Seanad debates

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Second Stage


10:30 am

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

-----Devine and Norris, and others. I do not want to leave anyone out. I do not want to offend anyone.

I remember the 1983 referendum because it was my first foray into politics. I am proud that my party, Sinn Féin, as a republican party, took the right stand then. We opposed that referendum. It was such a dark and awful time to be campaigning. As a teenager in the midlands, it was particularly tough. Christy Moore put it well in his song, "The Other Side", where he described the country at the time:

While men in black declare a social order

Frightened women sail to the other side

That is what will continue until this legislation is passed.

It is worth bearing in mind that, as we speak today, there will be nine women travelling to Britain for a termination. Across the State, there will be another three or four taking abortion pills on their own in a bedroom. There is something truly repugnant about the status quo, which is that one can have a termination, only do not have it here. Do not let us know about it, go elsewhere, deal with it somewhere else and then come back, but do not tell us about it. It is hard to believe that it has taken 35 years to change the position.

My experience on the Together for Yes campaign was inspiring because it energised so many people, in particular, young people, who came in to make a difference in that campaign. It was also inspiring because we saw all of us on the progressive left, colleagues from Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the independent left, working constructively together in my town of Limerick, with no one trying to steal the limelight, to get the best result. I stated at one of the public meetings that if we could bottle that, if all of us on the left learned those lessons and focused much more on working together, what a different country we could have. Hopefully, we can get there, comrades, in that respect.

Today is a really great day. It is fair to commend the Ministers, in particular, Deputy Harris, on the way he has dealt with this, not only now but over the previous year. He showed leadership when it was needed and we need to recognise that as well. It is real progress.

In terms of this debate, we are off to a good start in the Seanad. It has been a respectful debate so far and I believe it will continue to be so. I truly hope it does not reach the depths of some of the debate in the Dáil. I truly hope we do not have to put up with filibustering. By all means, let us debate and respect each other's comments but filibustering at this stage of this long national conversation is uncalled for. I hope we do not find ourselves back in a "Doctor Who" tardis whisked back to 1955. Can the Senators believe some of the amendments in the Dáil this week calling on doctors to make records as to whether the person applying for a termination was married or not?


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