Coalition abortion stance queried by TDs

Fri, Jul 20, 2012, 01:00

A NUMBER of Labour parliamentarians have insisted that neither Coalition partner can depart from the programme for government commitment to abide by the recommendation of an expert group on abortion.

Party TDs and Senators said separately that both Fine Gael and Labour had agreed to allow the group, chaired by Mr Justice Seán Ryan of the High Court, to examine how best to implement the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the ABC case and to provide a legislative basis for the Supreme Court’s ruling in the X case more than 20 years ago.

They were reacting to developments at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday night, when 15 TDs and Senators voiced strong opposition to liberalisation of the law. Minister for Health James Reilly agreed to consult party colleagues before bringing the expert group’s recommendations to Cabinet.

Yesterday, the Labour leader in the Seanad, Senator Ivana Bacik, said her party’s TDs had voted against a Dáil motion brought by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly calling for legislation to give effect to the X-case ruling (which set out very limited circumstances, including the risk of the mother taking her own life, in which an abortion would be permitted in this jurisdiction).

Ms Bacik said the TDs had voted against the motion because the Minister had given a clear commitment in the Dáil in relation to implementing the recommendations of the expert group. “The Government must stand firm on this issue. Seven successive governments have shirked this matter.”

She said her party’s official position on abortion was pro-choice and whatever the outcome of the expert group’s deliberations (it is now due to report in September), it would constitute a major compromise for the party.

Galway East TD Colm Keaveney said it would be wrong for people to push themselves into a position before the report was finalised.

“We are 20 years waiting to act and have not moved on. The country needs to reform itself economically and socially. We can’t just close the door on political mismanagement but . . . need to close the door on social issues,” he said.