Abortion: Martin will resist delaying tactics in Dáil

Fianna Fáil leader will aid Government in resisting filibustering TDs intent on stalling passage of law

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: the “will of the people” must be respected concerning the referendum. Photograph: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: the “will of the people” must be respected concerning the referendum. Photograph: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has indicated he will assist the Government in preventing parliamentary tactics that may be used to delay introduction of abortion legislation this year.

Recent filibustering by a group of rural TDs on road safety laws has raised concern that legislation giving effect to proposals allowing for abortion up to 12 weeks will be affected by similar performances.

The potential for filibustering has developed because of the Government’s minority position in the Dáil.

Mr Martin repeatedly objected to use of the guillotine – deployed to shorten debate – by the last Fine Gael-Labour government, which had a large majority.

However he said recent filibustering tactics by deputies, including Mattie McGrath and the Healy-Rae brothers, were “ridiculous”. Such tactics brought the Dáil into disrepute, he added, and that some spoke for lengthy periods on even minor issues of parliamentary procedure.

While he did not anticipate such problems with the passage of abortion legislation, Mr Martin said the Dáil should act if similar tactics are used in future.

He told a lunch hosted by the Association of European Journalists that the “will of the people” must be respected concerning the referendum.

A large number of Mr Martin’s TDs and Senators advocated retaining the Eighth Amendment. But most have since said they will not impede the passage of associated legislation.

The Fianna Fáil leader said “soundings” he had taken indicated there will be “nowhere near” the opposition to abortion legislation as there had been to proposals to tighten drink-driving laws.

“The drink-driving one was frankly ridiculous,” he said. “But in respect of any Bill, where there is excessive filibustering and obvious filibustering, there is always a provision to call a halt to that by a simple motion in standing orders.

“That was bringing the house into disrepute. My test would be if the house was being brought into disrepute by obvious unacceptable behaviour, then the House should act.”