Recently a controversy arose over comments I was alleged to have made at an abortion briefing in Leinster House. Below is the text of a letter published in the Irish Times in response to an article in the same paper. The original article misrepresented what had happened and I felt compelled to respond.
Sir, - The report in the Irish Times (April 23rd) concerning my conversation with a group lobbying in favour of abortion legislation in Leinster House last Wednesday is inaccurate and misleading. It was reported that I was unpleasant to the group and that I questioned whether they had a bigger agenda. The context of what happened is this: I was delayed arriving to the briefing. Not long after I arrived, a man at the top table invited anyone present to explain why abortion shouldn’t be allowed in the situation of a severely disabled child likely to live for only a very short time after birth. After a moment of silence, I tentatively offered my hand.
I sympathised with the families and offered my perspective on why I felt that abortion was not the best response in that situation.
As the meeting finished and we were leaving, I made it my business to shake hands and speak with some of the persons present. I offered my hand to the gentleman who would later make allegations against me. He took my hand reluctantly and said he disliked me and my argumentative style. When I tried to explain that I wanted a respectful exchange of views, he bristled and motioned me away. It was at that point that I asked whether there was a separate agenda here as this was extremely unusual in the context of an Oireachtas briefing. The question was not asked in either a rhetorical or leading manner. Contrary to the report, I only asked the question once, not twice, because it was clear that the man did not wish to speak with me. Neither did I call him “James” – I did not know his name.
I deeply sympathise with all those in this case while remaining true to the view that even severely disabled babies with a short life expectancy deserve to be allowed live their natural life. A person’s proximity to death is no justification for aborting that person. I strongly support the establishment of facilities to support women and families in this tragic situation.
I regret any attempt, whether by misrepresentation, scorn or invective, to marginalise the contribution of pro-life persons or to intimidate them from entering the debate. It is surprising that such a brief exchange, which was entirely courteous on my side, should cause such a furore on social media and provide the basis for an article in the Irish Times. The media has an obligation to ensure fairness and, just as importantly, balance in this debate. Yours, etc,
Senator Rónán Mullen