60 days to go….Mass appeal…opposition leader Micheál Martin: The pragmatism and pro-choice rumblings.

to May 25th and Ireland’s referendum on whether or not to repeal the pro-life 8th amendment to the constitution which uniquely gives equal protection to mother and child and replace it with the oireachtais / parliamentary cross-party committee on health.

Everyday, we promote Sr. Briege McKenna’s appeal for Masses to be said privately or publicly in parishes in reparation for Ireland’s turning from God and for protection of the 8th amendment. Please consider getting Masses said locally or through this link to ACN:
http://www.acnireland.org/masses or call 018377516.

 Alternatively can you with other parishioners organise one or more Masses / half-days or days of prayer with medically safe fasting?


Yesterday Simon Harris, minister for Health’s capacity to ‘evolve’ on the issue of abortion was discussed. The biggest shock in terms of U turning on this issue or ‘evolving’ as the politicians are insisting on calling it, however was the opposition leader of Fianna Fáil: Micheál Martin.

Micheál Martin as leader of FF, whose stance has always been pro-life, shocked colleagues and gained kudos from journalists who are almost invariably pro-choice by stating in the Dáil / Irish parliament, that he was in favour of abortion.

On 18th January this year, Martin stated that the oireachtais cross-party parliamentary committee on abortion “carried out its work well and it was appropriate that it sought to concentrate on expert evidence. At the fact finding stage of a debate, this is the right thing to do, rather than emphasise the advocacy which can so often prevent real debate later on.”

(The no of experts who were pro-choice to pro-life was about 6: 1).

He went onto say: “We must each question how far we are willing to go to impose our personal beliefs on others. Over the years I have been on the record as being against a significant change in our abortion laws.  I have done so from a belief that this was the most effective way of affirming the importance of the unborn.  While I have supported different proposals to clarify the law and to address the threat to the life of the mother I have been broadly in favour of the law as enabled by the 8th Amendment. If our views change, if the facts become clearer, if we come to understand properly the impact of a policy on others, then we must be willing to act accordingly. Noone can dispute the fact that thousands of Irish women have an abortion every year. ”

One imagines at this point, his own FF colleagues in the chamber were wondering where on earth this was going. There was no surprise however on the faces of those whom he’d selected to represent the rank and file FF membership on the Oireachtais / cross-parliamentary party meeting which had overwhelmingly voted for abortion, who were  sitting right next to him during his speech: Lisa Chambers, Anne Rabbite and Billy Kelleher. Along with two others, Noel O Sullivan and Jim Brown all 5 FF T.D.S voted in the end, to repeal / replace the 8th to greater or lesser degrees and in so doing went completely against the significant majority of FF root and branch members at their AGM or Ard Fheis who had voted in October last year to keep the 8th (see photo above).

Martin in so doing, stunned his own colleagues:  at a parliamentary party meeting, just the day before, the majority of FF T.D.s / elected representatives, had agreed that their position would be to retain the 8th. Martin had said nothing at all about the bombshell he was just about to land…

Martin further spoke about both women who travel, the negative impact on them of the travel and the wide availability of abortion pills online which he said would not change. He continued:

“It is untrue to say that the issue before us is whether there will be abortion in Ireland or not. The 8th amendment does not mean that Ireland is a country without abortion.”

Citing the fact that different European countries have different abortion regimes, Martin stated:

“there appears to be no sound basis for pointing to other countries and saying that Ireland will become like them by changing its laws.” He stated that evidence suggested that liberalising abortion laws has actually reduced abortions. That the 8th amendment was intended to give certainty but the number of cases that had gone to court showed that not to be the case.

As if challenges to pro-life laws by pro-choicers indicated the amendment was therefore inherently unsafe and as if challenges suggested it was therefore deficient.

