FG leaders to work on wavering TDs ahead of final vote on abortion Bill
Kenny and Reilly will be relieved if the number of rebel TDs remains at five
The report stage amendments to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill published yesterday by Minister for Health James Reilly sought to reassure TDs through the insertion of the same language in different sections of the Bill making it mandatory on health professionals to protect unborn human life as far as practicable. Photograph: Eric Luke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Health James Reilly will make a last-ditch effort today to bring wavering TDs on side before the crucial final vote on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill tomorrow evening.
The two men have been meeting worried TDs and Senators over the past week and are hoping they have provided enough reassurance to limit the number of Fine Gael rebels to five.
The report stage amendments to the Bill published yesterday by Minister for Health James Reilly sought to reassure TDs through the insertion of the same language in different sections of the Bill making it mandatory on health professionals to protect unborn human life as far as practicable.
Suicide clause remains
However, the suicide clause of the Bill remains and while the Minister can accept amendments during the debate all the indications are that the basic thrust of the section will not be altered.
That means that Minister for State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton will have very little room for manoeuvre after her strong Dáil speech last week opposing the suicide clause. Following on from the position she took in that speech it appears she will have little option but to vote against the Bill along with the four TDs who opposed it on second stage – Peter Mathews, Billy Timmins, Brian Walsh and Terence Flanagan. Most of the attention is now focused on Mr Kenny’s Mayo constituency colleagues John O’Mahony and Michelle Mulherin who have expressed concerns about the clause but have left some room for manoeuvre.
The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health have met Mr O’Mahony in an effort to allay his concerns but it is not clear whether the TD feels he can support the measure.
During one lengthy meeting between Mr Kenny and Mr O’Mahony the Attorney General Máire Whelan was asked to attend to provide reassurance about the precise detail of the legislation. In spite of the meetings it is still not clear if Mr O’Mahony will back the Bill tomorrow night.
Ms Mulherin repeated her worries about the suicide clause yesterday and said she too would be meeting Mr Kenny and Dr Reilly to see if the suicide issues could be clarified. She accepted, however, that the section on suicide would remain in the Bill. Both TDs are likely to keep their cards close to their chest until the vote is taken.
Another TD who has expressed worries about the Bill is Carlow Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan. He had a meeting with Dr Reilly to discuss the legislation and it appears that some of his concerns have been allayed. Nonetheless, the TD is not saying how he will vote and some doubt remains about his intentions. There would be some relief at leadership level in Fine Gael if the number of rebels on the Bill is limited to five TDs; a week ago it was widely believed that as many as 10 would go against the Government.