The leader of the second-biggest party in the Republic said he has changed his views on abortion, and now supports moves to legalise it.
Micheal Martin, leader of Fianna Fail, told the Dail the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution – passed in 1983 to recognise the equal right to life of a mother and an unborn child – “has been shown to cause real damage to Irish women”.
He began by stating that as far as Fianna Fail is concerned, the current moves to repeal the amendment are a matter of individual conscience.
He went on to say: “During the years I have been on record as being against a significant change in our abortion laws. I did so on a belief that this was the most effective way of affirming the importance of the unborn.”
But he added people have a duty “to question our own views”, and said that abortion is continuing regardless of the eighth amendment, either via travel to Britain or via unregulated abortion pills.
While the amendment had been intended to remove this issue from the courts and politicians, it is now clear to him there is “cruel inflexibility” about it.
Skills minister John Halligan told the Dail that “an average of 10 women travel to the UK per day” for abortions costing roughly €1,000 upwards, and since 1980, 160,000 women or more have gone to the UK and the Netherlands for abortions.
Mr Martin’s comments come after his party ard fheis last year voted against repealing the Eighth Amendment.