Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


10:30 am

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I convey to the Leader through the Deputy Leader my gratitude as when I raised two weeks ago the University College Cork report into a foetal medicine specialist's experience of carrying out late-term abortions in the context of children diagnosed with a fatal foetal so-called anomalyin utero, she undertook to ask the Minister to come in to discuss the matter in this House. I have not acknowledged that she did so and I am very grateful that she did. I ask that this happen as soon as possible and there would be a specific discussion on the matter, given its seriousness, and it would not just be one topic taken among many others.

The Oireachtas Life and Dignity Group has launched its discussion document on late-term abortion and foetal pain. These are desperately important matters and the question is asked of what happens where unborn children in these cases are subject to foeticide. Is there pain relief and does the procedure always end in the death of the child before the child is brought out? In cases where a child is induced, what steps are appropriate in the context of precautionary pain relief?

This is extremely serious and I hope the matter might unite people of all shades of opinion on abortion in this House. I ask for the debate as a matter of reasonable urgency.

I do not want to join the general pile-on to the Sinn Féin Party or Deputy Brian Stanley arising from his tweets. However, social media and politics often do not mix well. Tweets are not good vehicles for expressing complex ideas and as politicians we must check both our motivation, tactics and judgment when we start discussing important topics using Twitter or other forms of social media. There is a lesson to be learned.

When we debate matters such as the Kilmichael ambush and what happened at Narrow Water almost 100 years later, it is worth saying there is a distinction to be drawn. In one case, the majority of people in Ireland had voted for independence and the War of Independence that was taking place had the support of the majority of people in this country. What went on during the Troubles never had the support even of a majority of nationalist people in the North, never mind the whole country.

My third point is a lesson we can learn. President Higgins speaks about "narrative hospitality" in speaking about commemorating these events. In other words, it is about including other people's perspectives and sensitivities when we commemorate. To commemorate need not and should not mean "to celebrate". To sing about the boys of Kilmichael might have made sense when we were trying to keep a war effort going in Ireland and when people needed to know they could succeed against the occupying forces. It is not inappropriate for us to recall that whether they were auxiliaries or black and tans, some of these people were scarred by their experience of the First World War and very damaged people. All of them were somebody's son or brother; they were human beings and deserving of respect, even while we condemn the atrocities that took place. President Higgins's call to narrative hospitality is really important. He signals it as an ethical imperative and he is right about that.


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