Election 2011. Political responses

FOR ELECTION 2011 we wrote to all the political parties and independents asking them to commit to the following:

 

  1. Maintaining Ireland's ban on abortion, since this position protects the life of every unborn child while allowing all medical treatments necessary to protect the lives of mothers.
  2. Upholding the right of the Irish people to decide on abortion.
  3. Ensuring that any research involving the destruction of the human embryo would be outlawed

We've given their responses below - with the exception of the Greens who didn't answer.

We've also included a 'From the Hustings' section, which gives a selection of some of the responses received by members and supporters from individual candidates during the campaign. And we've listed all the strongly pro-life candidates in Election 2011.


FINE GAEL

Response on behalf of Enda Kenny

  • Fine Gael is opposed to the legalisation of abortion.
  • Fine Gael will establish an all-party Oireachtas Committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications to the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights and to make recommendations. Such a process would, we believe, be the best way of examining the issues in a way that respects the range of sincerely-held views on this matter.
  • Fine Gael's representatives will bring to the proposed all-party committee a clear commitment that women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld.
  • Fine Gael is opposed to research conducted on human embryos, and favours alternative stem cell research that does not involve human embryos such as adult stem cell and umbilical cord research.

Comment

In the last three months, as our campaign progressed, Fine Gael's response has become increasingly positive. Their commitment has become stronger still following the high-profile United for Life press conference organised by former MEPs Dana Scallon and Kathy Sinnott with Youth Defence and up to 30 other pro-life groups.

However, some serious concerns remain. There seems to be some confusion as to the crucial difference between legitimate medical treatment and induced abortion. Also Fine Gael says on one hand that they won't legalise abortion but then that they will seek recommendations from an All-party Committee. But what if their Committee recommends the legalisation of abortion? Or tries to label treatment for cancer or pre-eclampsia as "lawful abortions". We need further clarity.

We welcome FG's opposition to embryonic stem cell research. In earlier letters Fine Gael said they would regulate stem cell research but then provided further clarification. However, Fine Gael MEPs have previously voted to use Irish taxpayers monies to fund embryonic stem cell research.

Fine Gael's record on life issue is very mixed. Micheal Noonan introduced abortion referral. Several high-profile Fine Gael members have very publicly supported the legalisation of abortion in Ireland, but the party also has strong pro-life members such as Leo Varadkar and Peter Matthews.

We've written to Enda Kenny asking him to for further clarification before the vote. Watch this space. 

 


FIANNA FÁIL

Response on behalf of Micheál Martin

  • Fianna Fáil's position on abortion remains unchanged and will maintain Ireland's ban on abortion.
  • Fianna Fáil will uphold the right of the Irish people, and the Irish people alone, to decide on Ireland's abortion laws. Our track record in this regard is clear. Fianna Fáil Taoisigh negotiated legally binding guarentees, which were attached to the Treaties of Maastrict and Lisbon, ensuring that nothing in those Treaties, or in the EU Charter of Rights, affects the operation in Ireland of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. The Government mounted a robust defence of Ireland's abortion laws before the European Court of Human Rights in A, B and C vs. Ireland. The Court found that the Irish Constitution is not incompatible with the ECHR, and that States enjoy a margin of appreciation regarding protecting the right to life of the unborn, thereby affirming the Government's view that it is the Irish people who have the right to decide on abortion.
  • Fianna Fáil will ensure that any new regime put in place in respect for assisted human reproduction fully respects the right to life of the unborn. In this context, Fianna Fáil in Government has insisted that all EU research funding programmes respect Ireland's national position in relation to embryo research through the ethical subsidiary clause. We have ensured that no embryo research in Ireland has been or can be funded by the EU. In the negotiations on the 7th EU Framework Research Programme, Ireland played an influential part in crafting a compromise whereby the Commission undertook not to submit proposals for research activities that destroy human embryos.

COMMENT

Fianna Fáil's record on life issues are not as commendable as Micheál Martin would have us believe. They have given in excess of €50 million to the Crisis Pregnancy Agency to promote abortion as a "positive option", while the Irish Family Planning Association receive enornous funding from the Fianna Fáil-led governement. Micheál Martin also voted to fund embryonic stem cell research in the EU Council of Ministers.

However, their statement on ensuring that the Irish people alone should decide on abortion is welcome, as is a commitment to maintaining Ireland's abortion ban.

 


LABOUR

Labour wrote:

  • Labour Party's position is that Labour in Government will legislate in accordance with the Supreme Court judgement in the X case and the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Labour will also legislate to regulate stem cell research, with regard to the recommendations of the Irish Council for Bioethics.

The Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore, told RTE's News at One that he would legislate for abortion on life and health grounds - abortion on demand.

Labour has some of the leading Irish pro-abortion campaigners amongst its candidates, including Ivana Bacik, while its current MEPs have voted in favour of abortion resolutions in the EU Parliament.

The party's support in the polls has fallen by a whopping 37% since they came out in favour of abortion.



SINN FÉIN

Sinn Féin states that they are:

  • "not in favour of abortion nor do we believe that the 1967 British Abortion Act should be extended to the Six Counties. Instead all possible means of education and support services should be put in place to prevent crisis pregnancies.
  • "We would not support any attempt to make abortion more widely available but we do accept that health professionals working in this field need clear guidance.
  • "We have been consistent in our approach. When the abortion issue was discussed in the last Assembly Sinn Féin placed on record our very firm opposition to the extension of the British 1967 Act to the north.
  • "Sinn Fein is opposed to the attitudes and forces in society, which pressurise women to have abortions, and criminalise those who make this decision. In cases of rape, incest or sexual abuse, or where a woman's life and health is at risk or in grave danger, we accept that the final decision must rest with the woman."

Comment

Sinn Féin's policy on abortion seems to vary from year to year and its difficult to see where they stand as a party. While many rank and file members seem to oppose abortion, the party was a member of the Alliance for Choice in 2002. They did however, vote against the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to the north.

 


CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY PARTY

  • 'The CSP is committed to a positive attitude towards life from conception to natural death. We are firmly opposed to abortion and to all experimental manipulation or exploitation of the human embryo.'
  • 'The Christian Solidarity Party is dedicated to the causes of Life, the Family and the Community. The CSP promotes policies that safeguard the value of human life from conception to natural death, that support the position of the family as the fundamental unit group of society, and that allow human communities to flourish in a manner consistent with human dignity.'

 

  

INDEPENDENTS

"While I appreciate on the one hand your letter dated 1st February, I am disappointed that you seem to be unaware of our families very strong stance with regard to the right of the life of unborn children.You seem to think that there is some doubt as to where we stand. We have always been extremely strong in our straightforward view that, from the moment of conception a baby is a living human being and should be protected as such. We have not in the past and never will in the future, waiver on this view. I hope this is quite clear and that there will be no uncertainty about our position ever raised again as it is actually one of the cornerstones of our political policies". Micheal Healy-Rae Independent, Kerry South in response to our letter

"I'm 100% pro-life, and I am happy to commit to all of your points." John McGuirk, Independent, Cavan Monaghan

"I am pro-life. I am fully committed to the protection of Human life. I believe in the protection of life from conception to natural death. I am married and have two girls and two sons, one of the boys died as a child, my family knows the value of human life and how it should be protected. I now choose to live and let live It is important for me to follow the teachings which I believe keeps me balanced: "Love one another as I have loved you." Gabriel McSharry, Independent, Sligo/North leitrim in correspondence

"I am proposing to stand in the General Election as an Independent Candidate in Dublin South Constituency, to represent those voters who have been betrayed by Political Parties; particularly those who said NO to Lisbon, NO to NAMA, and NO to Abortion." Gerard P. Dolan, Independent, Dublin South

Kevin "Boxer" Moran said he is "personally pro-life". Kevin 'Boxer 'Moran, Longford/Westmeath, Independent, at the door. Reported by a  constituent

When asked in correspondance "Would you vote to legalise abortion?" Christy Burke replied with one word – "No" Christy Burke, Independent, Dublin Central

"Thank you for your e-mail. I do not agree with abortion on demand but believe there are cases where a decision has to be made regarding the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child. That decision needs to be protected in law." Maureen O'Sullivan, Independent, Dublin Central, in correspondance

"Thank you for your correspondence; I have heard from quite a few people inquiring about my stance on abortion. I can assure you that I am and have always been pro life and anti abortion. I agree with your three points and commend your stance." James Breen, Independent - Clare

"Abortion is wrong and I would protect life from conception." Dave McInerney, Independent, Cork South West, in conversation with constituent.

