TÁNAISTE EAMON Gilmore has refused to spell out Labour’s position on abortion before the Government-appointed expert group on the contentious issue reports next month.
Mr Gilmore declined to say if he agreed or disagreed with the Labour leader in the Seanad, Senator Ivana Bacik, who insisted recently her party’s official position on abortion was pro-choice.
He said yesterday it was “prudent” to wait for the expert group to report, when asked for Labour’s view. “We’ll wait and we’ll see what the decision or the recommendation of the expert group is first … I think it’s advisable that we await the report of that group and then … the Government will make a decision on it.”
Earlier this week Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said Labour’s position was well-established. “There’s no secret about the position that where the life of the mother is deemed at risk, our position is clear,” Mr Rabbitte said.
When Mr Gilmore was asked yesterday if he was resiling from that position, the Tánaiste reiterated that he was awaiting the report.
Meanwhile, some Fine Gael TDs opposed to abortion are pointing to a “letter of comfort” written before the general election by then director of elections Phil Hogan stating the party’s opposition to legalisation.
In the letter dated February 23rd, 2011, seen by The Irish Times, Mr Hogan said: “Fine Gael is opposed to the legalisation of abortion.”
He also said the party was opposed to research conducted on human embryos.
But he stressed Fine Gael would establish an all-party Oireachtas committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications of a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling in relation to a woman who had cancer and was forced to travel abroad to get an abortion.
Fine Gael’s representatives, he wrote, would bring to the 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”.
A number of Fine Gael deputies have warned they will not support any legislation that could facilitate the carrying out of abortions in the State, while some Labour representatives have also expressed strong opposition to liberalisation.
Labour Senator John Whelan said there were a variety of views within the party.
“Pat Rabbitte summed it up when he said there was a broad spectrum of views within the Labour Party. I was glad he did note there was not just a single viewpoint,” Mr Whelan said.
“Some of us resent the characterisation that the Labour Party is, if you like, pro-abortion. We don’t agree with that.”
Mr Rabbitte acknowledged at the weekend that “pretty much all of the parties” in Leinster House had differing views within their ranks.
TDs and Senators have told The Irish Times they are receiving regular “orchestrated and organised” emails and text messages from pro-life organisations.