FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that abortion is not a party political issue and he will allow his party members to make up their own minds on the Eighth Amendment.
Speaking at the opening of the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis in the RDS in Dublin last night, Mr Martin addressed the issue in advance of two competing motions proposed by members, calling on the party to adopt a stance for or against the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
"Fianna Fáil’s position is that the fundamental issue of rights and laws concerning life have to be left to each individual’s conscience," Mr Martin said.
"In fact, the public believe that this is not and should not be a party political issue. That freedom of conscience principle will apply to our party members while the Oireachtas considers this issue."
He said that after 30 years there is a legitimate reason to consult the public again, and said that the debate needs to treat all opinions fairly.
Mr Martin also took aim at An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over a €5 million sum, set aside in the Budget, to fund a controversial strategic communications unit for the government in this week's budget.
"What they don’t understand is that the more public money they spend on new slogans, new images, social media ads and everything else the more they confirm just how out of touch they are," he said.
"The Taoiseach says he’s only concerned about telling people what’s going on. Well, people know about the waiting lists. They know about the 3000 children in emergency accommodation. They know about the rents and houses they can’t afford. He needs to understand no one is being fooled by his new era of propaganda," he added.
This mornings portion of the Ard Fheis was set to focus on housing, as well as healthcare and Brexit, and Mr Martin a major speech this evening, to be televised at 8.30am.