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Carol Nolan may quit Sinn Fein

Thursday, 31 May 2018

OFFALY Sinn Fein TD Carol Nolan is on the verge of quitting the party after the county delivered an emphatic Yes in favour of repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
The Dail deputy was suspended by Sinn Fein for defying the party whip on the holding of the referendum and this week she declared she will not be changing her pro-life views.
A total of 24,781 voters in the Offaly constituency, which includes a portion of north Tipperary, voted Yes to repeal the Eighth Amendment acknowledging the equal right to life of the unborn and replace it with a provision allowing laws for termination of pregnancies.
There were 17,908 No votes in a turnout of 64.7 per cent, resulting in a 58 per cent to 42 per cent victory for the Yes campaign.
While Offaly Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy hailed the result as a landmark day for women and their healthcare, much of the local political attention turned to Deputy Nolan.
She was suspended by Sinn Fein for three months in March and joined the Offaly Pro-life group in an extensive canvass of the county.
Other Sinn Fein members were in favour of repeal and they gathered in the count centre in Banagher College on Saturday morning to help co-ordinate a tally.
Offaly Sinn Fein chair, Peter Judge, desribed it as a "great day for democracy in Ireland" and said the people had taken the opportunity to shape the Constitution "in overwhelming numbers".
Deputy Nolan was not present at the count and in remarks which angered the TD, Mr Judge said: "We have no idea as to why she didn't turn up. As you know Carol is currently suspended under the party rules, she voted against the whip, and I do not know why she has not turned up. It's that straightforward."
Mr Judge went on: "She should have turned up. She took a lead on the No campaign. She should have turned up to support the people that worked with her on the ground."
He said she could have attended the count "as the person who led out the No campaign in Offaly" but not as a Sinn Fein TD because of her suspension.
Mr Judge then questioned whether or not Deputy Nolan would be returning to Sinn Fein when her suspension ends on June 21.
“She has made a number of statements in relation to it where she says she hasn't made that decision yet," said Mr Judge. "So it will be up to herself if she will return to the party."
Speaking to the Tribune on Monday, Deputy Nolan, who won a Dail seat in the 2016 election, did not rule out leaving Sinn Fein.
The party will set out a detailed position on abortion at its Ard Fheis on June 15 but Deputy Nolan will not be in a position to speak on the matter because the conference comes before her suspension is lifted.
Asked if she will return to Sinn Fein, Deputy Nolan replied: "I still haven't made my mind up. I haven't made a decision on whether I will or not."
“I'm completely against abortion. As a politician I'm not going to see where the wind is blowing and go with it," she added. "I do the right thing, not the popular thing."
Reflecting on the 33 per cent of the electorate nationally which voted against the removal of the Eighth Amendment, a proportion which increased to 42 per cent in Offaly, Deputy Nolan stated: "There's a significant section of the people that are against abortion. I'm not going to change my stance. It is as it was."
She would be more likely to remain a Sinn Fein TD if the party adopted a 'conscience clause' allowing a free vote on certain issues, as Fine Gael and Fianna Fail had done.
“A lot of republicans are not pro-choice, a lot of republicans are pro-life, and in the six counties too. This could lead to fragmentation in the party."
In the clearest sign yet of tensions within Offaly Sinn Fein, Deputy Nolan said it was "totally inappropriate" for Peter Judge as chair of the Sinn Fein comhairle ceantair to "attack" her for not being at the count.
“I wasn't able to be at that count because of a family commitment," she said, adding that her sister-in-law, Claire Nolan, represented her at it.
She commended all the No campaigners for their hard work and said she had thought the No vote would be higher.
“There was a lot of confusion. People thought this was needed to save the life of the mother and it wasn't because the 2013 Act is there [for that purpose]," said Deputy Nolan.
A mother of two children, aged 12 and 8, the Cadamstown woman added: "As a mother you want to do the right thing. There will be women in crisis pregnancies, I'm not denying that."
“We could have come up with better solutions for women, to support women, but this was an extreme proposal."
She said it saddened her that a fundamental right was voted away, the equal right to life of the unborn and she rejected the use of the term "healthcare" for abortion when it was about "ending a life".
“I accept the result but that doesn't mean I agree with it," she said.
Deputy Corcoran Kennedy said this week she looks forward to the Government moving "swiftly" to enact the legislation to give effect to the "huge mandate" received from the people last Friday.
“I very much welcome assurances by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD that the Government will prioritise the drafting of the legislation in the coming weeks with a view to having the law enacted in the autumn," said the Fine Gael TD.
Kilcormac woman Claire Nevin, a key member of the Together for Yes group in Offaly, said on Saturday she was delighted with the result and was very grateful to the people of the county.
She said she understood why people had voted No but believed fears about "floodgates" or the implications for those with disabilities were misplaced.
“I'm sorry for anybody who is upset today or sad today. What I would say is, with time, we'll see this is the right decision," she stated.
Cllr John Leahy, leader of the pro-life Renua party, said he was "very disappointed" with the "landslide" defeat of those who favoured retention of the Eighth Amendment.
While he accepted the result, Renua would not abandon its pro-life "pillar" because it believed being pro-life was the same as being "pro-family" and supporting families.
Cllr Leahy said he was concerned about what would be "coming next". "My fear is we could be looking at euthanasia in a number of years time. Our pro-life stance still remains," he stated.

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