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Father Ted creator Graham Linehan hits out at Irish abortion laws

Published 19/10/2015

Graham Linehan and his wife Helen attend an Amnesty International event in Belfast calling for a change to Ireland's strict abortion laws
Graham Linehan and his wife Helen attend an Amnesty International event in Belfast calling for a change to Ireland's strict abortion laws
Father Ted writer Graham Linehan has called for a change in Ireland's abortion laws

The writer of the Father Ted comedy series has described the heartbreak of losing a child to a foetal abnormality, and called for abortion laws to be liberalised in Ireland.

Dublin-born Graham Linehan, whose sitcom was one of the most successful in Irish television history, claimed the restrictions on terminations were "insane" and that women were not safe in Ireland.

In the Republic, a prison sentence of up to 14 years could be imposed for an illegal abortion.

Linehan and his wife Helen Linehan discovered in 2004 that their 11-week-old foetus would not survive because the baby's skull had not properly formed.

Doctors said a termination, near their home in England, was the only option.

Mr Linehan said: "The abortion law as it stands is part of a chain that extends back into Ireland's past. We are still locked into this, chained to this thing.

"We won't be free of it until we break this final link."

Northern Ireland and the Republic have more restrictive laws than Great Britain and thousands of women travel there for abortions every year.

Linehan has produced a short film calling for the abortion law in Ireland to be repealed.

The couple's foetus had a condition known as acrania, where the skull does not close over the brain. The child would not have lived once it was born and doctors concluded that termination was the only option.

Mrs Linehan recalled her experience: "It was awful, tragic ... there was no question, that this baby could not survive."

She received counselling.

"I just cannot imagine what we would have done if we had been living here and to have gone through the situation.

"It feels like a bad dream, listening to the stories I have heard today."

There has been growing demand for the Irish government to allow a referendum on legalising abortion, and last month thousands marched through Dublin to show their support for decriminalisation.

The death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, after she was denied a medically recommended abortion following a miscarriage, highlighted the issue.

Linehan addressed an Amnesty International event in Belfast.

He said: "It is just insane to have to get on a plane, to organise your doctors, to have to book yourself in, to have no support in your own country."

He added that the couple moved back to the Republic some years later and had another child, but added that it was not safe for women in Ireland.

"It is terrifying, I brought her somewhere that it might not be entirely safe."

Linehan co-wrote the hit comedy Father Ted, which ran for three series in the 1990s, with Arthur Mathews.

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