Pro-life TD Peadar Tóibín has defended his decision to vote against abortion despite being suspended from his Sinn Féin party over the issue and hinted he may run as an independent.
Mr Tóibín was amongst a handful of Dáil deputies who voted against the Fine Gael legislation which permits abortion up to birth in certain circumstances.
The party announced today (November 1) that he would be suspended for a period of six months since Sinn Féin does not permit members to act on their consciences on issues like the right to life.
In a statement responding to the move by the party hierarchy, Mr Tóibín also hinted that he may consider running as an independent in the forthcoming general election.
The Meath East Deputy said that: “The abortion bill before the Dáil states that abortion is; a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of a foetus. When TDs vote in the Dáil they are individually and personally responsible for the outcomes of the laws they vote for.
“This is a sobering responsibility and I could not in conscience vote for the bill,” he said.
Pointing to the May 25 abortion referendum, he also insisted that it is “important to note that the 34% of the population that voted to retain the 8th Amendment plus the 20% of ‘yes’ voters who don’t agree with this bill should have a voice in the Oireachtas.
“It is reasonable that TDs should give voice to the opposing views on Simon Harris’ Abortion Bill in roughly the proportion that exists in society. There is no better way to push voters to the extreme than to deny them a legitimate democratic voice,” he said.
On his future within Sinn Féin, Mr Tóibín pointed out that he has been a member of the party for 21 years. “From a young age I have been inspired by the selfless sacrifice of generations of republicans from Wolfe Tone to Bobby Sands. I joined Sinn Féin when it was not easy to join Sinn Féin. In the intervening years I have poured all my energy into building a movement to achieve a United Ireland and Economic Justice.
“There is a significant chance of an election during the next six months. In the current political instability, the suspension could become a de facto expulsion.
“It is my understanding that while on suspension I would be prevented from standing for Sinn Féin as a candidate and would not be allowed to renter the party subsequently if I seek re-election during the suspension.
“The six month suspension presents significant difficulties and uncertainty,” he said.
Deputy Tóibín insisted that he is “a proud Meath man and believe[s] passionately that Meath needs strong robust representation in the Dáil.
“I also believe strongly in economic justice and Irish unity. It is hard to achieve this if I am being prevented from paying a full role in the Sinn Féin team.
“I will give serious consideration to this suspension over the next week,” he said.
Those who also voted against the legislation were Independent TDs Seán Canney, Michael Collins, Michael Fitzmaurice, Peter Fitzpatrick, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry, Mattie McGrath and Carol Nolan. Marc MacSharry and Éamon Ó Cuív of Fianna Fáil also voted against the legislation.