Fine Gael rebel Walsh in appeal to Taoiseach
Galway West TD wants Kenny to accommodate opponents of abortion legislation within party
Terence Flanagan (left) and Brian Walsh, who are among the four Fine Gael TDs - along with Billy Timmins and Peter Mathews - who defied their party whip to vote against the second stage of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
The Galway West said the Taoiseach has been magnanimous in the past in dealing with those who have been disloyal to him. Far greater disloyalty has been displayed towards the Taoiseach and the party in the past, he said.
“I dont believe I have digressed from the party’s values. I gave a commitment to the people based on my understanding of Fine Gaels position in advance of the last general election,” he said.
He said he hoped that those of us within the Fine Gael family who will vote against the legislation can continue to be accommodated within the party.
“I spent 30 of my 40 years actively involved in Fine Gael,” he said, noting the stance he had adopted was not a popular one and was not prudent from a political point of view. “I am likely to pay a heavy price but if political isolation and electoral defeat is the cost of doing what I believe to be right and in the best interests of the people I represent, then I would gladly pay that price.”
He believed the Taoiseach and Minister for Health James Reilly were genuine and sincere in what they were trying to do. He had great respect for them and he asked them to respect his view.
However, he criticised the legislation as a Bill shaped by political considerations rather than medical evidence.
Too often decisions were made by having an eye to the next general election and what’s popular, he said. He said the section on suicidal ideation threatens to normalise suicide and represents a departure from best practice outlined in suicide prevention guidelines.
He claimed some had used the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar to further one side of the argument. Had this legislation been in effect at the time of her death he did not believe the outcome would have been different.