Crunch time for Lucinda Creighton
The young Fine Gael politician has had a meteoric rise, but her views on abortion have left her standing on a precipice. How she votes could change her career
Crisis of conscience: Lucinda Creighton has thrived in the European portfolio but has had conflict within Fine Gael. Photograph: Justin Mac Innes/Getty Images
Decisions, decisions. Lucinda Creighton faces a difficult choice next week when the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill returns to the Dáil. She can vote with her conscience to reject the draft law, prompting expulsion from Government and the Fine Gael party. But to keep a job she loves, she must vote for a law which she believes to be fundamentally wrong. She objects to the suicide clause.
This is not her only ongoing clash with Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Creighton also wants to retain the Seanad, putting her at odds with her leader on two of his prime policy initiatives.
For a 33-year-old politician who already has first-name recognition, a moment of truth now beckons.
Many of her colleagues believe she has already passed the point of no return. She has talked herself on to a political precipice, and they see little scope for her to return without a drastic loss of credibility. “If she doesn’t vote against it now, she’ll look pretty foolish. I don’t see any way for her. She has turned this issue into a huge issue with no way out. I don’t see any alternative for her,” says a Fine Gael TD.
However, another eminent party figure insists she can still claw her way back. “She can argue she did everything possible, right up to the vote, to persuade the Government but believes she can do more within the party than outside it. She’s a bright young person, doing well. I think it would be foolhardy to forsake everything on this one issue.”
Still, it is a mark of the extraordinary situation the Minister of State for Europe finds herself, in that both options carry big drawbacks. “If she doesn’t vote against it now, there could be a field day against her,” another TD says.
The daughter of a bookmaker and a teacher, she grew up in Claremorris, Co Mayo. Her family was not political. She was 27 when first elected to the Dáil in 2007, unseating Michael McDowell in his beloved Dublin South East heartland to become the youngest member of the House. Three years later, she was one of the more ardent plotters in the unsuccessful Brutonite heave against Kenny. As incoming Taoiseach the next year, he saw fit to keep her close to the inner sanctum.
Not known for half-heartedness or half-measures, the single-minded Creighton is as righteous as she is determined. She may have made short work of her tenacious march into the lower tier of Government, but that is hardly the summit of her expectations. Only days have passed since the end of an EU presidency that gave her talents an international platform. Now she seems likely to bring it all to an abrupt halt.
Is she set to throw away a luminous political career or is something else afoot?
In Leinster House, always a cauldron of anticipation and interpretation, the sense is that the funk over the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill may yet lead Creighton down another path.
Several theories are in vogue, among them the notion that she might bring some of the anti-abortion naysayers into a new party which is conservative on social issues but liberal on economics. Many foresee problems, however.
A new party could take her out of the political mainstream with the risk that she would become defined by her stance on questions such as abortion and gay marriage, which she also opposes even though she supports civil partnership.