Abortion Bill draft receives Fine Gael backing
Strong support for Taoiseach Enda Kenny at parliamentary party meeting
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minsiter for Children Frances Fitzgerald speaking to media after the publication of heads of Bills in the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013.Photograph: Alan Betson
Strong support for the Government’s draft legislation on abortion emerged at a lengthy meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night which lasted for over five hours.
While a small number of TDs and Senators expressed concerns at the long-term impact of the legislation, party sources said there was “overwhelming support” for the approach adopted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Health James Reilly.
The mood at the packed meeting, attended by about 80 members of the parliamentary party, was described by one TD as “constructive and even-tempered”. “The tide and momentum are moving steadily with reality of the need to do this,” said the Deputy who did not wish to be named.
The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health, who were the first speakers at the meeting, outlined the main features of the heads of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 published late on Tuesday night.
The first speaker was Galway West TD Brian Walsh, who announced at the weekend he would not support the Bill if it allowed for abortion in the case of threatened suicide. Mr Walsh apologised to his colleagues for the way he had put them under pressure but he repeated his concerns. He sought clarification of remarks by Dr Reilly on the radio yesterday implying issues of rape and foetal abnormality might be considered.
Other TDs to express concerns were Wicklow TD Billy Timmins, Dublin North East TD Terence Flanagan, Cork North West TD Michael Creed and Senator Paul Bradford from Cork East.
His wife, Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton expressed concerns about the bill and challenged Dr Reilly on a statement he had made that some people were adopting “poses” on the issue. She challenged the Minister to say if he was referring to her.
A number of Ministers including Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar and Alan Shatter spoke strongly in favour of the Bill as did some of the party’s women TDs, including Olivia Mitchell of Dublin South, Áine Collins of Cork East and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy from Laois-Offaly.
Earlier the Bill received strong backing from the Labour parliamentary party with TDs expressing their relief the commitment to legislate for the X case was being honoured.
Speaking in advance of the Fine Gael meeting Mr Kenny said he hoped all TDs would support the legislation. Mr Kenny told a press conference yesterday morning the Bill would not change Ireland’s abortion law or create any new rights.
Dr Reilly said he believed women’s lives would have been saved if the X case had been legislated for over 20 years ago in the way now proposed. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was pleased the X case was finally being legislated for.