TDs wary of being rushed on decision


Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night told Fine Gael TDs and Senators “no one would be press-ganged” after a group complained they were being forced to move too quickly on abortion.

Mr Kenny told the parliamentary party meeting that he was personally “more conservative” than many of them. He said Fine Gael had always been “pro-life” and remained so, according to a number of those present.

However, he said the Government had legal obligations and tried to debunk the fears of objectors. Backbenchers John-Paul Phelan, Tom Hayes and Billy Timmins were among those who spoke out against the Government’s approach last night.

A group of TDs and Senators remain concerned about the inclusion of suicide in the Government’s efforts to give legal clarity in the area of abortion where the mother’s life is at risk.

They also complained that the Oireachtas health committee would hold public hearings in January, after the Government has decided which option proposed by the expert group on abortion it intends to implement.

They argue the Christmas deadline for the Government’s selection of its prepared option is too soon.

Mr Kenny said all the Government was going to do before the end of next month was decide a structure. He suggested the masters of the maternity hospitals could then be brought before the health committee and asked “what the grey areas are”.

A number of those at the meeting criticised Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s speech to the Dáil on Tuesday night and appearance on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme yesterday morning.

Mr Shatter had insisted the issue of suicide could not be excluded.

“It is not an option to leave it out,” he told RTÉ. He said there was no question of “abortion on demand” being introduced into Ireland.

Meanwhile, at the Labour parliamentary party meeting Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was applauded when he spoke about the party’s stance on abortion.

Mr Gilmore told TDs and Senators Labour had been committed to legislating for the X case for two decades and would not give up now.

Some 20 hours of Dáil debating time will be set aside next week and the week after. The Government is due to make a decision on its preferred option before the end of next month.