Kenny says no unpicking of abortion Bill

Taoiseach sends signal to wavering TDs that he will not change suicide clause

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “We are very clear here that the issue of suicidal intent is an issue that was dealt with by the Supreme Court decision. We as a Government are not able to unpick that decision.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “We are very clear here that the issue of suicidal intent is an issue that was dealt with by the Supreme Court decision. We as a Government are not able to unpick that decision.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Tue, Jul 9, 2013, 01:00


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has sent a clear signal to wavering TDs that he is not prepared to modify the suicide clause in the Government’s abortion legislation which will be voted on in the Dáil tomorrow night.

Mr Kenny said yesterday the Government could not “unpick” the Supreme Court decision in the X case that related to suicide ideation because to do so would be unconstitutional.

His remarks came as the Catholic bishops intensified their campaign against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill by circulating all TDs and Senators with an unprecedented “briefing note” outlining their objections. They told members of the Oireachtas that if the Bill is enacted it would fundamentally alter the culture and practice of medical care in Ireland.

They said the Bill accepted the premise that abortion is an appropriate response to suicidal ideation and created serious moral, legal and constitutional conflicts in the area of freedom of conscience and religious belief.

The bishops said that while the Bill “makes it an offence to ‘intentionally destroy human life’, it explicitly excludes the possibility of such an offence for all terminations carried out under the Bill” and provides appeal mechanisms for a mother to vindicate her right to life but no such mechanisms for the unborn.

‘Unborn child’
They argued that such changes meant that “in practice the right to life of the unborn child is no longer treated as equal to that of the mother.

This represents a fundamental shift in current medical culture and practice in Irish hospitals.”

They said the Bill was also unacceptable as it involved “a form of co-operation in evil by obliging those who conscientiously object to knowingly put the patient in to the care of medical personnel who will carry out an abortion.”

Speaking in Waterford Mr Kenny refused to be drawn into commenting on the spat between Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton and Minister for Health James Reilly, saying he would not deal with any individual matter in public and that Fine Gael as a party dealt with its own matters internally.

‘Sensitive subject’
“I would be confident that other people would support the Bill.

“It’s a sensitive subject. I have explained what the Bill is about and all that is involved.”

On the substance of the Bill, he said: “We are very clear here that the issue of suicidal intent is an issue that was dealt with by the Supreme Court decision. We as a Government are not able to unpick that decision.

“Therefore to attempt to do so would render any Bill unconstitutional.”

Mr Kenny has had meetings over the past week with a number of Fine Gael TDs who remain concerned about the Bill.

One of them was his Mayo constituency colleague John O’Mahony who has serious concerns.

Arrangements were made yesterday for a meeting with another worried constituency colleague Michelle Mulherin in an effort to reassure her that the suicide clause will not provide the pretext for a liberal abortion regime.

Dr Reilly yesterday published a list of amendments for the report stage of the Bill which will be debated tomorrow.