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Gerry Adams TD full speech on the report of the joint committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution

17 January, 2018 - by Gerry Adams

Below you can find the full text for Gerry Adams speech on the report of the joint committee on the Eighth Amendment:

"Go raibh maith míle agat a Ceann Comhairle, Tá mé buíoch as an deis labhairt ar an ábhar fíor-tábhactach seo atá faoi bhráid na Dála um tráthnóna.

100 years ago this year Ceann Comhairle, Countess Markievicz was elected to the first Dáil and went on to become the first female Cabinet Minister in Europe.

She was part of a revolutionary strand of the national movement that included women like Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, Kathleen Lynn and Elizabeth O’Farrell.

Fine women, who serve as role models for many of us to this day.

They led the struggle for women’s rights in extraordinary times, buoyed by the freedom charter that was the 1916 Proclamation, which addressed itself equally to Irish men and Irish women.

They must have felt betrayed after the counter-revolutionary period which resulted in the development of two conservative, narrow-minded States in our country that championed public policy that was anti-women, chauvinistic, cruel and intolerant.

Women were written out of history.

In this State, their status was confirmed in the 1937 Constitution, which asserted that a woman’s place was in the home.

For women who strayed beyond so-called “norms”, they were sent to Magdalene Laundries or to mother and baby homes.

There they endured unbelievable hardship and were denied everything by a State that condemned them for no reason other than the fact that they were women.

Such attitudes permeated every facet of Irish life.

The architecture of the State ensured that women were consigned to lesser status.

The employment marriage bar remained in force until 1973.

Domestic violence was not even recognised as an issue and it wasn’t until 1976 that a wife could seek a barring order against her husband.

‘Criminal Conversation’, which enshrined in law that a wife was the property of her husband, remained on the statute books until 1981.

Contraception wasn’t available without a prescription until 1985, and even then, only in chemists until 1991.

Even the simplest things - the purchase of a television or a radio on hire purchase - were not possible without a husband’s signature.

Whilst strides have been made in addressing some of the historic injustices forced on women by this State, the legacy of that treatment remains with us today - on issues like pay equality or the lack of it, the scarcity of women from many aspects of public life, politics or leadership positions in government, academia and other sectors.

That injustice is evident in the continued prevalence of the 1983 Amendment to an already out-of- touch Constitution, which prohibited access to what was, even at that time - in any other developed society - basic medical treatment.

That is not right.

It is wrong and it is our responsibility as legislators to end that injustice.

The business of the State should be to ensure that women have access to proper healthcare services should they need them, and should they choose to avail of them.

The State has a responsibility to support women. 

We should not fool ourselves.

Abortion is a reality in Ireland.

Abortion pills are available here which can be ordered online and taken by women without medical supervision.

Or women in distress can go to England.

An English solution to an Irish problem.

I have my own position on abortion, but as a legislator I have no right to impose that view on anyone.

It is not for any of us here to cast judgement on anybody for doing what they feel they need to do.

It is for women to make that judgement.

I for one believe they are fully capable of doing so.

That they are entitled to do so.

Those who are opposed to abortion are entitled to their opinion.

They are equally fully entitled not to have a termination.

Everyone has the right to choose.

Those who prescribe to a particular faith for example, can heed the guidance of their religious leaders - if they so choose.

But is not for anyone to foist their views on others.

That is my strongly held opinion.

Some will oppose that analysis.

Some who will do so are friends of mine.

They are good people Ceann Comhairle with sincerely held views.

I respect that.

So, tolerance has to be hallmark of our discourse.

But Ireland has changed.

That change has been spearheaded by women in the first instance.

And mná na hÉireann are not going accept the continued “guidance” of a Constitution - written when women were second-class citizens - revised in 1983 under false pretences - as dogma.

Women don't need moral diktat.

They certainly don’t need condemnation.

What they need and deserve is respect. 

What they need is the right to make decisions about their own health and their own lives.

Repealing the Eighth Amendment is the right thing to do. 

It will correct a historic wrong.

I hope that a referendum to afford the people the right to do this happens as soon as possible.

And I hope that the people will support that proposition.

We can debate the merits or otherwise of what legislation will come after that.

For Sinn Féin’s part we accept the need for the availability of abortion where a woman’s life, health or mental health is at serious risk or in danger, and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and in the cases rape

or sexual abuse.

The first step is to allow women the right to make a choice on these deeply distressing matters and to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Go raibh maith agat a Ceann Comhairle."

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