New tensions in Government ahead of abortion legislation publication

Pat Rabbitte rejects idea of ‘sunset clause’ in new law

Minister for Health James Reilly is preparing legislation to give effect to the X-case ruling of the Supreme Court. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Health James Reilly is preparing legislation to give effect to the X-case ruling of the Supreme Court. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Mon, Apr 15, 2013, 07:00


Further tension between the Government parties over abortion is in prospect as Minister for Health James Reilly prepares legislation to give effect to the X-case ruling of the Supreme Court.

The Minister is expected to publish heads of the Bill next month as part of a push by the Coalition to enact the law by the summer recess.

The matter is sensitive for Fine Gael, where several figures such as Minister of State for Europe Lucinda Creighton are opposed to legislation.

It emerged yesterday that Cork North West TD Michael Creed had asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to insert a clause in the legislation to examine the impact of the law at a later date.


Sunset clause
This would facilitate a review of the legislation if it was deemed to have opened the way for a large number of abortions. Such an initiative is seen by some as a way to keep party dissenters in line.

Although Ms Creighton and other Fine Gael TDs said yesterday that the proposal merited consideration by the Cabinet, the notion was rejected by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte.

Mr Rabbitte said on RTÉ he had no objection to the law being reviewed after a few years, but that he did not think a “sunset clause” was needed. Other Labour sources said Mr Rabbitte’s remarks reflected party policy.

Labour TD for Louth Gerald Nash dismissed Mr Creed’s suggestion.

“We have waited in excess of 20 years now for legislation to give effect to the X judgment and we’re anxiously awaiting publication for the legislation,” he said. “I don’t think it is appropriate in advance of seeing the legislation to be discussing sunset clauses or anything of that nature.”

There was no comment from a spokesman for Dr Reilly. In February, the Minister had to postpone moves to bring a memorandum on abortion to Cabinet. Labour had rejected as impractical his proposal to have a pregnant woman, in light of a risk of suicide, examined by up to five doctors to decide if abortion should be allowed.