Higgins intervention not an issue: Noonan


The intervention of President Michael D Higgins in the controversy over the death of Savita Halappanavar was not a matter of concern, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said yesterday.

Earlier this week, on a visit to Britain, Mr Higgins said the investigation into Ms Halappanavar's death must ensure "above all else" that women will be safer and get the medical services during pregnancy to which they are entitled.

Asked whether he regarded the President’s intervention as appropriate, Mr Noonan told reporters: "I don’t have any problem with what the President said.

"There are times when presidents feel constrained to say something that echoes in the hearts of the Irish people, and I think it was one of those occasions," said the Minister, who was arriving at Dublin Castle for a conference on Ireland’s EU presidency, organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs.

When it was put to him that leaks of the expert group report in advance of next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting indicated that it effectively said some form of legislation on abortion was needed, Mr Noonan replied: "Well, the full document, apart from the leak, will go to Government on Tuesday. It will be published shortly after that.

"The Government has already decided that there will be a full debate in the Dáil, without time-restrictions, so that every elected member can state their position and give their view.

"I'm not going to pre-empt that, but we're looking forward to the debate."

Asked whether the absence of a time-constraint meant the debate could be quite lengthy, he replied: "The point I'm making is that, very often, on the run-in to the end of the session, with a budget there, you get just the lead speakers representing the parties.

"We're not saying that, what we're saying is it will be open to the members of the Dáil to make a contribution [and] to put their position on the record."