"I have always been opposed to abortion. I am committed to upholding the ban on abortion in Ireland forever and a day. It is the sole sovereign right of Irish people to decide on such matters. There are people who wish to erode such rights using bogus arguments. I will boldly and publicly oppose any attempt from whatever source to weaken our ability to decide our own affairs. Research on embryos and embryonic stem cells should be banned worldwide. I value life from the moment of intention to create life all the way to conception. For me personally, life begins even before conception but I don't expect other people to adhere to this standard." Thomas Hollywood, Independent, Dublin Central

 "I firmly support you and have several pro-life people canvassing for me because of my pro-life position." Billy Clancy, Independent, Tipperary North

Signed the pro-life electoral pledge. Stephen McCahill, Independent, Donegal South West

Signed the pro-life electoral pledge. Ann Sweeney, Independent, Donegal South West

"I can assure that you have my 100% commitment." Michael O'Sullivan, Independent, Cork South West

"I am Pro life." Thomas Clare, Independent, Louth

"In relation to the point you mentioned in your email on abortion, I can promise and assure you that it is one thing that will NOT now or ever become legalised in this country if I get in, neither I or my family agree with abortion. I thank you for your feedback and I do appreciate any vote that you can give to me on Friday the 25th February." John Bracken, Independent, Laois Offaly

"I have been inundated with emails on the issue of abortion, and have responded to each one, from individuals and groups, and I have put across my view and positions on abortion. I have always been 'pro-life' having been brought up as a Catholic, and educated in a Catholic grammar school, and I also agree with preventing any embryonic cell research. The statistics do not lie. I will freely admit though, that I have never actively campaigned on the matter, except to offer my opinion had the issue ever arisen, which I think is in line with what most people will have done, although in seeking election to Dail Eireann, I accept that there are additional responsibilities than simply offering an opinion on certain issues, and I would commit to ensuring that essential constitutional reform protects the unborn child. I also appreciate however that there are contentious issues surrounding certain incidents of abortion, where there may be no alternative in matters of life and death, where the life of either infant or mother are at risk, and where doctors cannot save both. I have also made my position clear on Highland Radio, the largest radio station in Donegal, and therefore I am not 'ducking' the question publicly. I am therefore happy to guarantee my commitment to the points you have outlined in your email." Ryan Stewart, Independent, Donegal North East

100% committed to pro-life and upholding the ban on abortion. There is no medical necessity for abortion and that women have access to any medical treatment they need during pregnancy. Michael Kilcoyne, Independent, Mayo, said during an interview on Mid-West Radio




FROM THE HUSTINGS

A selection of the feedback we're getting from our members

"We're hearing about this issue [abortion] all day!" Fianna Fáil canvassers to Youth Defence volunteers in Dublin South.

"It's become a really hot issue,"   Fine Gael team to Youth Defence volunteers in Naas.

"I support and want abortion on demand in Ireland now." Bernard Cantillon, Labour Party Equality Chairman on Facebook, 11th February 2011

Wouldn't answer but said that everyone is avoiding the issue.Jim Daly, FG, Cork South West at the door of a constituent

'Thank you for your email. I am pro-life and against abortion. My parties policies reflect the same. I hope this clarifies.' Peter Burke, FG, Longford/Westmeath in correspondance to a constituent

