Sinn Fein’s prodigal son set to return - but for how long?
Clare Daly abortion bill could cause trouble for Peadar Toíbín
Peadar Toibin (centre), seen here beside Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (right) and Dessie Ellis, is to rejoin the party after a six-month suspension.
Meath West TD Peadar Toíbín is set to rejoin the Sinn Féin parliamentary party at the end of the month, ending his six month period in the wilderness just in time for the party’s Ard Fheis.
The pre-election gathering takes place in Wexford in early February, and undoubtedly the party will try and parade Toíbín on stage and to the cameras in a show of healing and unity, but there is a risk he could find himself outside the fold again.
Toíbín was one of the party’s stars before he was suspended for voting against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill last July, and a member of the new, media-friendly generation of Sinn Féin, along with Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou-McDonald.
The party will welcome his return, and should put him a prominent portfolio that will enable him to perform ably again.
However, it might not be plain sailing when Toíbín does return. Hovering in the background is a private member’s motion from Clare Daly which would allow for abortion in the event of fatal foetal abnormalities, when the foetus has no prospect of survival outside the womb.
It is understood Sinn Féin has not adopted a position on this yet.
Its Ard Fheis decides policy, and the wishes of the Ard Fheis are implemented by the Ard Chomhairle, the party’s officer board.
The Labour Party would like to extend the existing abortion legislation to include fatal foetal abnormalities, but Fine Gael will not let that happen during the lifetime of this Government, and neither Government parties will support the bill.
But given their strong support for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, Sinn Féin may be inclined to support the Daly bill.
Under Dáil reform measures introduced by the Government, such bills can be taken on the new Friday sittings and are selected under a lottery system (we assume these particular lotteries are very profitable, unlike Rehab).
So Clare Daly’s bill could be selected at any stage before the next general election, prompting Sinn Féin and Toíbín to examine their relationship once more.