Abortion committee expected to vote on recommendation within weeks

Group to take further legal advice before publicly debating the issue next week

Committee chair Senator Catherine Noone has asked  two committee members not to resign their positions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Committee chair Senator Catherine Noone has asked two committee members not to resign their positions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment will hold its first public discussion on what recommendation it will make on the position of the Eighth Amendment next Wednesday.

The committee is expected to vote on the issue in the next number of weeks.

At a closed session of the committee on Thursday, it was decided the group would take further legal advice from Nuala Butler SC next Tuesday on the options for changing Ireland’s abortion laws, before publicly debating the issue on Wednesday evening.

Several members of the committee submitted motions to recommend the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in a private session on Wednesday this week, rather than replacing or amending the article in the Constitution.

The constitutional amendment places an equal right to life on the pregnant mother and the unborn child.

Solidarity TD and committee member Ruth Coppinger said, “I would say there will be a vote in the next two weeks”.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said “some people are ready to do it now” and vote on the issue as soon as possible.

Too early

However, it is understood some committee members in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil feel it is too early in the committee’s process to take a vote on whether the Eighth Amendment should be repealed or replaced.

Chair of the committee Senator Catherine Noone of Fine Gael said a vote would be held on the position of the Eighth Amendment in the “medium term”. She said “it is up to the committee to decide what date that vote will be taken”.

The push by some members to hold a vote on the committee’s recommendation on the Eighth Amendment comes after the group completed their first module, which looked at the constitutional and legal issues around changing Ireland’s abortion laws.

The committee have now moved on to hearing about the impact of the Eighth Amendment on Ireland’s healthcare system.

Following a vote on what constitutional change the committee may recommend, the next issue to debate will be what type of legislation would follow in the event of changing Ireland’s abortion law.

Earlier this week on Wednesday, the committee were presented with six possible legal options for changing Ireland’s abortion laws by Ms Butler, all of which presented various levels of legal uncertainty.

‘Skewed

On Thursday two members of the Oireachtas committee said they were considering their positions because they claimed its proceedings were “entirely skewed and unfair”.

Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath and Senator Ronan Mullen, both Independents, claimed on Thursday evening the majority of witnesses scheduled to appear before the committee were in favour of liberalising Ireland’s abortion regime.

Ms Noone has asked the two members not to resign their positions, and said she would be “delighted” for Mr Mullen and Mr McGrath to invite more witnesses from “their side of the argument”.

Speaking after the committee meeting yesterday Ms Coppinger said, “to the best of my knowledge there’s no witnesses they put forward that were refused. . . They had as much chance to put forward witnesses as anybody else.”