Labour TD 'mistakenly' votes against Government on abortion
Clare TD Michael McNamara will not lose party whip
Earlier, the Government won the first vote on the Bill by 135 votes to 24, rejecting an amendment by Sinn Fein TD Peadar Toibin.
Mr Toibin’s amendment effectively calls for the deletion of the suicide clause, where termination is permitted to prevent suicide.
Minister of State Lucinda Creighton was among those who voted with the Government on the amendment while her Fine Gael colleagues Peter Matthews, Brian Walsh, Billy Timmins and Terence Flanagan, who have already rejected the legislation, supported the Sinn Fein TD’s amendment.
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In a vote on the second or introductory debate on the legislation, 13 of Fianna Fail’s 19 TDs voted against the Bill, and a similar number did so on the this vote.
Many of the Independents voted with the Government but Maureen O’Sullivan, Michael Lowry, Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath voted against.
The vote was taken after more than eight hours of debate on a group of 38 amendments from a number of TDs, dealing with the suicide clause, where termination is permissible to avoid suicide.
This group of amendments is the third of 15 groups to be dealt with. No guillotine is expected to be put on the debate and speculation is growing that the discussion will continue later this afternoon with a provisional midnight deadline a possibility.
Fine Gael TD John Paul Phelan indicated early this morning that he will be supporting the Government’s abortion Bill. There was speculation throughout yesterday that Mr Phelan might vote against it.
Minister for Health James Reilly this morning said Ms Creighton’s arguments were not “compelling” and were “deeply flawed”.
She had accused the Government of “cowering behind” the Supreme Court, but the Minister rejected the assertion. “The decision of the Supreme Court in the X case has never been added to, varied or contradicted by any subsequent decision by the Supreme Court. It is the law and we are bound by it,” he said. “When the statute book is silent on matters of life and death great mischief can occur.”
He agreed that abortion was never a treatment for suicide “but nor is counselling, nor is psychotherapy nor anti-depressants, nor anything else”.
He said the legislation was purposely named “the protection of life” of both the mother and the unborn.
He accepted people on both sides had views that were deeply held.
Dr Reilly said he believed the Bill provided the clarity women required.
Earlier, Minister of State Kathleen Lynch condemned claims that pregnant women in Ireland could not be suicidal and that they were not to be trusted. She said it was “deeply insulting” and offensive.
She said for the most part women did not want to end their pregnancies. It was not something they stepped into lightly.
“Women are to be trusted” she insisted. If women were not to be trusted there would be no female TDs in the Dail.
Ms Lynch said the death of Savita Halappanavar had made people more sensitive to pregnancies in Ireland. She believed had the legislation been in place a process would have kicked in, when Ms Halappanavar asked for a termination.
The Government last night proposed the Dail sit until 5.00am to finish the debate on the abortion legislation, following Opposition demands that the House adjourn and recommence this morning.
In the row that developed on the issue the Opposition called a vote and with its large majority the Government won by 103 to 54. It was the first vote of day connected to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
The debate on the legislation on which 165 amendments have been proposed began shortly after 11 am yesterday.
The Government is had been anxious to finish the legislation overnight.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed this during the Order of Business yesterday morning when he said he had no difficulty with extending time for the debate. “I am going to get rid of it tonight,” he said.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said there was absolutely no consultation of the Opposition and it reduced the debate to a farce. He said if people wanted to “use the jackboot” against their own members that was one thing but they should not do it to everyone else.
Earlier, Ms Creighton said she cannot be part of enshrining a “flawed” bill on abortion into legislation.
Mayo TD Michelle Mulherin, whose support for the Bill had been in doubt, told the Dail yesterday afternoon she would be voting in favour, while constituency colleague John O’Mahony said in a statement earlier he would also back it.
Mr Whelan, a Kilkenny TD John Paul Whelan said this morning he had received assurances on the Bill from Minister for Health Dr James Reilly and he had consulted widely. “I firmly believe that psychiatrists are better than judges, lawyers or politicians in making judgements on matters of mental health,’’ he added.
Mr Phelan said the system governing the party whip in this country, which was more severe than anywhere else, had not served it well. “I do not think people should be cast aside for giving a true reflection for what they believe,’’ he added.
He said he” deeply, deeply” resented some of the views expressed from members of his own Government in recent months which twisted the provisions of the Fine Gael latform at the last election and those in the programme for government.
The expert group had outlined a number of options, one of which was legislation followed by regulation which the Government chose. “But the idea that it was the only option is just not true,’’ he added.
Two Senators, Fidelma Healy Eames and Paul Bradford – who is Ms Creighton’s husband – are expected to vote against the Bill and there are also doubts about which way Galway East Senator Michael Mullins will vote.