Republic of Ireland news

Ireland frozen in time says Tanaiste after woman shares abortion story

Michelle Devane, Press Association

A woman's emotional story of having an abortion in England shows the Republic of Ireland is frozen in time, the Tanaiste said.

Simon Coveney said the personal stories of women in crisis pregnancies were crystallising the views of Irish people.

He made the comments on the final day of campaigning for a Yes vote in Friday's referendum after Saoirse Long recounted her experience live on TV of travelling to Britain for a termination.

"It is these cases that have crystallised, in my view, the views of most people now in Ireland who want to face up to this issue with more honesty and more compassion in the future," said Mr Coveney.

Ms Long relayed during a debate on Ireland's TV3 channel how she agonised over whether to have a termination but that it was the right decision for her.

She said she should have been looked after in her own country and should not have had to go abroad to access proper healthcare.

"Walking around Birmingham for six hours with a hot water bottle against me, alone, walking around a country, and a city I don't know, waiting for a plane home again because I was forced out of this country," Ms Long said.

Senator Ronan Mullen, a high-profile No campaigner who appeared as a panellist on the debate, was criticised for his reaction to her story when he said: "Saoirse, you deserve love and respect regardless of what you've ever done."

Ms Long's story had a huge reaction on social media.

Irish people will go to the polls on Friday to decide whether they want the country's strict abortion laws liberalised.

They are being asked if they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which acknowledges the equal right to life of the woman and the unborn, and replace it with wording to allow parliament to legislate for terminations.

Mr Coveney told the Dail Ms Long's story highlighted the issues Ireland needed to face up to.

He said he hoped people would vote Yes and allow parliament to appropriately legislate to care for women.

Mr Coveney added that the Republic of Ireland would hear stories like Ms Long's over the next 10 years if the referendum was not passed.

"If the country votes No tomorrow, what they're essentially saying is we can change nothing," the Tanaiste said.

"That Ireland is frozen in time on this issue."

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