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Ireland’s main opposition party votes to keep Eighth Amendment

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has yet to say whether he backs the vote (Getty Images)

Members of Ireland’s main opposition party have voted overwhelming to oppose the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution, which protects the life of the unborn.

Fianna Fáil members voted at the party’s Ardfheis – or conference – to back a motion calling for the preservation of the amendment. At the same time, they rejected a motion calling for its repeal.

Ireland is due to vote next year in a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Although Fianna Fáil’s representatives in the Irish parliament are not bound by the conference’s decision, the move from the country’s second largest party is hugely symbolic.

The Irish Times reports the majority of delegates spoke in favour of protecting the right to life of the unborn in the country’s constitution.

One delegate, Martin Breen, said he and his wife were told their child would not survive and they should seek an abortion abroad. However, his daughter was born in November 2014 with Down syndrome and is “a perfectly healthy girl”.

Máire Hoctor, a former member of the Irish parliament, criticised Fianna Fáil members of the parliamentary committee on abortion for failing to speak up for the rights of the unborn.

Former senator John Hanafin also spoke in favour of keeping the amendment, accusing the country’s media of being skewed towards the abortion lobby.

Fianna Fáil governed Ireland from 1997 to 2011 under the leadership of Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen.

The party’s current leader, Micheál Martin, has yet to declare which side he supports in the referendum debate.