."

The move is widely seen as a challenge to Deputy Martin’s authority within the party.

With reporting from Michael Staines and Jack Quann