Walsh becomes third Fine Gael Oireachtas member to oppose abortion legislation

Galway West TD says politicians being asked to choose between their careers and their consciences

Fine Gael TD  Brian Walsh: said TDs and Senators had been put in a very difficult position. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh: said TDs and Senators had been put in a very difficult position. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times


Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh, who has become the third member of the parliamentary party to confirm they will not back the Government’s abortion legislation, has predicted the figure will rise to 10.

Dublin South TD Peter Mathews and Galway Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames have already made clear they will not support the planned legislation. Mr Walsh, who represents Galway West, said TDs and Senators were being asked to choose between their careers and their consciences.

A large number of younger TDs elected for first time in 2011 were “wrestling with their consciences” and had been put in a very difficult position, Mr Walsh told RTE’s News at One programme.

“This has the potential to impact on their careers. They have families depending on them, children. They’re effectively forced to chose between their conscience and their livelihoods,” he said. “They’re being asked to chose between their Fine Gael values and Fine Gael.”

Mr Walsh said there were elements of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 that he could not support, with the “bone of contention” being the suicide clause.

He said there was no evidence that abortion wasn an appropriate treatment for suicide ideation or intention.

Mr Walsh said that while in the region of 25 to 30 members of the parliamentary party had expressedvery grave concerns, in the region of 10 would vote against.

He said Taoiseach Enda Kenny was a man of integrity and he was still hopeful a free vote could be allowed.

Earlier, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan warned there will be “consequences” for Fine Gael TDs and Senators who vote against the Government’s proposed abortion legislation.

Fine Gael Oireachtas members will discuss the at their parliamentary party meeting today.

Mr Hogan said Mr Mathews and Ms Healy-Eames had already made clear they would oppose the planned legislation in advance of the meeting.

Asked if he was concerned about the voting intentions of other party Oireachtas members, Mr Hogan said: “That’s a matter for every individual in the parliamentary party to decide whether they want to support or not the Government, but there’s obvious consequences if they don’t.

“There is a whip vote in relation to this legislation and when people sign the party pledge to stand for Fine Gael in any election you automatically lose the party whip if you vote against Government policy and Fine Gael policy.”

Mr Hogan said he expected a “very good debate” at the parliamentary party meeting this evening, during which everybody would have an opportunity to speak.

“I think that Deputy Mathews and Senator Healy-Eames have already made position clear in advance of any parliamentary party meeting.”

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