Thursday, 6 December 2018
Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Second Stage
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as a bheith linn don phlé. I was not due to contribute to this debate, but, having followed the referendum campaign, I find myself in a privileged position in which, as someone from the North, I am afforded the opportunity to do so. Many of us were so desperate to take part and did take part actively in the referendum campaign, in travelling to counties Louth, Donegal, Dublin and farther afield. As noted by previous speakers, the campaign was of historical significance in an effort to right a wrong in society and afford healthcare and choice to women and families who might need be in need of care. I was moved not just in the last referendum campaign but in a number of others in this state. I felt a deep pang of misfortune that I would not have the ability to take part actively in a vote, but I fully understood and appreciated the significance of what was taking place. We looked on during the last number of referendums and will continue to look on in awe and with a degree of frustration and, I dare say, jealousy owing to the progress being made in righting an injustice when we pass this legislation in this House.
One of the main things that moved me was the very natural, organic grassroots response from the crowd at Dublin Castle when they displayed the sign, "The North is next". When considering and making progress on this legislation, I encourage the Government and colleagues in the Seanad not to forget the North and ensure Irish women, whether in Derry, Newry, Enniskillen or Belfast, will not have to travel as far as they once did.It is about showing the necessary compassion, care, understanding and acceptance of the realities that exist. When we bring forward legislation, which I hope will afford women the right to choose what to do with their own healthcare and bodies, we should ensure the right is afforded to women as best as possible right across the Thirty-two Counties. We have the opportunity to put practical measures in place that will assist women. It is not good enough. It is not where we want to be. I sincerely hope that in both the conversation surrounding the issue and its delivery, the North will be next. If that does not come to fruition, it is vitally important we enable women across Ireland to avail of healthcare in the circumstances in which they need it.