"Thank you for your email. I share your sincerely held views on this important matter. Please be assured, Fine Gael and our leader, Enda Kenny, are opposed to abortion and, if elected to government, will not relax the law on abortion any further. Furthermore, Fine Gael is completely opposed to research conducted on human embryos. Fine Gael will establish an all-party Oireachtas Committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications of the recent Supreme Court and European Court rulings on the existing law and to make recommendations. Such a process would, we believe, be the best way of examining the issue in a way that respects the range of sincerely-held views on this matter. I personally am totally opposed to abortion." James Bannon, FG, Longford/Westmeath

"I give you my commitment that I will never vote for the legislation to permit abortion in Ireland regardless of whether I get elected or not." Rose Conway Walsh, Sinn Féin, Mayo in correspondance. She also signed the pro-life pledge for the Mayo for Life group

Rang to say he was totally pro-life from conception to natural death and that he was being asked this question a lot. Said it was a very important issue for him, and he would go against the whip on it. Peter Mathews, FG, Dublin South

 'I am pro-choice and believe that women should have the right to choose'. Anthony Lawler FG Kildare North, said in a phone call to a constituent

Said that before the baby was viable at 22 weeks the issue was negotiable. Dr Bill Tormey, FG, Dublin North West at the door of a constituent

"The issues raised by the recent European Court of Human Rights judgement on abortion are complex and sensitive ones that merit a rational and careful consideration. As it will be a matter for the next Oireachtas to respond to this judgment, Fine Gael believes that an all-party committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, should be established to consider these issues and to make recommendations. Such a process would, we believe be the best way of examining the issues in a way that respects the range of sincerely-held views on this matter. The major issue with IVF in Ireland is that it is completely unregulated with no legislation to protect mothers and their embryos. This is something Fine Gael feels needs to be addressed. There is no legislation to prevent embryonic stem cell research. The Irish Medical Council does not support such research but its ruling only applies to doctors. We would support the banning of embryonic stem cell research because we believe that umbilical cord blood and bone marrow are equally, if not more effective. This country should support ethically driven research by going down this route. The Supreme Court judgment made it clear that both the in vivo and in vitro embryo do not have the protection of the State until implantation in the uterus. This has always been the position, and the Supreme Court has now clarified it beyond debate. There are complexities to legislating in the manner you suggest, as for example the use of "inter-uterine contraceptive devices" and the "morning after pill" would be illegal if the embryo had legal status from fertilization. There is evidence to show that the majority of Irish People would support a law giving protection to the embryo with regards to IVF and embryonic stem cell research and I feel the consensus view of the majority of the Irish people is that this is sufficient." Olivia Mitchell, FG, Dublin South in correspondance

Said on MWR radio that Labour would legislate on the basis of the X case. Jerry Cowley, Labour, Mayo

"Thank you for your email regarding the protection of human life and the right to life issue. I strongly approve of supporting these issues." Mary O'Rourke, FF, Longford/Westmeath

Signed the pro-life pledge to protect life from conception until natural death. Dara Calleary, FF, Mayo

"In relation to abortion the Labour Party's position is that Labour in Government will legislate in accordance with the Supreme Court judgement in the X case and the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. We do not support the introduction of Abortion on demand." Sean Kenny, Labour, Dublin North East in correspondence

"It is easy enough for me to guarantee that I will not vote for any legislation favouring abortion, because there is absolutely no chance of my being elected! That said, while I intensely dislike the idea of abortion, and would favour the formation of a society to adopt children who would otherwise not be born, I find it difficult, as a mere male, to be totally absolutist about this issue." Christopher Fettes, Greens, Laois/Offaly

Since entering public life my record on abortion has been consistent and clear, whether in the Dail or in the European Parliament. I consider myself to be a Pro Life person and in essence, for me, the right to life is a human rights issue whether the child is born or unborn. In my view the state has a responsibility to respect and protect the life of a child. Enda Kenny has indicated that when in Government he will establish an all-party committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications of the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights and to make recommendations. Simon Coveney, FG, Cork South Central in correspondence

