FG chairman rebukes Creighton over call for free vote on abortion
Veiled criticism of Kenny ‘less than helpful’ says Flanagan
Lucinda Creighton: Comments ‘ill advised’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins
The veiled criticism of Taoiseach Enda Kenny by Minister of State for Europe Lucinda Creighton for imposing a whip on the abortion issue has been described as “less than helpful” by Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan.
Speaking to The Irish Times in Paris on Monday, Ms Creighton questioned the Taoiseach’s decision to impose a strict party whip for the vote on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.
“I don’t believe we should have a three-line whip on every vote,” she said.
“I think it’s contrary to the principles of parliamentary democracy.
“I always felt that our whip system is outmoded and used to excess. I would like to see a different approach.
“It would be good for our politics if members were able to express different opinions within reason, particularly on issues of conscience,” said Ms Creighton.
She added that people in the party who had expressed concerns about the legislation were not being disloyal to Fine Gael or to the Government.
“I would be very disappointed to see people effectively being put out of the Fine Gael parliamentary party because of their views,” she said.
Rejecting Ms Creighton’s views last night, Mr Flanagan said the position was very clear and had been addressed by the Fine Gael parliamentary party within the past week where the Taoiseach had repeated his earlier view that there would not be a free vote.
“I would say that it has been made perfectly clear to all members of the parliamentary party that a three-line whip will be in place for this important piece of legislation,” he said.
Mr Flanagan added that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was providing a legal framework and clarity while acknowledging current medical practice.
“All the members of the parliamentary party are aware that the Bill has to stay within the constitutional framework which provides for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn,” he said.
Referring to Ms Creighton’s call for a free vote, Mr Flanagan said: “It is less than helpful to be raising this now that the Dáil debate on the Bill has commenced, having particular regard both to the internal debate over a number of months at the parliamentary party and the public approach taken by the Taoiseach and leading Ministers.”
The crucial vote on the second stage of the Bill was expected to take place this week, but it has been moved back until next week to allow all TDs who wish to speak on the matter to have their say.
Ms Creighton was one of the TDs who would not have been able to participate in a vote this week as she will be in Brussels tomorrow and Friday for the EU summit along with the Taoiseach.