Updated: 06/02/18 : 05:35:40
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ARC respond to mayor's abortion vote non-disclosure

Following yesterday's article on Sligo Today regarding the refusal of the mayor of Sligo to reveal his voting intention in the forthcoming referendum to repeal or retain the Eighth Amendment (link below), the Sligo and Leitrim branches of Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) have issued the following joint statement.

The mayor of Sligo, Hubert Keaney has expressed that he will not disclose how he will vote in the referendum. He claims this is to avoid influencing any voters on either side. This is an unfortunate viewpoint, as he is a public representative and as such, the people of Sligo deserve to know where he stands on this very important issue.

Fine Gael’s Blaine Gaffney says that the 12-week proposal has “given him pause” but he has to look “around him and to his own wife”. Men shouldn’t need to have a wife to know that the 8th amendment has damaged many women. We suggest that he should look to Ann Lovett, a fifteen year-old child who had died after giving birth in a grotto in Longford instead.

The twelve-week proposal should not scare him as much as Ann Lovett’s experience should, or the statistics that upward of 29 women are traveling from Sligo annually, (3265 nationally in 2016) to England to avail of healthcare services because they can’t access this care in their home state.

We know this as women give their details to the UK clinics and the figures are collected and published annually by the UK Dept. of Health. In 2016, 29 women from Sligo, 21 women from Leitrim, 63 women from Donegal and 38 women from Mayo left Ireland to access healthcare they have been denied here.

The Sligo county councillors and TDs have been sent these figures on more than one occasion by Sligo Abortion Rights Campaign. The Leitrim figures are also up since 2015. These figures don’t include the number of women who travel to other jurisdictions, or women who have ordered and taken the abortion pill at home illegally, usually the most marginalised women who don't have the means to travel.

We appreciate Cllr Sinead McGuire’s sentiment that abortion should be free safe and rare, and we would remind her that we can trust women to make their own decisions and don’t need to place value judgments on the reasons why people make their choices. Each day, 12 Irish women, a proportion of whom she represents, travel to England to access healthcare or obtain the abortion pill online for a variety of reasons.

There is no appetite to discuss the issue by some councillors but the public is discussing the issue daily and has been for sometime now. It's up to the councillors to educate themselves, read the reports and recommendations from the joint Oireachtas committee and the Citizens Assembly which were both at least up to twelve weeks . There is no excuse to remain so uninformed.

There is as much need for access to safe healthcare at home in the north west as there is in any other part of the country and to deny so is to silence women and discount the human rights abuses they have suffered since the introduction of the 8th amendment in 1983 .

The UN Human Rights Committee found on 09-06-16 that the Irish Government and law violated Amanda Mellet’s rights to freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment, violated her rights to privacy and bodily integrity, violated her right to freedom from discrimination and violated her right to seek and receive information. The government was required to respond to the Committee’s decision within 180 days, outlining the concrete steps it would take to remedy the identified human rights abuses and to prevent future similar harm to other women.

Cllr John McCartin claims the 8th amendment is not high on the political agenda in Leitrim at this time, although we are sure that the 21 women who travelled from Leitrim in 2016 and those women who have travelled over the previous thirty years would disagree. Leitrim Abortion Rights Campaign are a local group on the ground campaigning, holding regular meetings and street stalls. Cllr McCurtain may not be aware of this fact but this is reality. There are also now thriving ARC Repeal groups in Donegal, Roscommon and Mayo.

Sligo Abortion Rights Campaign have kept our councillors updated on our work over the past three years and have extended invitations to all local representatives to meet with us. Cllr  Declan Bree , Cllr Chris Mc Manus and Cllr Gino O Boyle recently attended the Northwest Coalition large public meeting with guest speaker Susan McKay .

This was an informative meeting , which addressed many issues in Irish society and it's very unfortunate other councillors mentioned in the article couldn't have come along with an open mind and represented their parties ,or have come on their own accord to access information and talk to the groups and constituents present.

Some comments from elected and unelected political representatives in the “Sligo Mayor won't be drawn on abortion vote “ seem to reveal a strong disregard and utter lack of empathy for the 12 women travelling abroad each day to avail of abortion services abroad, for Miss X, Miss C, Miss D, Sheila Hodgers, Ann Lovett, Michelle Harte and the thousand of unnamed women who have been forced to travel abroad and keep their decision a secret for fear of criminalisation. This stance has no regard either for the maternity healthcare providers in Ireland who, as documented in the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, believe that the 8th amendment can in fact damage maternity care in Ireland.

“We call on all our public representatives to inform themselves fully on the issues and meet with groups who are campaigning in the Northwest to Repeal the 8th and have a conversation about Repeal. We are looking forward to an energetic, compassionate, and respectful referendum campaign. We are repealing the 8th Amendment because we want an Ireland where everyone has access to compassionate, timely, local healthcare.”

Link: Sligo Today 5/2/2018