"Thank you for your email regarding the Fine Gael Party's position on abortion. Fine Gael is opposed to the legalisation of abortion. Fine Gael will establish an all-party Oireachtas Committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications of the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights and to make recommendations. Such a process would, we believe, be the best way of examining the issues in a way that respects the range of sincerely-held views on this matter. Fine Gael's representatives will bring to the proposed all-party committee a clear commitment that women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld. Fine Gael is opposed to research conducted on human embryos, and favours alternative stem cell research that does not involve human embryos such as adult stem cell and umbilical cord research." Seán Barrett TD, Fine Gael, Dun Laoghaire

"Fine Gael have stated that legislation (and a referendum) will not be introduced to legalise abortion, and that human embryos cannot be used for research. The right of Irish women to travel will also be upheld." Pat O'Driscoll, Fine Gael, Cork East

I can tell you that I am, and have always been, opposed to abortion. I firmly believe in the right to life, I have publicly stated on a number of occasions that I am firmly pro-life. I am opposed to abortion and would vigorously oppose any legislation to bring in abortion on demand in our country. Darragh O'Brien, Fianna Fail, Dublin North

I support the current legal regime in Ireland with regard to abortion and I do support the legal protection of the human embryo. Micheal Mulcahy, Fianna Fáil, Dublin South Central

Thanks for your email. As a mother with firsthand experience of four pregnancies, I understand the importance of this issue for our country. Fianna Fáil is against abortion. This was made very clear during the debate on Lisbon and people wanted assurance that abortion would not be introduced in Ireland. That is why we received the legally binding guarantees for Ireland under the Lisbon Treaty specifically stating that nothing in the Charter of Fundamental Rights will affect the protection of the right to life under the Irish Constitution. The only way abortion can be introduced is if the people vote on it. It is my strong opinion that every effort and resource should be put into supporting women in pregnancy, especially crisis pregnancy. Mary Fitzpatrick, Fianna Fáil, Dublin Central

I agree with the views you express. Thomas Byrne, Fianna Fail, Meath East

This is my position and my party position on abortion: Ireland's stance on the protection of the right to life is enshrined in Article 40 of our Constitution. Only a referendum can change this. There are currently no plans to hold any such referendum. The only circumstance in which abortion is legal in Ireland is if the continuing pregnancy poses a threat to the mother's life (not to be confused with her health.). It was argued during the Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign, that the Treaty would pave the way to abortion. This claim, however, was completely unfounded. Fianna Fail in Government secured a legally binding guarantee from the EU last year stating that "Nothing in the Treaty of Lisbon ... affects in any way the scope and applicability of the protection of the right to life in Article 40.3.1., 40.3.2 and 40.3.3.... provided by the Constitution of Ireland". Ireland's domestic position has in fact long been protected in the EU context by the Maastricht Protocol of 1992. This was specifically requested by the Fianna Fail parliamentary party and promoted by the Taoiseach of the day and his minister for Foreign Affairs. Almost two decades later, it has proven to be entirely robust. Peter Kelly, Fianna Fail, Longford Westmeath

"I wish to assure you that I am totally opposed to abortion and will not be voting in favour of it."
Noel Harrington, FG, Cork South West in correspondence with constituent

"Thank you for your email. Alan is anxious that an all-party committee be set up to consider the implications of the recent landmark European Court of Human Right ruling on legal abortion. Alan doesn't agree with abortion and will always vote with his conscience." Deirdre Ryan on behalf of Alan Kelly Labour North Tipperary/South Offaly

"My answer is Yes to your three questions. Thank you" Hildegarde Naughton, Fine Gael, Galway West

"I am pro choice. I would be in favour of legislation to legalise abortion in Ireland." Brian Greene, Socialist Party, Dublin North East

"I give my personal commitment, if re-elected, that I will give my unqualified public support to restoring full legal protection to all unborn children. I will also oppose every measure that would in any way involve the destruction of unborn children through any form of embryo experimentation and manipulation. As you are aware, Fine Gael is opposed to the legalisation of abortion. In Government we will establish an all-party Oireachtas Committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications of the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights and to make recommendations. Such a process would, we believe, be the best way of examining the issues in a way that respects the range of sincerely-held views on this matter. Fine Gael's representatives will bring to the proposed all-party committee a clear commitment that women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld. With regard to this statement, in order to clarify any ambiguity, the party will oppose abortion and try to get as much consensus on the matter as possible by the establishment of the all-party Oireachtas committee." Lucinda Creighton, FG, Dublin South East in correspondance with constituent

