Minister for Health to bring abortion report to Cabinet

 

Minister for Health James Reilly has confirmed he will be bringing the report of the expert group on abortion to Cabinet on Tuesday week.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One this afternoon, he extended his sympathies to Ms Halappanavar's family and said they would have input into the terms of reference for the inquiry into her death.

"I have read the report and I need to study it further. It's a hugely complex issue that has divided the country ... and we're not going to solve it in a matter of weeks," he said.

It would be a "derogation of duty" not to deal with the issue, he added, saying every woman had a right to have legal clarity regarding the treatment available to her.

It was his view, he continued, that it could be early 2013 before a clear Government position is made.

Dr Reilly's comments come a day after thousands of people attended candlelit vigils in Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Carlow and London yesterday evening to demand the Government legislate on abortion following the death of Savita Halappanavar.

Beginning at the Garden of Remembrance, the Dublin march crossed O’Connell Bridge and snaked its way towards Dáil Éireann.

It was headed by a giant banner stating “Never Again”, adorned with images of the 31-year-old Indian dentist.

Organisers of the Dublin march said about 20,000 people had turned out, but a Garda spokeswoman said they estimated the figure to be between 10,000 and 12,000.

“Twenty years is far too long; ignoring women’s rights is wrong,” was bellowed from a megaphone at the front of the procession. Loud, angry cries of “Never Again” filled the air.

By the time the demonstration reached Merrion Square, its tail end was still crossing O’Connell Bridge.

“The anger extends beyond Ireland,” organiser Sinead Kennedy of the Irish Choice Network told the crowd as they huddled in the rain at the beginning of the march.

“For more than 20 years we have seen political cowardice and inaction on this issue. The theme of this march is ‘Never Again’. Never again will a woman be allowed to die,” she said.

At the end of the demonstration, several speakers took to a makeshift stage on the back of an old truck to rouse the crowd and whip up a commitment to further protests.

Sinead Ahern of Choice Ireland told the crowd there were similar demonstrations around Ireland and the world.

“As huge as the crowd is today we are only part of what is happening ... Today we march and today we stand in solidarity.”

In the past, she said, “Irish people stood up and said it wasn’t acceptable. Twenty years later we are awaiting legislation to say that it isn’t acceptable.”

More than 1,000 people attended a similar gathering in Eyre Square in Galway, organised by the Galway Pro-Choice group.

Earlier yesterday, members of the Indian community in Galway held another ceremony outside University Hospital Galway, where they lay white roses under a photograph of Ms Halappanavar.

Gardaí said yesterday afternoon they are assisting the Coroner in relation to Ms Halappanavar's death.

A Garda spokesman said this was "standard procedure in the case of a sudden death".