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Referendum aftershocks rumble on

Inside Politics: Taoiseach says it will be January at the earliest before abortion service is in place

The aftershocks of the referendum continue to course through Irish politics, as they will for a while yet. Yesterday was the first day back in Leinster House after the momentous results rolled in on Saturday, and politicians were taking stock.

The extent of public support for the liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws has prompted politicians in all parties to demand that the process of implementing the decision be accelerated.

Labour and Sinn Fein want bits of the abortion ban repealed while the Government works on the substantive legislation. Micheal Martin wants the Dail to postpone its summer holidays to work on it. Everyone’s suddenly in a fierce hurry.

Cool your jets, advised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris. This is a complex business.


The legislation must be carefully drawn up. The medical bodies have to formulate clinical guidelines to govern medical practice in the abortion areas. The drugs in the abortion pills have to be approved by regulatory authorities. The HSE has to figure out how it will organise and pay for the service. The agreement of doctors to provide the service has to be secured.

It will be, the Taoiseach explained, January next year at the earliest before the service is in place. And that’s probably being optimistic.

Reports are here, and Miriam Lord's account of Clare Daly's emotional speech to the Dail is here.

Nowhere in Leinster House is the fallout from the referendum result more complicated than it is in Fianna Fail.

Micheal Martin shocked his party when he backed the referendum (12 weeks and all), and many of his parliamentary party let him know just what they thought of his decision by demonstrating clearly during the campaign that he was in a minority in his party.

Fianna Fail supporters broke marginally against the referendum on Friday. However, Martin has demonstrated that he is more in tune with the electorate (or at least the great majority of it) than his TDs and senators. This is exactly the type of thing that annoys them about him.

Martin’s speech to the Dail yesterday (“it now comes back to the Oireachtas to respond promptly, proactively and positively to the decision of the people”) could have been directed not across the chamber at the Taoiseach but at the benches of his own TDs behind him. Actually, maybe it was.

All this was ventilated at a spiky meeting of the parliamentary party last night, which was eventually adjourned abruptly. Martin has moved to prevent his TDs from tabling amendments to the abortion law. Sarah Bardon has the story and a longer piece inside the paperexplaining the dilemma facing the party.

This has the makings of a showdown between Martin and his parliamentary party, much of which has never been in love with its leader. It is an important moment in his leadership. It is an important moment for Fianna Fail.

‘Another failure by the State’

Meanwhile, in the Department of Children, another grisly story from Ireland’s past emerges.

Tusla, the child and family agency, has discovered in the records of the St Patrick’s Guild adoption society, evidence that false birth certificates were created for 126 children, wrongly listing their parents as the adoptive parents, rather than their birth parents.

Tusla will now contact the 126 people to tell them that their births were incorrectly registered, and that the parents who brought them up are not their birth parents.

Zappone said she was “truly sorry” for what she described as “another failure by the State”.

An examination of other records will now take place to establish if the practice took place elsewhere.

Yesterday morning, Zappone briefed her Cabinet colleagues, telling them the news of the false certs had surfaced in February, though she told the press conference they were only confirmed last week.

Some of those at Cabinet got the impression that worse was likely to come.

It's our lead story this morning. My report is here, and Patsy McGarry's piece explaining the background is here.