FF hopes for 'middle ground consensus'


Reaction:Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher has said he hopes a “middle ground consensus” can be reached following the publication of the expert group on abortion’s report.

Mr Kelleher said the process would be very difficult but his party would play a constructive role in the debate.

He said he was disappointed the report had been leaked but said he welcomed its formal publication.

“It gives us an opportunity as a party and a parliament and a people to discuss this very sensitive issue and to see can we come to some consensus in addressing what has been a very divisive issue over very many years,” he said.

“It’s important that all views are taken on board. This divided the nation. It divides political parties but I think there’s a common consensus that we have to address the issue. We have to bring clarity.”

Mr Kelleher said legislation to deal with the X case had been brought forward by Fianna Fáil in 2002 but it was rejected by the Irish people.

“I think that we can come to a middle ground consensus that appeals to a broader public out there . . . we will play a very constructive role in trying to finally decide and address this issue.”

He would not be drawn on which of the options outlined by the expert group to deal with the European Court of Human Rights judgment on abortion in Ireland would be preferred by Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Féin Health spokesmanCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin said he believed the report made clear that primary legislation was required and regulations alone would not suffice.

Mr Ó Caoláin said the detail of the report required careful scrutiny, “for example to assess if a combination of primary legislation and regulations would be preferable to primary legislation alone”.

He said his party would provide a detailed response when it had assessed the document fully.

“It is crucial that the Government now acts speedily on this report,” he said.

“We should certainly not have to wait another six months for legislation to be enacted. As an Opposition party Sinn Féin is willing to co-operate with the Government and with all parties in the Oireachtas to achieve the best outcome.”

He noted that the report set out options for the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy in circumstances where there was a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother which could only be avoided by a termination of the pregnancy.