Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher has responded to Minister Pat Rabbitte’s comments that the Catholic Church should not involve itself in any political debate relating to legislation for abortion.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “The issue of abortion is one of the most emotive issues in Irish political life. The question of whether or not the State should legislate for abortion in limited circumstances is due to return to the centre stage of political debate in the coming months as the Government appointed expert group publishes its report.
“There are myriad views on what the State’s response should be, but one thing that all sensible observers agree on is the need for restrained and respectful engagement with the issues. This debate should be an open and respectful one .
“Unfortunately, Pat Rabbitte’s contribution on yesterday’s RTE This Week programme, when he said that the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland should not be involved in any political debate on the issue, was neither restrained nor respectful.
“While his comments may have went down well with Labour Party activists, they will have served only to antagonise many thousands of others who will correctly feel that their position, as articulated by Cardinal Brady, deserves the same respect as any other voice. He has succeeded in poisoning the atmosphere for engagement and creating conflict before the report has even been finalised. Citizens deserve an open and frank debate and government ministers should not try to muzzle it.
“Minister Rabbitte’s vision, where the Church hierarchy instruct political representatives on how to respond to a policy challenge, is divisive, outdated and irrelevant in the Ireland we live in today. It also suggests a lack of confidence in his Government colleagues to make up their own minds on important legislative issues.
“All faith communities in this country should have the same rights and entitlements as every other interest group in their attempts to make their case to legislators and have an input into public debate. Any attempt by Ministers to undermine this right is inappropriate and unhelpful. It is also likely to have exactly the opposite effect.”