Fine Gael TDs voice strong support for Kenny
Parliamentary backs Taoiseach’s assurances on Bill’s safeguards
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at a media briefing at Government Buildings yesterday. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
The mood of the Fine Gael parliamentary party moved firmly behind Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the leadership in its support of abortion legislation at the meeting of its TDs and Senators last night.
According to those present at the meeting, there was no major rancour, although a number of those TDs who have expressed public concern over the inclusion in the legislation of a suicide ground reiterated their fears.
‘Tide and momentum’
“The tide and momentum are moving steadily with the reality of the need to do this,” said one TD who did not wish to be named.
He was referring to strong support expressed for the assurance of the Taoiseach that the legislation would not expand the existing laws on abortion.
The meeting started just before 6pm and continued until almost 9pm, long after it was scheduled to conclude. Over 20 of the 100-strong parliamentary party spoke, including Mr Kenny and Minister for Health James Reilly.
The Galway West TD Brian Walsh, who met privately with the Taoiseach before the meeting, apologised to colleagues for having put them under pressure or in a difficult position with lobby groups following his announcement on Sunday that he would not support the legislation because it included a threat of suicide as a ground for obtaining a termination.
However, he said he was maintaining his position and would not support the Bill. He also challenged Dr Reilly over comments he made on the Pat Kenny show on RTÉ yesterday in which he seemed to suggest some consideration in the future in relation to the issues of rape and incest.
The most outspoken contribution against the draft legislation for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 was made by the Cork Senator Paul Bradford, who spoke at length. Others who yesterday expressed deep reservations about the Bill were Galway Senator Fidelma Healy Eames and the Mayo TD Michelle Mulherin.
Ms Mulherin said the proposed legislation was unworkable and possibly unconstitutional. Ms Healy Eames said she would be exerting all her energies during the consultation phase of the legislation to try and remove the clauses relating to suicide which have caused such controversy within Fine Gael.
The contribution of Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, who spoke in favour of the legislation, was praised by colleagues, one of whom described it as “par excellence”.
There were also strong contributions in favour of the 33-page draft from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, both of whom pointed to the many safeguards in the draft legislation, including the need for unanimity among the three doctors, the review process, the confinement of the procedure to existing maternity units, the need for the psychiatrists to be registered with the Mental Health Commission, and the review and reporting mechanisms which would show if the legislation was not working.
What was notable, remarked another TD who has doubts about the legislation, was the calm nature of the debate. Among those who have expressed concerns are John O’Mahony, James Bannon, John Paul Phelan, Terence Flanagan, Peter Mathews and Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton.