Abortion law included in legislative programme
Seventeen of 27 Bills are three months overdue
Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe: confirmed legislation would be published this term. Photograph: Alan Betson
Among the major new measures in the Government’s legislative programme is the Protection of Maternal Life Bill, which is intended to give statutory implemention of the 1992 Supreme Court decision in the X case, which made abortion permissible when there is a substantial risk to the life of the mother.
While it is not included in the list, Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe confirmed yesterday that legislation would also be published this term that would allow the holding of a referendum in the autumn to abolish the Seanad.
Only 10 of the 27 Bills in the Government’s legislation programme for the summer session are new, with a total of 17 being carried over from the spring session.
At least five of the Bills the Government intends to publish have been on the priority A-list for over six months, while one, the Children First Bill, is still awaiting publication more than a year after being placed on the priority legislation list.
Among the other new Bills are the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, which will allow EU citizens who are not Irish nationals to stand as candidates in European Parliament elections. It will also allow changes to the register of electors in Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford following boundary changes in those counties. The Bill will also incorporate changes to the boundaries of the European Parliament constituencies.
It is widely expected the four constituencies will be reduced to three: Dublin, North Leinster; Connacht; Ulster and South Leinster; and Munster. The changes will be announced by the Constituency Commission at the end of May.
Other legislation planned for publication in this session include a new Betting Bill that will lead to more equal taxes between traditional betting and online betting. There are also plans for a new Fines Bill which will propose alternative sanctions for defaulters other than imprisonment.
The legislative demand of the troika’s four-year bailout programme has been blamed for the legislative bottleneck that has resulted in a slowdown of published legislation in the first three months of this year.
“A number of Bills have required complex policy issues to be addressed at a departmental level and detailed legal drafting from the Attorney General’s office,” said Mr Kehoe.
The two proposed pieces of major legislation on abortion and on the Seanad may result in others being delayed.