In a remarkable and telling intervention in the Seanad yesterday, Senator Lorraine Clifford said that the ‘Independent Chair’ of the Three Year Review of the abortion law only had to be “independent of Government, and not independent of the issue.”
She made her comments in reply to Senator Rónán Mullen who was challenging the Minister for Health’s decision to abandon the tendering process that was promised in finding an independent chairperson for the review. In the end, Minister Donnelly bypassed the process and appointed barrister Marie O’Shea as Chair. Since her appointment a fortnight ago, he has repeatedly refused to answer specific questions regarding the appointment, including the fact that Ms O’Shea is known to have engaged in social media activity that showed a preference for repeal of the 8th Amendment and the legalisation of abortion in Ireland.
Senator Clifford Lee’s remarks yesterday that the Chair of the review only had to be “independent of Government, and not independent of the issue” reveals the crude and blinkered thinking at the heart of the process and the total disregard for objectivity and fairness.
Senator Cliifford Lee was among the 11 groups and individuals that the Pro Life Campaign revealed last week met with the Minister for Health to discuss the framework and scope of the Three Year Review prior to its establishment. All of the groups and individuals Minister Donnelly met with represented the pro-abortion viewpoint. He turned down repeated requests for meetings from the All Party Oireachtas Life and Dignity Group and the Pro Life Campaign.
Based on all that has happened to date, the credibility of the Three Year Review is quickly evaporating. Stephen Donnelly can keep issuing statements all he likes about his commitment to ensuring an impartial process but unless immediate and verifiable steps are taken to guarantee a truly independent review, the standing of the entire process will soon be shattered beyond repair.