Fine Gael yet to finalise TDs for Eighth Amendment committee

Kate O’Connell TD and Senator Catherine Noone only ‘confirmed’ names so far

Senator Catherine Noone says the issue is difficult for people on a personal level. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Senator Catherine Noone says the issue is difficult for people on a personal level. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Fine Gael TDs are reluctant to sit on the new cross-party committee on abortion, the party leadership has found.

The names of the members of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which will be tasked with considering the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly, are due to be submitted to the Ceann Comhairle on Wednesday but have not yet been finalised. One of the committee’s main tasks will be to formulate the wording of a referendum.

There’s a general reticence because of ‘busy-ness’ and the issue being so difficult for people on a personal level

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, who will sit on the committee along with her Dáil colleague Kate O’Connell, said she was willing to serve.

“As far as I know Kate O’Connell and myself are the only confirmed people who are willing to go on the committee. There’s a general reticence because of ‘busy-ness’ and the issue being so difficult for people on a personal level,” Ms Noone said.

“As a woman of child-bearing age, a lot of my friends have been affected by fertility issues and some have had difficult decisions to make, and the State doesn’t support women in these circumstances.”

Former Fine Gael whip Bernard Durkan may also join the committee.

The Fine Gael leader in the Seanad Jerry Buttimer said he was happy that Ms Noone was the party’s candidate from the Seanad, but if the committee’s membership was extended to include more members he would like a place.

Original plan

The original plan was to have 16 TDs and four Senators on the committee, but the Seanad has pushed for seven representatives. If the committee had 20 members as originally planned Fine Gael would have 5 TDs and one Senator among its members.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have been granted a free vote on abortion for the first time, which allows them to vote according to their own beliefs rather than following a party line.

Fianna Fáil’s four TDs on the committee are health spokesman Billy Kelleher, Lisa Chambers, Anne Rabbitte and James Browne. Party Senator Ned O’Sullivan is also expected to sit on the committee.

Sinn Féin will be represented by health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly and Jonathan O’Brien, while Jan O’Sullivan will be the Labour Party representative.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath is the rural Independents’ representative, while Clare Daly of Independents 4 Change will also take a slot.

Solidarity’s Ruth Coppinger and People Before Profit’s Brid Smith will rotate a position on the committee.

Catherine Murphy was the name put forward for the group including her party, the Social Democrats, the Greens and Seamus Healy, the Workers and Unemployed Action Group TD. The Greens will ask to rotate a position with Ms Murphy, while allowing her to retain voting rights.

I look forward now to seeing an Oireachtas committee being promptly set up to tease out and provide a framework

Independent Rónán Mullen is among the Senators expected to take a seat on the committee, while Alice Mary Higgins has also been mentioned.

Begin work

Minister for Public Enterprise and Reform Paschal Donohoe said on Tuesday the committee should be able to begin its work within weeks.

“We’ve had a Citizens’ Assembly that have now produced recommendations and an analysis of a sensitive and important issue, and I look forward now to seeing an Oireachtas committee being promptly set up to tease out and provide a framework on some of these matters,” he said.

The assembly’s chairwoman Ms Justice Mary Laffoy is due to send her report to the Oireachtas in June.