The President of Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald called on the men and women of Ireland to vote ‘Yes’ in next week’s referendum. She has said she wanted her children to grow up in a compassionate Ireland.
“We may not know all of the names but what we do know is that women that become pregnant as a result of rape are being forced to travel,” she said at the start of her party’s campaign to support Repeal of the Eighth.
She said that as an Irish political leader and a woman she had a duty to act. And as a mother, she said, she wants her children to grow up in a society that does not punish women going through a traumatic experience: “I am the mother of two children, including a teenage daughter, and I want them to grow up in a compassionate, open and caring Ireland, an Ireland that doesn’t punish tragedy, an Ireland that doesn’t turn its back on its women and girls. I want my daughter and her friends to live in an Ireland where they can make decisions about their own healthcare.”
“We need to listen and we need to actually think of the father who had to go to the courts to allow his daughter die with dignity in 2015.
“His daughter was 15 weeks pregnant and was kept alive for 24 days after she was determined to be medically brain-dead because a foetal heartbeat was detected in her womb. History recorded her as Miss P.”
I am the mother of two children, including a teenage daughter, and I want them to grow up in a compassionate, open and caring Ireland, an Ireland that doesn’t punish tragedy, an Ireland that doesn’t turn its back on its women and girls.
Mary Lou McDonald, President of Sinn Féin
She said that the chair of Ireland’s Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Peter Boylan, gave testimony during Oireachtas committee hearings in which he detailed how nurses and hospital staff “tried to shield that woman’s young children from the fact that their mother was decomposing before them”.
The family eventually had to take their case to the High Court in order to have her life support turned off.
“Now these cases are harrowing – but these are real – these are lived experiences by Irish women and these are the hard cases created by bad law,” said the Sinn Fein president whose party voted at its Ard Fheis in February to repeal the eighth amendment.
“The imperative first is to secure the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, nothing else can happen unless that happens first,” she said.
Any discussion or debate about the 12-week legislation remains a matter of “theory and an academic exercise” so long as the eighth amendment remains in the Irish Constitution.
“I would like to think that you would have law on the books by early autumn. I think you are into election territory potentially and so on if we start slipping into Budget time and beyond.” Meanwhile Ms McDonald’ predecessor as party president Gerry Adams TD was out canvassing for repeal in his Louth constituency last week.
Speaking in Dundalk Mr Adams said: “The referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment is fundamentally about trust, specifically the willingness of our society to trust women to make health decisions for themselves.
“ The issue of women’s health should not be a matter for a constitution, nor should health professionals be forced to work in the shadow of an amendment that criminalises their actions and forces many women, including at least 83 women from Louth last year, to travel to Britain.
“The business of the State should be to ensure women have access to proper health care services if they need them and if they choose to avail of them.”