Seanad debates

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Report and Final Stages


6:10 pm

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

-----who is here with me this evening and who has been over so many days. I thank Mr. Ronan Horgan, Ms Aoife O'Brien, Ms Bronwyn Conway and Ms Noelle Waldron for all the work they have done in the Department in making sure that we were well briefed and in a position to brief Members of the Oireachtas as we went through the various legislative Stages. I thank my own team, Ms Joanne Lonergan, Ms Sarah Bardon, Ms Fiona Nugent, Ms Kathyann Barrett and Ms Majella Fitzpatrick, for working with me and putting up with me in what has been a challenging and intense time in Irish politics and in my own involvement with it.

I thank the incredible civic society leadership we saw during the referendum campaign. I particularly thank Together for Yes. I know Ms Orla O'Connor, Ms Ailbhe Smyth, Ms Grainne Griffin and Ms Deirdre Duffy are with us. They represent so many more. They represent an entire grassroots movement. I thank them for their leadership. I want to thank TFMR Ireland and so many other groups that came together in support of a "Yes" vote and to create a more compassionate country. It is really interesting example of what we can achieve when political leaders come together with civic society leaders. There is really nothing we cannot achieve. There is a lesson in that for us as we go forward and debate and consider other challenging issues. I thank staff of Seanad Éireann and the Oireachtas in general for their patience and tolerance regarding what has been a very long period.

The House will understand that I particularly want to thank those who recognise the need for our discourse to be respectful of differing views and of the sensitivities involved, particularly the sensitivities of those who have experienced termination of pregnancy. I can only begin to imagine how the intensity of debate during the referendum campaign and right throughout the legislative process must have felt for the women who travelled abroad in the past. These women felt the cold shoulder of judgment, the sting of shame and stigma at home and the isolation of being alone and vulnerable abroad. They certainly do not forget those experiences, but I hope this referendum result lets a little welcome light into those shadows of the past, shadows that were forced on their lives.

If the past is a foreign country, as L.P. Hartley said, it is barely recognisable from the country in which we find ourselves today. To look back on our political history, starting with the momentous referendum of 1983, requires a brief review of some 35 years in which this debate only rarely punctuated the work of this or the Lower House. In that period, it was the work undertaken by so many, largely outside of here, that moved Irish society to a more equal and more compassionate view of women and of a woman's right to choose. Some women had to go to court, some had to go to the United Nations, others had to go to radio and television studios to share publicly their most private anguish. In doing so, they moved a nation. I must acknowledge the work of a small number of incredible Senators and Members of the other House who campaigned so hard for so long. I think particularly of Senator Bacik-----


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