Today Vixens asked Gerry Adams TD on #AskAdams with @impartialrep, whether he had ever wished the Abortion discussion within his party would go away. While he did answer, he didn’t address the content of the question. His answer was that members within Sinn Fein are free to discuss any issue. Vixens has been looking through internal party minutes, and we found these ones from 2000 interesting. We have published the salient points below. Ed.
“We’ve had a very consistent position down the years. Sinn Fein is not in favour of abortion and we resisted any attempt to bring the British 1967 Abortion Act to the north.” 2012 Martin Mc Guinness
…Sinn Féin is opposed to the extension of this legislation to the North. Mitchel Mc Loughlin June 2000
A set of internal minutes of a meeting held by Sinn Féin’s Ard Chomhairle in 2000, give a never before seen insight into the way in which the party conducts its internal top table discussions.
Held in advance of the party’s Ard Fheis that year, the minutes largely focus on preparations for the annual conference, and their stance on Abortion.
2000 was the year in which debate took place in Northern Ireland regarding whether to extend the 1967 Abortion act. The Irish Government had published its ‘Green Paper’ on the issue the previous year.
Of note in these minutes are the following comments from Gerry Adams “Are we for or against the 1967 Act?”
On reading the minutes, the party’s ruling body do not appear to know what their stance is on the issue. Abortion has long been a bone of contention within Sinn Féin, causing debates at Ard Fheiseanna, and division amongst its members. Only last year, Peadar Toibín was suspended from the party for six months for voting against the whip on the issue.
Adams continues “We need to say we oppose extension of 1967 Act”.
Another Ard Chomairle member, Anne Speed, who at the time was also a driving force in the Sinn Féin Womens Department disagrees with Adams, stating “We can’t say we are against the 1967 Act, We should say we can’t implement abortion if it goes beyond our stated policy. To outrightly reject 1967 is the wrong argument.”
Adams states, “I want to be told how to answer this if asked. I’m frustrated because we have a fudge and we don’t need a fudge”.
The Green Paper was further discussed in the context of motions received from cumainn within Sinn Féin for the forthcoming Ard Fheis. We have included the following seven options proposed at the time by the Irish Government, so the discussion at the Ard Chomhairle meeting makes sense to the reader
(i) An absolute constitutional ban on abortion;
(ii) An amendment of the constitutional provisions so as to restrict the application of the X case;
(iii) The retention of the status quo;
(iv) The retention of the constitutional status quo with legislative restatement of the prohibition on abortion;
(v) Legislation to regulate abortion in circumstances defined by the X case;
(vi) A reversion to the position as it pertained prior to 1983;
(vii) Permitting abortion on grounds beyond those specified in the X case.
DEPARTMENT OF THE TAOISEACH, 1999
Anne Speed proposes backing option 7, until “the party takes a different view”
Adams responds “A difficult issue. By election in Tyrone pending. Option 2 and 5 are safer for us.”
He is reminded by Speed what the Sinn Fein policy is, but continues
“What is the safest position for the party to take. My first reading is that we can’t go for 1 and 3, maybe not 2 or 4. Can we go for 5 to regulate it in circumstances? I don’t know what 6 was. …”
The Party are obviously mindful that any position they take in abortion may impact on their electoral position – note that Adams is reminding the AC that a by election is looming in Tyrone. Yet what is also clear is that there is no discussion within the party about the impact of their stance on women – the discussion is purely around what the best position to take which will have the lesser impact on the party.
In response to a motion from a branch of Sinn Fein proposing a party forum to discuss the issue, party member Daithí Doolan states “The motivation behind this motion is that they want a big debate and a return to an anti-abortion policy.”
Adams response is interesting, and is possibly a glimpse into what his private views are on both abortion and some party members “I wish it would go away. You want to take this off the clár. We have a very progressive position which stretches me. I prefer it would go away and comrades be more sensible.”
Further issues regarding other aspects of the forthcoming Ard Fheis are discussed. An interesting discussion which sheds a light on how Sinn Fein are ever mindful of the public view comes from Mitchel Mc Laughlin. “A note of caution around stage managing of the Basques, given their current internal dissension.”
A special conference is discussed, in the context of coalitions presumably. Mitchel again comments “I personally think we would be mad to take this decision before an election. People are concerned that the leadership is being too cute about this…”
Micheal Mc Donnacha’s comment is also interesting, given the fact that this meeting took place in 2000. “We need political discussion to ask is it in our interests to be in coalition with right wing parties. We need to consider all the options.”
Over the next few days, Vixens will publish photographic evidence of the minutes in question, giving both our readers, and cumainn members of Sinn Féin the opportunity to see for themselves how a meeting of Sinn Féins Ard Chomhairle is conducted.