FG Senator ‘concerned’ over suicide clause in Bill
Taking cover under whip not correct for Oireachtas members, says Paul Bradford
Senator Paul Bradford: “Hiding under a whip is I think not the way to approach this sort of Bill because it’s a pretty defining piece of legislation.”
An anti-abortion Fine Gael Senator has said “hiding under a whip” is not the correct way for Oireachtas members to approach the contentious Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, 2013.
Paul Bradford, who is married to Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, said yesterday that he had “major concerns” about the inclusion of a suicide clause in the planned legislation which comes before the Dáil on Thursday.
“All that’s important for me is the morning after the vote I will genuinely feel for me I’ve done the right thing. I can’t account for the conscience of anybody else. I’ve no entitlement to tell anybody how to vote,” he said. “Hiding under a whip is I think not the way to approach this sort of Bill because it’s a pretty defining piece of legislation.”
However, Mr Bradford said he hoped the Bill could be amended in the coming weeks. “I’ve been around the House long enough to know no Bill comes out of the process the same as it went in.”
Ms Creighton’s spokesman declined to comment on her position. She has been Fine Gael’s most senior critic of the inclusion of a suicide clause. As the Irish presidency of the EU ends within a fortnight, her responsibilities may mean her contribution to the abortion debate could come at a later stage of the parliamentary process.
Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews and party Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames have confirmed they will not vote for the legislation as it stands. Terence Flanagan TD has “concerns” and has invited colleagues to a discussion on the Bill in Leinster House tomorrow. Another TD, Brian Walsh, who declared in April he would not support a suicide clause, has kept his counsel.
The second stage Dáil debate will continue through next week with the third or “committee” stage to take place during the first week in July. The fourth or “report” stage is planned for the following week, after which the Bill could go to the Seanad.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson in the Taoiseach’s constituency office has said that demonstrators outside Enda Kenny’s home in Castlebar on Sunday evening were not anti-abortion protesters.
It appeared last night that the protesters were fathers’ rights campaigners calling for greater transparency in the courts.
‘Bridge too far’
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan described the protest as a “bridge too far”. Speaking in Limerick, he said people had a right to express their views but insisted the private home of the Taoiseach or Ministers should not be targeted.
“It’s a pity that the Taoiseach’s home was targeted. I think people should be free to express their views and if the expression of their views requires public protest well that’s part of democracy as well, but they shouldn’t have the protests outside the private homes of the Taoiseach or Ministers and certainly that’s a bridge to far in my view.”
In relation to Fine Gael TDs and Senators who have reservations about the abortion legislation, Mr Noonan said that everyone who joined the Fine Gael party signed a pledge to vote with the party.
“We never gave free votes. We have a whipping system in our party. We don’t give free votes and everybody, when they decided to become a Fine Gael candidate, signs a pledge that they will vote with the party and that’s our system.”
Mr Noonan said it was an issue where people had “very sincere views”.
“We will see as the legislation processes through the Dáil and the Seanad how many people feel that they won’t be able to vote for it. But so far it seems to be very few.”