Buttimer calls for mature Eight debate

Buttimer calls for mature Eight debate
Jerry Buttimer. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins

SEANAD leader Jerry Buttimer has called for a "mature, reflective, and respectful" debate on the Eighth Amendment, and said that he is willing to chair a committee to set up a referendum on the issue.

Mr Buttimer has been suggested in recent days as a candidate for the role of chairperson of the Oireachtas committee which will deal with the upcoming report from the Citizens' Assembly.

The Assembly has voted to back access to abortion regardless of reasons.

The Seanad Leader was chair of Oireachtas Health Committee during the debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which currently governs access to abortion.

He said that he would consider the position of asked, but had not been approached yet.

He said that he favours a referendum on abortion, but the Oireachtas will have to examine the report carefully so that they can ask people the right question.

"It needs to be done in a substantive way. This is not a black and white issue. You have to respect that difference, and ask the right question," he said.

Mr Buttimer said that society couldn't shy away from dealing with an issue just because it is divisive. He said he was not afraid of taking the issue on, and that the same-sex marriage referendum two years ago proved just how capable Ireland of dealing with a complicated social issue. 

Mr Buttimer said that the members of the Citizens Assembly deserved credit for the way they approached the issue and said that other people should do the same, by reading the expert reports and the evidence presented at that assembly.

While a referendum on the Eighth Amendment may not take place for some time, he said that the debate in society needs to start happening now, "away from the heat of a referendum or a campaign."

Having steered the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act through the Dáil, Mr Buttimer said that he learned how challenging it is to deal with the politics of the issue, but that it could be done if the approach was "respectful" and thorough.

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