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Greens repeat unity message despite differences on abortion and courts

Eamon Ryan sought to assure voters that the party would work ‘as a team’,

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Green Party leader Eamon Ryan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Green Party insists it will be unified in its message if elected to government despite different opinions within the party.

Dublin Bay North candidate for the party David Healy confirmed in recent days that he was against repealing the Eighth Amendment, which saw free, safe, legal abortion implemented in the state.

While the Green Party took a pro-choice stance in the referendum, Mr Healy previously said he had taken the decision as a matter of conscience to vote no.

Meanwhile the candidate for Mayo, Saoirse McHugh, said on Thursday she would be in favour of “getting rid” of the Special Criminal Court, an election talking point that has been used to criticise Sinn Fein.

In the final day of the campaign, leader Eamon Ryan sought to assure voters that if elected to parliament, the party would have a unity message.

“One of the characteristics of our party, from the very start, is that it is open to different opinions and different views, whatever subject it’s on.

“And I think in that referendum, it was managed well.”

He continued: “Of course in our party, just as every other party, there will be people who have voted in a variety of different ways.

“But one thing also we are good at… we also act collectively when it comes to voting in the Dail and all our candidates, whatever their personal views, commit to say, OK, we will discuss and we will air and be willing to show and have differences, but actually when it comes down in the parliament, we work as a team.

“We did that in our time in government, right the way through to the end, tough times, very hard decisions, but we acted at all times collectively, going back to our membership on occasion to check with them, we believe in respecting different opinions and I think that actually on that issue and a range of others, we should keep up that tradition.”

He added: “What David has said is that he would support the party position as we will adopt it in the Dail, respecting the difference but acting as a team.”

It was put to Mr Ryan that during a constituency debate with Near FM, Mr Healy stated that he would abstain on any vote to remove the current three-day statutory waiting period for abortions.

Mr Ryan replied that he had not heard that particular debate.

On Ms McHugh’s comments on the Special Criminal Court (SCC), Mr Ryan said the party had long heeded the opinion of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, which has criticised the court, which sits without a jury, and is used to prosecute suspected gangland members and terrorist paramilitaries.

However, when asked if he would expect all his party TDs to vote in favour of the Offences Against the State Act (which upholds the SCC) if they are in government, Mr Ryan indicated that they would, due to the ongoing drugs-related feud in Drogheda.

“We don’t want a system where there is no jury, it goes back to the belief in the system, belief in the state, back to the constitution and trust in the people to adjudicate,” he said.

“But there are last resort exceptions where that doesn’t apply, where people feel they cannot speak because of intimidation and we recognise that in certain circumstances, you have to have a last resort, but it should only be the last resort.

“We should heed what Amnesty International and the Irish Council of Civil Liberties are saying and that we should remove the conditions that exist in that intimidation and then return to a jury-based system and trust our people to make those decisions.”

PA