Markus Baumann, Marc Debus, Jochen Müller
Giving Signals in Parliamentary Speeches: An Analysis of the Debates on Abortion Legislation in Ireland 2001 and 2013

7th ECPR General Conference, Sciences Po, Bordeaux, 04. bis 07. September 2013

While party unity in legislative voting is generally high in parliamentary democracies, the participation in parliamentary debates offers MPs the possibility to express their own political views that might deviate from the party line. In this paper, we test whether Irish MPs used the extensive parliamentary debates on the planned reform of the abortion law in 2001 and 2013 to send signals to the voters in their respective constituency. By combining literature on vote-seeking political actors with institutional accounts that stress the role of the electoral system, we argue that in particular MPs who narrowly won a seat in the Dáil should take the preferences of their local constituents into account when speaking in parliament. In addition, we argue that personal characteristics like gender and family status should affect the positions of MP on the abortion issue. Our analysis, which is based on a content analysis of all speeches made during the abortion reform debates in the Irish parliament in 2001 and 2013, provides support for our expectation.