"Thank you for taking the time to contact me and I share your views on the right to life. I believe if you check my record you will see we share the same ideals. I assure you that should I have the honour of being re-elected by the people of North Dublin on Friday, I will continue to oppose abortion in Ireland." Michael Kennedy, Fianna Fáil, Dublin North

"In relation to Abortion our position is that Labour in Government will legislate in accordance with the Supreme Court judgement in the X case, arising from the Irish peoples decisions in a number of Constitutional Referenda. We do not support the introduction of Abortion on demand. Legislating in accordance with the X Case is now an obligation on any incoming Government, no matter which parties make it up, as a consequence of the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights. Labour will also legislate to regulate stem cell research, with regard to the recommendations of the Irish Council for Bioethics." Eamon Gilmore, Labour Party, Dun Laoghaire

"On a personal note I am happy to advise you that I will support the introduction of legislation to protect the human embryo outside the womb. In respect of the ECHR ruling, I am greatly encouraged that opinion polls consistently show a large majority of people against abortion in this State. The assertion that a new referendum would give the people an opportunity to address this issue once and for all, is a compelling one. It appears to me to make sound common sense, while at the same time paving the way for ensuring that national law on abortion is clear and precise. If re-elected to the next Dáil I will be happy to pursue this matter. In relation to official Party policy, Fianna Fáil's position on abortion remains unchanged. However, the recent judgment by the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland has failed to properly implement the constitutional right to abortion where a woman's life is at risk. There is no conflict between the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights and the ECHR judgment respects Ireland's rights to make its own laws. The ECHR outcome suggests that it is now necessary to reflect on the judgment and take the necessary legal advice on what is a highly sensitive and complex issue. Ireland will need to have procedures in place that are clear in relation to the circumstances around which a woman can have a termination of pregnancy. We have ensured that no embryo research in Ireland has been or can be funded by the EU. In the negotiations on the 7th EU Framework Research Programme, Ireland played an influential part in crafting a compromise whereby the Commission undertook not to submit proposals for research activities that destroy human embryos. I can also confirm that we are opposed to research on embryos and will not support moves to legalise this in Ireland." Seán Haughey, Fianna Fail, Dublin North Central

"Fine Gael is opposed to the legalisation of abortion. Fine Gael will establish an all-party Oireachtas Committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications of the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights and to make recommendations. Such a process would, we believe, be the best way of examining the issues in a way that respects the range of sincerely-held views on this matter. Fine Gael's representatives will bring to the proposed all-party committee a clear commitment that women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld. Fine Gael is opposed to research conducted on human embryos, and favours alternative stem cell research that does not involve human embryos such as adult stem cell and umbilical cord research." Cáit Keane, Fine Gael, Dublin South West. Kieran O'Donnell, Fine Gael, Limerick City.   Clr Tom McHugh, FG, Galway East. Billy Timmins, FG, Wicklow. JP Phelan, FG, Carlow/Kilkenny

"The issues raised by the recent European Court of Human Rights judgement are complex and sensitive ones that merit a rational and careful consideration. As it will be a matter for the next Oireachtas to respond to this judgement, Fine Gael believes that an all-party committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, should be established to consider these issues and to make recommendations. Such a process would, we believe be the best way of examining the issues in a way that respects the range of sincerely-held views on this matter." Paschal Donohoe, FG, Dublin Central

"I am opposed to abortion as is our party leader Enda Kenny. As a parent, I cannot condone it." Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, FG, Laois/Offaly in correspondance with constituent

"Thank you for your email regarding the election issue on abortion. I think you know that the Fianna Fáil position on this is the best position of any of the parties." Sean Fleming, FF, Laois/Offaly in correspondance with constituent