Updated: 05/02/18 : 07:19:21
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Sligo mayor won't be drawn on abortion vote

The abortion issue has dominated political discussion over recent months and has, in some cases, forced TDs to reveal their intention on which side of the debate they stand. See link (i) below.

County councillors are now coming under increasing pressure to declare their stance.


Sligo Today will this week seek responses on the issue from all Sligo County Councillors. It is understood that People Before Profit and Sinn Féin will toe their party line and vote to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

However with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil members split on the contentious upcoming referendum ballot scheduled to take place in less than four months, and with local elections due next year, the public are keen to see how their local representatives stand on the proposals to either amend or retain the Eighth Amendment.

The Mayor of Sligo, Cllr Hubert Keaney (Fine Gael) has declared to The Irish Times, “People who know me will be surprised by this, but I am probably not going to disclose how I am going to vote.


“It is important that the public come through this divisive debate with an understanding rather than being influenced by so-and-so saying this is the way it should go.

“Am I playing it cute? No. It’s a very important issue and a very personal issue.”

For Blaine Gaffney (28), a local area representative for Fine Gael in Sligo, says his views have evolved but the 12-week proposal has caused him to pause for thought.

“The 12 weeks is scary but at the same time too, I look at those around me and look at my own wife.

“I am in favour of repeal. Before this I would have considered myself very pro-life.

“At the same time I feel like a lot of people that the 12-week provision is too much", he told the newspaper.

Mr Gaffney is Parliamentary Assistant to Tony McLoughlin TD who last week declared that he would be voting to retain the Amendment. See link (ii) below

Feedback


In Strandhill, Cllr Sinéad Maguire, Fine Gael, says the feedback she has received from party supporters about the proposed change has been generally positive.

She said the wording of the legislation will be very important but she takes comfort from the Taoiseach’s reassurance that abortion will be “safe, legal and rare”.

“I don’t think there is a a demand for on-demand abortion.

“But unwanted pregnancies in the past were dealt with by mother and baby homes. We have seen the outcome of the Tuam baby home.

“When we could travel, we exported it. Now we have access to the internet and importing medication that people are using in an unsafe and unlawful manner.”

'Disenfranchised'


In neighbouring Leitrim, “It’s very far down the agenda,” says John McCartin, a councillor from Newtowngore, “People have not been bringing it up. In any instance we feel disenfranchised. We have had zero input, we still do not know exactly what the question is.

“I am not sandbagging, or kicking to touch, but it’s not a big issue yet.”

Fine Gael regional organiser Enda McGloin, from Drumshanbo, agrees: “There is very little discussion at the moment. The view I have is that’s it’s mute. People are silent.”

Finola Armstrong-McGuire, a councillor from Carrick-on-Shannon, says: “I will be holding my own counsel. I do not even see it as my role.”

Many referred to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s speech last Monday and his insistence that abortion would be “rare”. Equally, others were very impressed by Tánaiste Simon Coveney’s interview on RTÉ radio on Thursday where he articulated his concerns about the 12-week term.

“I am in the 50:50, those in the middle, and see the merit in both sides,” says Enda McGloin. “The progress of the debate will crystallise opinions one way or the other. I thought Leo Varadkar was very clear and concise. He will bring people with him although I concur that the 12-week proposal is just very difficult.”

“I live in the heartland of conservatives. It’s where you would expect there to be conservative views,” is the summation of McCartan, a young politician with a long Fine Gael pedigree.


“When I consider it, my gut says that 12 weeks would be pushing it and I am no doctor and no theologian.”

Among younger party members, abortion has long been a subject of division. The party’s youth wing Young Fine Gael has officially adopted a neutral stance, as has its Fianna Fáil counterpart Ógra.

Link (i) Sligo Today 23/1/2018   Link (ii) Sligo Today 31/1/2018