Rabbitte expresses 'surprise' at bishops' abortion statement
Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has said he was "taken aback" by the intervention of the Catholic archbishops on the question of the Government decision to outline legislation and regulations for the circumstances in which abortions may take place here.
The four Catholic Archbishops last night called for TDs to be given a free vote on the Government’s proposed legislation on abortion which will be introduced next year.
Speaking today, Mr Rabbitte said he had been "a bit taken aback by the vigour of the language" in the statement.
"I’m also a bit surprised at the intervention at this stage because the legislation has not been published yet. So I’m not entirely sure how you can make that kind of strident intervention without seeing the legislation," he said.
With regard for the call for TDs to have a free vote on the issue, Mr Rabbitte said the Government had “made plain” that the whip system that had operated in our parliament since 1922 would continue to apply.
He said he had “no objection at all” to the archbishops making their input.
“What I do not want to see is the clergy dictating to legislators how to legislate. But I have no objection to the bishops making their input.”
In a strongly worded statement, the church leaders encouraged “all to pray that our public representatives will be given the wisdom and courage to do what is right”.
The archbishops said “public representatives must consider the profound moral questions that arise” in relation to the decision “by the Government to legislate for abortion”.
Bishop of Kilmore Leo O'Reilly this morning said he was concerned the Government’s plan would pave the way for a “liberal” abortion culture in the State.
"For the very first time in Ireland it would inevitably lead to the most liberal kind of abortion," he told RTÉ Morning Ireland. "This would be a radical change in the culture of life that we have had here in this country - and let's not make any mistake about it - it would be an irrevocable change, there would not be any going back."
The legislation would be the first step on the way "to a culture of death," Bishop O'Reilly said. He reiterated a call for a free vote on the matter.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his senior Ministers are planning to reassure worried Fine Gael TDs that legislating to allow the threat of suicide as a ground for termination will not lead to abortion on demand.
Minister for Health James Reilly last night emphasised that “legislation supported by regulations will inform us to ensure that suicide will not be abused as it is perceived to be in other jurisdictions”.