Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone's Mickey Harte backs GAA anti-abortion group

Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte has given his backing to a group of GAA stars calling for a no vote in the upcoming referendum on legalising abortion in the Republic.

The GAA Athletes for a No Vote was launched in the Dublin suburb of Ballyfermot on Saturday.

Other athletes in attendance at the launch were Meath footballer Joe Sheridan, Antrim footballer Patrick Gallagher, Derry camogie player Aoife Cassidy, and Galway footballer Anne-Marie McDonagh.

Veteran Tyrone boss Harte - who has managed the side since 2003, and is the biggest name to get behind the campaign - told the Irish Times the public faced a choice of voting for a "culture of death or a culture of life" in the forthcoming referendum.

"It’s not a question being confident about whether Yes or No will pass," he said.

"It’s a question of stating what you believe and to me it’s a straight vote between a culture of death and a culture of life. As long as there’s time to try and present the picture that a culture of life is always a more positive place to be, then we have to keep working at that until the day of the vote."

The GAA as an organisation has stated its impartiality on the issue, with Irish state broadcaster RTE reporting it has written to the county secretaries to inform them they should have no involvement in the referendum.

It was earlier reported the GAA Athletes for a No Vote had taken place at the grounds of Ballyfermot De La Salle GAA club, but the club later released a statement that it was "in no way associated with today's [Saturday] launch" and it had only become aware of the event from press reports.

"It would be wholly inappropriate for the club to be associated with the launch as the GAA and its clubs do not become involved in political matters," it said.

The vote on repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution will go ahead on May 25.

It will decide whether to repeal a clause in the Constitution which currently means there is an almost total ban on abortion.

In the Republic terminations are not permitted in cases of rape, incest, or fatal foetal abnormality.

The Eighth Amendment states that the Irish state "acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother".

The leaders of all of the Republic's major political parties, including Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, Labour and the Social Democrats.

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