All-night abortion debate sitting a 'shambles', says FF

Varadkar says not how Dail should work as TDs made long speeches 'mostly about themselves'

Protesters outside Leinster House  as TD’s debated the abortion bill into the night. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Protesters outside Leinster House as TD’s debated the abortion bill into the night. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire


Fianna Fáil has described the handling of last night’s abortion debate, which ran until 5am , as a “shambles”.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said it was “definitely not the way parliament should work”

Some TDs have expressed their frustration at the late sitting of the debate which was extended from 10pm finish, to midnight, until 5am. It will not now complete its passage through the Dáil until tonight at the earliest and may even run into tomorrow.


The organisation of the debate was “shambolic and lamentable”, Mr Martin told the Dáil today. He said telling Opposition chief whips about the time change in a text at 9.57pm showed “nothing but contempt for parliament”.

Minister for Public Reform Brendan Howlin, answering Leaders’ Questions rejected the accusations. He said the “barely constitutional” last days of the Fianna Fáil government with just seven ministers was a “yard-stick of shambolic”. The debate “affords the views of all to be heard” he said.

Mr Kenny today defended the late sitting of the Dáil. There were “some very good contributions” and it was “no harm that it went to 5am”, he said.

Ceann Comhairle noted that there was a “ lot of tired bodies in this chamber” as he urged TDs to “settle down” this morning.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said the Government needed to have respect for “health and safety legislation” of TDs and their staff and should in the future obey the “working time directive”

As the Dáil adjourned last night Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the handling of the debate by Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe had been a “shambles”.

“As dawn breaks I just want to say to the Chief Whip, you’ve made an absolute shambles of this debate. You’ve brought the house into disrepute in the manner in which you’ve handled it and consulted with the Opposition,” Mr Martin said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he had no problem being in the Dáil late ,his family was in Belfast, however “there are staff here..this isn’t the way to do business,” he said. “I just ask the Taoiseach to honour the commitment he has given to reform this Dail,” he said.

This morning Mr Varadkar said what was happening “isn’t what should be happening in parliament”. People were making “lengthy speeches about everything,…mostly about themselves in fact rather than about the legislation or the women whose lives are threatened by pregnancies”, he told RTÉ Radio.

People were saying “all sorts of things” and the standing order on relevance was not “enforced in the way it should be in my view”, he said.

He said the report stage was “supposed to happen very quickly” as the “amendments have already been discussed in principle”. “We don’t want to be accused of rushing it through”, he said.

This morning Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald defended the long sitting.

Explaining why the debate ran late, she said it was “extremely difficult” to judge the report stage and a judgement call was made at midnight that it would need several more hours.

“Then the debate developed and developed, more and more people contributed and there is no limit on how long people can speak for on report stage,” she told RTÉ Radio.

It was an “excellent debate” with “extremely high quality” and a “large attendance”, she said.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon O’Cuiv also expressed his displeasure at the late sitting “ You’d think that this was emergency legislation. This isn’t emergency legislation and I’ve a great belief that legislation should be teased out, gone through step by step, and it’s important that the Oireachtas examines legislation and doesn’t rush it. I can’t understand the reason for sitting until 5 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

The unusual overnight nature of the Irish debate has been noted by internationally medai. The BBC ran a story headlined: Irish politicians in all-night debate on abortion bill, CNN says: Irish politicians debate divisive abortion bill until dawnwhile Boston Globe says: Deadlines come and go in Ireland’s abortion vote

Many people took to Twitter to react to the overnight sitting.

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