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Pro-life FF TDs will back abortion for 'hard cases' if referendum passed; Orange Order urges No vote

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith and Elaine Loughlin

Pro-life Fianna Fáil TDs will back any legislation allowing abortion for rape, incest and fatal abnormalities if the referendum is passed in a major concession on the deeply divisive potential post-referendum laws.

Fianna Fáil TDs Mary Butler, Eamon O Cuiv and Declan Breathnach confirmed the new position today, despite stressing they remain entirely opposed to Government plans to allow unrestricted abortion access in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Speaking to reporters at a Love Both event outside the Dáil, Ms Butler, Mr O Cuiv and Mr Breathnach said they still want people to vote no in Friday's historic referendum.

However, in a clear concession that mirrors similar claims in recent days by the wider pro-life movement, the TDs said they will not ignore the realities of "hard cases" in the event new laws are put to the Dáil and Seanad if a yes vote takes place.

"I have listened and been on the ground in the last month, and if the yes vote is successful and legislation comes forward, I personally will not hold up legislation for rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.

"I will, however, scrutinize the bill word for word, line by line and I will never be in agreement with abortion on demand," Ms Butler said.

Mr Breathnach repeated the view, saying "common sense should prevail", while Mr O Cuiv said he wants people to vote no to force a new referendum in the future restricted only to hard cases as politicians cannot be trusted to not try to further extend the 12 week proposed post-vote laws.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same event Love Both campaigner and lawyer Ben O Floinn said no voters want to address cases that "tug at the heartstrings" but said the only way to do this is to reject the current referendum.

He added it is not a question "of turning it [public opinion] around" today as "we've always just met slogans with facts", and described the Government's post-referendum 12 week abortion access plans as "extreme".

Mr O Floinn attempted to ask Taoiseach Leo Varadkar questions on the issue at a pro-choice media event today, but was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, in an unusual move, unionist group the Orange Order also urged voters in the Republic to vote no in today's historic referendum.

In a Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland statement, the unionist group said people preparing to vote on this "sensitive issue" should "read what God says about the sanctity of human life".

"As we approach the referendum on the repeal of the eighth amendment on the constitution of the Republic of Ireland, we call upon our members, supporters and friends, eligible to exercise their democratic rights, to vote No.

"The bible is clear: 'children are a heritage from the lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3," the statement read.