Parties dismiss significance of recording involving Labour TDs

Minister says disclosure of secretly-recorded tape an attempt “to sow division” between Coalition parties

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that a conversation secretly recorded last June by a pro-life activist was done so without his consent or knowledge. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that a conversation secretly recorded last June by a pro-life activist was done so without his consent or knowledge. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Sun, Apr 28, 2013, 15:33

Fine Gael and Labour Ministers have downplayed the political significance of secretly taped private conversations involving two Labour TDs who expressed support for a liberal abortion regime.

Fine Gael Minister for Agriculture Simon Covenety said today that the disclosure in Sunday Independent was an attempt “to sow division” between the two Government parties.

Labour Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Alan Kelly, said the secretly taped conversations reflected the individual opinions of is two party colleagues Aodhán Ó Riordáin and Anne Ferris and would have no impact on how the Government deals with the issue.

He said Labour was the only party that said it would legislate for the X Case in its manifesto.

The minister said the public are ahead of legislators on this issue, and it needs to be dealt with.

“We don’t believe this story will have any impact on the requirement for the Government to deal with this in the coming weeks and months,” Mr Kelly said.

The junior minister at the Department of Transport said he was hopeful the heads of bill for the new legislation would come before Cabinet on Tuesday.

It is understood Fine Gael and Labour are close to agreement on how to deal with the issue of suicide within the legislation and how many doctors will be required to assess a woman seeking a termination in that situation.

In a statement Mr Ó Riordáin said the taped conversation took place in June of last year.

“This secretely taped conversation took place in June 2012 in my constituency office in Marino without my consent or my knowledge.

“It was a pre arranged appointment with a woman who presented herself as a constituent with a query about thire-level fees. The conversation turned to abortion after she spoke of a ‘friend’ who had travelled to England for an abortion. I tried to deal with that situation with compassion and understanding.

“A recording of the meeting emerged on tape a numbr of months ago.

“My views and the views of my part on the X Case legislation are well known. We were the only party to include a commitment to legislate for the X Case in our pre-election manifesto. My part and I are fully committed to passing that legislation,” said the statement. A junior Labour minister has rejected claims the party is intent on liberalising the country’s abortion laws once legislation on the X-case has passed.

The issue has proved thorny for some members of Fine Gael but Mr Kelly said the coalition was still aiming for the legislation to be passed by the summer.

“The public are ahead of legislators on this issue and I don’t in any way see after that it going any further,” he told RTÉ radio of Labour’s plans for the law.

“This is about believing and trusting women who have had to deal with this issue. For too many years, successive governments didn’t deal with this issue. It was irresponsible, it was wrong.”

The Government committed to reforming the ban on abortion by July following the death of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last year after being denied a termination during miscarriage.

A European court ruling also found that a woman in remission from cancer should not have been forced to travel overseas for an abortion.