Dáil and Seanad at odds over Eighth Amendment committee

Upper House seeking to raise its number of representatives on panel from four to seven

The Citizens’ Assembly recommended that abortion should be permitted in the State in a wide range of circumstances, which would require a significant liberalisation of the current regime in the State. File photographs: The Irish Times

The Citizens’ Assembly recommended that abortion should be permitted in the State in a wide range of circumstances, which would require a significant liberalisation of the current regime in the State. File photographs: The Irish Times

 

The Seanad is refusing to back down in a row with the Dáil over membership of the new cross-party committee on abortion.

The Upper House wants to boost its numbers on the committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which will be tasked with considering the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly, from four to seven.

The assembly recommended that abortion should be permitted in the State in a wide range of circumstances, which would require a significant liberalisation of the current regime in the State.

The chairman of the Dáil Committee on Procedure, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, met his Seanad counterpart Denis O’Donovan for 15 minutes on Tuesday night in an attempt to resolve the issue.

“We’re holding firm. We’re sticking to our guns on the seven,” Mr O’Donovan said afterwards.

The original plan, formulated by the Dáil’s Business Committee, was for the abortion committee to have a total of 20 Oireachtas members: 16 TDs and four Senators.

Greater representation

But the Seanad has pushed for the total number to be increased to 23 to allow for greater representation from various groups in the Upper House.

Mr O’Donovan said he told Mr Ó Fearghaíl “the ratios were out of kilter” when it came to the numbers from both Houses and he was not sure whether a compromise could be reached.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has yet to finalise which of its TDs will sit on the committee in the face of resistance from deputies to taking places.

Under the original plan, Fine Gael was due to be represented by five TDs and one Senator.

Confirmed to take places are Senator Catherine Noone and TDs Kate O’Connell and Bernard Durkan.

Senator Jerry Buttimer has said he would be willing to serve if the committee’s membership was extended.