It seems Sinn Fein is going to hedge its bets on the Referendum on the Eighth. Despite the fact that it is planning to back the removal, it has thrown considerable doubt over what kind of amendments it will back in the Dail.
Fiach Kelly in the Irish Times today…
Holding an ard fheis to update Sinn Féin’s policy on abortion before the referendum to repeal Eighth Amendment to the Constitution could be logistically difficult, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.
Tight timetabling is the stated problem. But the insistence on a common party line makes last Autumn’s Ard Fheis compromise (now outflanked by the Oireachtas committee and the health minister’s proposals) impossible to restitch.
The party is currently in favour of repealing the amendment, and allowing for abortion in cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormalities and where the life or health of the mother is at risk.
However, it is currently not in favour of allowing for abortion without restrictions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – which is the policy that will be put before the Dáil by the Government if the referendum passes.
Sinn Féin sources previously said they would change their policy before the referendum, but Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin was “going through a process ourselves as a political party where we are figuring out” how to translate its policy position into legislation.
Those campaigning to retain the Eighth Amendment have identified abortions up to 12 weeks as an issue that could damage the repeal campaign, and the fact that no party will be officially in favour of such a position will further that belief.
Despite appearance to the contrary, SF, no less than the two big parties is split on the matter. But ambiguity about what the primary legislation might contain is one of the identified threats to the repeal Referendum.
And it is far from clear how the party plans to answer such key questions during the campaign.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty