13 of Fianna Fáil’s 19 TDs vote against abortion legislation

Largest turnout for vote since Government formed

The scene outside the Dáil yesterday while the debate on the abortion Bill was being held.   Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The scene outside the Dáil yesterday while the debate on the abortion Bill was being held. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Wed, Jul 3, 2013, 01:00

More than two-thirds of Fianna Fáil’s 19 TDs voted against the second stage of the abortion legislation in the Dáil last night, in the largest turnout for a vote since the Government was formed.

The Government won the vote by 138 votes to 24.

They joined the four confirmed Fine Gael opponents of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, who defied their party whip – Terence Flanagan (Dublin North-East), Peter Mathews (Dublin South), Billy Timmins (Wicklow) and Brian Walsh (Galway West).

All four lost the party whip at the conclusion of the vote and were automatically expelled from the parliamentary party. They will lose their places on committees as members of the party.

As expected, Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton voted with the Government for the second stage, but will make a final decision based on how substantive she feels the committee stage amendments are. She sharply criticised the Bill during the second-stage debate and called for a number of changes including the withdrawal of the suicide clause as well as term limits for a termination.

Disciplinary procedures
Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín also defied his party whip to vote as expected against the legislation and is expected to face disciplinary procedures.

While Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was forced to have a free vote because a majority of TDs were against the Bill, the level of opposition was a surprise, with just six TDs including Mr Martin and the party’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher voting for the legislation as did Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly) Niall Collins (Limerick), Timmy Dooley (Clare) and Michael Moynihan (Cork North-West).

The 13 TDs who opposed the legislation were John McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny),Éamon Ó Cuív (Galway West), Seamus Kirk (Louth), John Browne (Wexford), Michael McGrath( Cork South-Central), Dara Calleary (Mayo), Seán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South), Robert Troy (Longford-Westmeath), Charlie McConalogue (Donegal North-East), Willie O’Dea (Limerick), Sean Fleming (Laois-Offaly), Brendan Smith( Cavan-Monaghan) and Micheál Kitt (Galway East).

Just before the vote was called, Fine Gael’s Peter Mathews and Lucinda Creighton were deep in conversationwhile Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín was in discussion with his party colleague Jonathon O’Brien.

Pushing the division
The vote by independent TDs came as no surprise. Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South), Michael Healy-Rae (Kerry South), Noel Grealish (Galway West) and Michael Lowry (Tipperary North) voted against the legislation as did former Labour chairman Colm Keaveney.

When the vote was called, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett asked the TDs pushing the division to a vote, to stand.

Ten TDs are required for a vote to proceed and 15 stood. They included three of the four Fine Gael TDs opposed to the legislation stood – Peter Mathews, Brian Walsh and Terence Flanagan as well as Mr Tóibín and a majority of the Fianna Fáil TDs.

After the second stage debate, the Bill went to the health subcommmittee last evening. The committee stage debate will continue today at least. At committee stage only the members of the Health committee and the Minister for Health can introduce amendments or vote.

Up to 100 amendments have been submitted for debate at committee level. The Bill then returns to the Dáil for the report and final stages.