Abortion referendum will be matter for next government

Analysis: Fine Gael appears not to want to return to the issue under any circumstances

Lucinda Creighton was among a number of TDs and senators who resigned from the Fine Gael parlimentary party over the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

Lucinda Creighton was among a number of TDs and senators who resigned from the Fine Gael parlimentary party over the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 15:14

Ireland’s troubled relationship with the contentious issue of abortion looks set to outlive the current Government.

Senior Coalition figures have made it clear that there is simply no political appetite for a new referendum on the issue.

This follows the intense debate that led to the recently enacted Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which has now faced its first public test.

Fine Gael, which lost a clutch of Senators and TDs including the prominent former junior minister Lucinda Creighton over the legislation, appears not to want to return to the issue under any circumstances.

The Labour Party, for the most part, says it has no mandate to take the matter any further.

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan today said it would fall to a “future government” to decide on whether to hold another national vote on abortion.

But what question would be put to the people?

Ms O’Sullivan gave a hint as to Labour’s future thinking on the issue when she expressed her personal view that she would have a particular concern about dealing with the case of a woman carrying a foetus that was not viable and would not survive the pregnancy.

“I think the future government will have to look at another referendum and I personally would be concerned in particular about where the mother has to carry a foetus that is not going to survive outside the womb,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan’s comments echo those of Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, who was asked recently if Labour would propose legislating for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities in its next manifesto?

He replied that the party had not discussed the matter yet “but many people would feel, like I do, that the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities is something that morally should be addressed, but that’s not going to happen in the course of this Government.”

Another Labour politician, Minister of State with Responsibility for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has called on parties standing in the next General Election to make their position on the issue clear in their manifestos.

Political parties have tended to shy away from doing so, but comments today from the level-headed Master of the Rotunda Maternity Hospital, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, may give them pause for thought.

“We need legislation around that to protect us, particularly the area of rape, incest and congenital malformation,” Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said.

The doctor said the current legislation had worked well in a number of instances but was silent in key areas such as the point during a pregnancy at which clinicians should act.