Calls for Fianna Fail to allow free vote on abortion

Finance spokesman points to “strong pro-life” ethos aired at recent party ard fheis

Fiann Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath has called on the party to allow a free vote on the proposed abortion legislation

Fiann Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath has called on the party to allow a free vote on the proposed abortion legislation

 

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath has publicly called on his party leader Micheal Martin to allow a free vote on abortion legislation.

Mr McGrath, who is Mr Martin’s constituency colleague in Cork South-Central, said the situation would become very difficult for many Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators if a party whip was imposed.

“There are very divergent views within the parliamentary view on the issue. I think that’s no secret at this stage. I suggested at the last meeting that we should consider allowing people the right to vote in accordance with their conscience, to allow people a free vote on this issue,” Mr McGrath said.

“I think that that would represent a form of new politics that we have signed up to. It would be very difficult on a lot of members if the whip was imposed on them to force through a certain decision.”

Fianna Fáil has remained split on the Government’s draft legislation on abortion despite strong signals from the party leadership that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill should be supported.

A large group of Senators and some TDs expressed concern about the inclusion of a suicide clause during a four-and-a-half hour meeting of the parliamentary party earlier this month, with some insisting they could not support the planned law in its current form.

They agreed to return to the contentious issue after the Oireachtas health committee hearings on the Bill, which conclude tonight. Mr McGrath said he expected the parliamentary party would meet in the coming days.

He was launching a Bill to strengthen the deposit guarantee scheme outside Leinster House this afternoon when he was asked about the party’s position on abortion legislation.

“This is a particularly sensitive, divisive issue. People have very strong personal views and I think for our party that that should be recognised,” he said.

“And we also do have to bear in mind that only a few weeks ago our ard fheis, through the new democratic one-member-one-vote system, did pass a number of strong pro-life motions. We have to have regard to that as well.”

Mr McGrath said while the objective of the party was to come to an agreed position, he thought that would be difficult.

“I don’t believe it is the type of issue where a party whip system should apply. I think that we should strongly consider allowing each individual TD and Senator the right to vote in accordance with their own conscience. I think it is a unique situation.”