Kenny says FG TDs must back abortion law

 

Fine Gael TDs must back legislation to deal with the European Court of Human Rights ruling that pregnant Irish women need certainty about legal abortion rights in Ireland, or else lose the party whip, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Speaking in Cardiff, he said the party had very clear rules on this. “People who are elected to the party that I lead ... act and vote in accordance with party decisions. And that is the way that it will be,” he said.

On what needs to be done now he said: “We are dealing with a very different generation of politicians, our country has moved to a different space, there are clearly very strongly-held views,” said Mr Kenny.

“The vast majority of people understand what needs to be done here, but they do not want to move to a position where you have abortion on demand in the country,” he went on.

A report from an expert group appointed to provide options for dealing with the European Court of Human Rights judgment is to be brought to the Cabinet today by Minister for Health Dr James Reilly and published immediately.

Calling for a “sensitive, understanding, broad and comprehensive” debate when the report comes to the Dáil, Mr Kenny urged TDs to make their views known in a “pragmatic and practical sense”.

Declining to say when legislation would be produced, Mr Kenny said: “Don’t ask me for a specific date, but I don’t envisage this drifting along interminably. I’d like to deal with it as soon as is practicable to do so.

“There are a range of views on either side. It is very necessary that the qualified personnel working in hospitals and those involved in constitutional law that their views be heard so that we get this right.”

Expert group

The Fine Gael/Labour programme for government committed to establishing the expert group to make recommendations to the Government on foot of the European Court of Human Rights ruling.

The report, which has been seen by The Irish Times, sets out four options: 1) Non-statutory guidelines: 2) Statutory Regulations; 3) Legislation Alone; or 4) Legislation plus Regulations.

Option one, the report says, “would meet the need for speedy action” but on the other hand, “guidelines are, by their nature, non-binding and do not have force of law”.

Option two would involve the Minister for Health issuing regulations, based on enabling legislation passed by the Oireachtas, whose membership would provide “the principles and policies”. The report lists several advantages of this option and one disadvantage.

In relation to Option three, Legislation Alone, the report cautions it “might be too rigid an approach”.

On Option four, Legislation plus Regulations, it says “The advantages of this option are that it fulfils the requirements of the judgment, it provides for appropriate checks and balances between the powers of the legislature and the executive, and would be amenable to changes that might arise out of clinical practice and scientific advances.”

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said introducing legislation for limited abortion was “the safe way forward” and legislating for the sensitive issue should not be avoided by politicians.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said last night “if a difficulty does arise for Fine Gael backbenchers it’ll be in and around suicide ideation. That’s medically controversial as to whether a termination is an appropriate treatment for somebody who is expressing ideas of suicide.” But he said FG members would be bound by the party whip.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said the Government had shown “complete disregard” for the Oireachtas by “allowing the report to the widely leaked” before it was considered by Cabinet” or the Opposition.Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald also condemned the leaking of the report.