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Dail Committee accused of bias to change 8th Amendment

By Ann Marie Foley - 26 October, 2017

Professor Patricia Casey

The Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment has received letters of complaint from both Senator Rónán Mullen and Professor Patricia Casey this week. Mattie McGrath also walked out of the hearing when he felt that his line of questioning was being criticised by a fellow committee member.

In her letter Prof Casey has stated that she is unwilling to appear before the committee as it is conducting “a process that is so deeply imbalanced”. She stated that there are 25 people giving evidence on the pro-choice side and 4 with a pro-life or neutral perspective.

“Ireland deserves better than that. I will not add any further credence to this deeply flawed process or to its inevitable and equally flawed conclusion that a referendum is required to repeal the 8th Amendment without any meaningful Constitutional protection for the unborn child.” she wrote.

Prof Casey had been scheduled to attend on 25th October, but instead she penned the letter outlining what she saw as the flaws in the process, in particular how the committee has adopted as its primary purpose, a determination to repeal the 8th Amendment and how in conscience she does not want to be used to legitimatise its “pre-determined outcome”.

Patricia Casey FRCPI FRCPsych, MD, expressed several concerns in her letter including;

  • the “tenor and veracity” of some of the remarks made by some Committee members at hearings;
  • the erroneous reporting of some evidence by the media;
  • the lack of awareness and ignorance of some committee members on relevant reports and actual recommendations of  the Citizens’ Assembly;
  •  the allowing of statements by lobbyists, despite the committee saying this would not happen and then including a “stilted list of presenters on the pro-choice side” while omitting those on the pro-life side;
  • the committee’s lack of openness to a balanced hearing and adopting as its primary purpose to repeal the 8th Amendment.

Separately Senator Rónán Mullen has rejected criticisms in an email by Dr Peter Boylan to the Committee, read out on the 25th October. Senator Mullen has requested that the Chairperson of the Committee, Senator Catherine Noone, read his response at the first opportunity.

Ronan Mullen

Senator Mullen reiterated his comments made at the committee in relation to the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar stating: “I have been critical, and remain so, of campaigners who try to exploit Savita’s death to bring about the legalisation of abortion, when it has always been the case that any life-saving treatment a mother needs, including treatment that brings her pregnancy to an end, is legal and is routine practice.”

Senator Mullen stated that Dr Boylan should not misrepresent his (Mullen’s) words. He highlighted that many professionals thought that Dr Boylan’s view on this matter is ‘a personal view, not an expert one’.”

Senator Mullen also addressed allegations by others about his comments on Savita’s tragedy on RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show on Thursday (19th October), and clarified that one sentence used by him “could be reworded to more accurately express my meaning.” When asked by Sean O’Rourke whether Ms Halappanavar would still be alive if she had been given a termination when she asked for one, Senator Mullen had replied: “If there was abortion on demand she wouldn’t have been in the hospital because she wouldn’t have been pregnant and she wouldn’t have been having a miscarriage.’’

Senator Mullen said that it is “chilling” that any person lobbying for abortion, whether politicians or medical persons, would use the death of Savita Halappanavar to push for abortion. “Therefore, I can only conclude that the criticisms are not in good faith and are instead intended to deflect from my criticisms about the misuse of Savita’s case.”

This week in the Seanad, Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, called on Ronan Mullen to apologise for his remarks. Labour Senator Ivana Bacik criticised his remarks and asked that the issue be dealt with in a respectful way.

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