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Scannal - X-Case

On the 17th of February 1992, the Attorney General secured a High Court injunction which prevented a 14-year-old-girl from going to England for an abortion, known as Miss X to protect her identity, the teenager had become pregnant as a result of being raped by the father of a schoolfriend. The court's decision sent the media into a frenzy, began a storm of protest, public outrage and created political turmoil within Albert Reynolds' new Government. It became known as the X-Case and it was to re-ignite hugely controversial abortion debates which surrounded the 8th Amendment to the constitution

At the centre of the controversy was Attorney General Harry Whelehan who sought the injunction. , which he was obliged to do constitutionally, to protect the life of the unborn. The family of "Miss X" appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, who in turn overturned the High Court's decision, thus allowing the 14-year-old-girl have her abortion. The rapist at the centre of the case was sentenced to 14 years in prison, which was eventually reduced to 4 years on appeal.

Scannal looks back at a story that gripped the nation and raised the issue of abortion once again, an issue subsequent Governments have failed to fully deal with through legislation.

Harry Whelehan talks about the reasons why he sought the injunction, the reaction of the Government and the subsequent effect it had on his career as Attorney General and short lived President of the High Court.

"The problem was stark. There was an unborn child with a constitutional right to life. There was nobody to advocate the right of that child to be born other than the Attorney General" Harry Whelehan

Seán Duignan, who was Government Press Secretary at the time, gives us the inside track into how Taoiseach Albert Reynolds reacted to the controversy and recalls how the international press viewed Ireland at the time.

"I remember Albert saying 'we're up to our necks in it now Diggy, they're all out to get us', and he was so right." Seán Duignan.

We also hear from respected journalists Fintan O'Toole, Cathal Mac Coille and Máirín Ní Ghadhra who talk about the implications of the case, the political fallout and the effect the case had on Irish society.

"The State was going to force a child to bear a child for her rapist."
Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times

"You can't use the constitution for certain issues and not others. It is black and white - Harry Whelehan implemented the constitution and I believe he did the right thing."
Cathal Mac Coille, RTÉ

"When the Supreme Court judgement was examined it stated that abortion in Ireland was legal if it was thought the mother's life was in danger."
Máirín Ní Ghadhra, RTÉ RnaG

Presenter / Reporter Garry Mac Donncha
Producer / Director Seán Ó Méalóid

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