Taoiseach will move swiftly to appoint successor to Creighton

Creighton tweet accuses Minister for Health of misleading voters

Lucinda Creighton: “Sorry Dr Reilly. Please do not mislead people. Our manifesto and programme for govt DID NOT commit FG Tds to this. Read it. Don’t make it up.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Lucinda Creighton: “Sorry Dr Reilly. Please do not mislead people. Our manifesto and programme for govt DID NOT commit FG Tds to this. Read it. Don’t make it up.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Mon, Jul 8, 2013, 09:24

The Government will move swiftly to appoint a successor to Minister of State for Europe Lucinda Creighton if, as expected, she votes against the abortion legislation and is expelled from the Government.

Tension between Ms Creighton and her colleagues in Government intensified yesterday when she issued a tweet accusing Minister for Health James Reilly of misleading people by saying on radio that Fine Gael’s intentions on the matter were made clear in the 2011 election.

“Sorry Dr Reilly. Please do not mislead people. Our manifesto and programme for govt DID NOT commit FG Tds to this. Read it. Don’t make it up,” she wrote.

Such remarks in a public forum have fanned expectation that she will not support the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in the final Dáil vote on Wednesday night.

At the same time, sources within the Coalition say they have not ruled out the possibility of a last-minute change by Ms Creighton. “People are hoping she’s going to stay in the fold,” said one Fine Gael figure.

Ms Creighton has tabled a series of amendments to the Bill which would remove the risk of suicide as grounds for an abortion but sources within Fine Gael and Labour say there is no prospect of her changes being accepted.

Suicide clause
She said last night she hoped the Government would listen to psychiatrists who supported her amendments as they pointed to an “evidence-based approach” to suicidal ideation. She declined to say how she would vote, saying her intention right now extended only towards putting forward and speaking on the amendment she and others had tabled.

On RTÉ, however, Dr Reilly ruled out the removal of the suicide clause, saying there was no no prospect of the Government omitting “an entire section” from the Bill.

Ms Creighton faces the immediate loss of her junior ministry and removal from the Fine Gael party if she votes against the Bill, as sources close to her have signalled she will do.

In that event it would fall to the Government to sack her. Well-placed Coalition sources believe Taoiseach Enda Kenny would quickly nominate her successor and bring the proposal to the Government for its approval as is required.

“I would expect an appointment straight away,” said one Government figure, an assessment repeated by three other sources.

Attention at the moment centres on Dublin Central TD Pascal Donohoe and Cork South-Central TD Jerry Buttimer, chairman of the Oireachtas health committee.

Although Mr Kenny waited almost six months to appoint a successor to the late Shane McEntee as Minister of State for Agriculture, Government sources point out that the present situation is different.

They also cite the heavy workload in the European portfolio. It is acknowledged in Government circles that Ms Creighton would be a loss to the administration given her European expertise.

After the loss of four TDs in the first Dáil vote last week, Mr Kenny is anxious to avoid any further defections in the final two votes.

Ms Creighton is the most prominent of four further doubters, the others being Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan and Mayo TDs John O’Mahony and Michelle Mulherin.

Dr Reilly is understood to have been in contact over the weekend with Mr Phelan, Mr O’Mahony and Ms Mulherin. Ms Creighton said she had emailed Dr Reilly last week but had not yet heard back from him.

Mr O’Mahony said yesterday he expected to have further discussions this week with both Mr Kenny and Dr Reilly. “I think that in life it’s always good to talk,” he said. “There’s nothing new to report.”

‘Waiting to see’
Mr Phelan also reserved his position. “I don’t really have anything to say on it other than I’m waiting to see what amendments are made at report stage. My final decision will rest on those.”

Ms Mulherin did not return a call.

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