Labour Party Castlebar town councillor Harry Barrett was the only member of either Mayo County Council or Castlebar Town Council to oppose a notice of motion in relation to abortion put before both councils this week. Independent Cllr Frank Durcan who sits on both of the local authorities put forward a notice of motion to both councils stating “that the members resolve, in keeping with the will of the Irish people as emphatically expressed in the referendum of 1983, to oppose any form of legalisation of abortion under any circumstances”.
At Monday’s meeting of Mayo County Council the motion was passed unanimously without a dissenting voice from any of the members. However when the motion came before Castlebar Town Council on Tuesday evening, Cllr Barrett expressed his opposition to the motion. He told the meeting that, “I have a major problem with this motion. In the A, B and C v Ireland case that was taken to the European Court of Justice in 2010, it was found that Irish law breached the human rights of C, who was a cancer patient and her life was under threat because of the pregnancy. There is also an expert group that is part of the programme for Government that will report on this soon.” The expert group was set up to see what action should be taken after the decision of the ECJ in 2010 and following the X-case from 1992.
Cllr Barrett went on to say that “There are certain circumstances, that it (abortion ) may be always necessary. I always look at it as is if it was my wife or my daughter and what options would I hope to see.” Cllr Barrett then gave examples such as rape, cancer patients or ectopic pregnancy. He went on to propose that the motion be put aside until the expert group had come back with their report.” However, he failed to get a seconder from the eight of nine councillors who were at the meeting. But under standing orders of the council, his objection to the motion forced a vote on it. The vote returned a result of 6-1 in favour of the motion, with Cllrs Frank Durcan, Blackie Gavin, Noreen Heston, Michael Kilcoyne, Ger Deere and Eugene McCormack all supporting it, Cllr Barrett voting against it and Mayor Cllr Brendan Heneghan abstaining from the vote.
At Monday’s meeting of Mayo County Council where the same motion was debated, a large group of antiabortion activists entered the public gallery shortly before the motion was brought up. When the motion was passed, those in the public gallery applauded the decision of the members.
In proposing the motion, Cllr Durcan said that he would keep his contribution short, which he did, saying “This is a humanitarian issue, and I’m asking the this council guarantee the right of life from conception in the womb.”
Independent councillor Gerry Ginty seconded the motion and hit out at what he called “liberals” who he said would “twist my reasons for doing so”. He went on to say: “I see the killing of any child as murder”. v
He also expressed his amazement at someone training for years to be a doctor, before carrying out abortions.
There was full support from both of the major parties in the house, with Fianna Fáil whip Cllr Michael McNamara offering: “I would welcome this motion to the chamber and you have the full support of this side.” Fine Gael whip Cllr Joe Mellett told the meeting: “I would have preferred that this waited until the expert panel review group had completed their report. But we have no problem in supporting this motion from this side of the house.”