He then praised the chairperson of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr. Peter Boylan who has appeared at Labour party press conferences calling for repeal of the 8th. Dr. Boylan said the 8th caused “significant difficulties for doctors practicing in Ireland and has caused grave harm to women, including death.” Dr. Boylan has gone on record that Savita Halappanavar could have been saved but for the 8th. Martin continued: “In the inquiry into her death the current law stood indicted for leading to a situation where her care was not as responsive or urgent as it should have been.”

This in spite of the fact that 3 independent enquiries established Savita died due to a series of oversights in care and a highly resistant bug that had not been seen before in maternity hospitals here and that different experts including the head of the corresponding obstetric professional body in India had pointed out that aborting Savita’s baby on request, could have potentially spread the infection and killer her even sooner.

Martin then insisted on using the term ‘fatal fetal abnormality’ which families of those babies who died of life limiting conditions have repeatedly asked not be used. He spoke about the potentially devastating impact of having to carry such a baby to term could have. Also about similar damage to rape / incest victims.

Martin then explained: ” The law as it stands denies them (women) the comfort of basic respect and humanity” , by which he meant abortion access. He talked about criminal sanctions which had been introduced, which no pro-life group had requested as grounds for repealing the 8th.

He further stated that claims that the 2013 Protection of Life during pregnancy bill, would allow the introduction of UK-style laws had been fully disproven.

The concern among pro-lifers that that 2013 act would just be the beginning step of a slippery slope to abortion on demand was ironically coming true even while he was speaking.  Martin preferred to make the point that because we weren’t there yet, where yet is abortion on demand,  there was no reason to suppose it would eventually happen while actively pushing to make that an ever closer reality.


He himself had publicly stated more than once that he was coming from a pro-life perspective before his pro abortion speech from the dock January 18th this year where no mention of the unborn’s rights were made Martin had like Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar ‘evolved’.

In February 2013 Martin said that in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and rape he was not presently in favour of “broadening the base upon which termination can occur” pointing out that it would require changing the Constitution.

He also said that he would not favour widening legislation or changing the Constitution to include cases where a woman has become pregnant as a result of rape.

However, against many in his party he voted for the Protection of life during pregnancy act in 2013 and it was thought by political commentators, that the reason he allowed a free vote at the time of the 2013 act to permit abortion for suicidal ideation, which he voted in favour of along with Billy Kelleher, was because if he attempted to impose the whip the way then Taoiseach / Prime Minister Enda Kenny did, his chief whip Sean O Fearghail and others in the party would walk out. Perhaps memories of that occasion of not getting his way in 2013 and because he knew the uproar that would result, was one reason he didn’t bother to tell his colleagues what he was about to do.

As recently as the 2016 election, Martin consistently answered questions about abortion by asserting that he was anti-abortion and not in favour of a referendum. In May 2017, when asked by a radio host if, hypothetically, a woman who had been raped by her father should have the right to an abortion, Martin answered that it was not that simple, and recounted the tale of a person he knew who was conceived due to rape.

The day after his speech in the Dail, on the current affairs  ‘Today with Sean O’ Rourke’, show on RTE the Irish national radio station, Thomas Byrne, Meath East TD insisted that Martin would not suffer for having done a U turn and denied that the rug had been pulled out from under the party’s feet,  how everybody respected conscience. However other reports were of a lot of anger that colleagues had not been told in advance what to expect and were totally unprepared for it or negative reaction at constituency level from FF members. Deputy editor of the Irish Times Fiach Kelly agreed with Sean O Rourke that market research would likely have been a contributory factor for the turn around on all sides of the political spectrum although the particular RTE vox pop of Martin’s constituency suggested he wouldn’t suffer in the next election except perhaps from the older population. He also mentioned how an expert commentator at the Ard Fheis / AGM warned FF not to be on the wrong side of history on the 8th  and how he’d felt Martin had taken that view on board.

But it was while he was minister for Foreign affairs between 2008 and 2011, that thousands of abortions happened and on Martin’s watch…..



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