Fine Gael to have free vote on Eighth Amendment

Enda Kenny rebukes James Reilly in front of Ministers over newspaper interview

Fine Gael deputy leader and Minister for Children James Reilly received a dressing down from Taoiseach Enda Kenny in front of his party’s ministerial team over comments Dr Reilly made on abortion. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fine Gael deputy leader and Minister for Children James Reilly received a dressing down from Taoiseach Enda Kenny in front of his party’s ministerial team over comments Dr Reilly made on abortion. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Fine Gael TDs will be allowed a free vote on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution after a constitutional convention is given time to draw up proposals after the general election, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Speaking to the Fine Gael parliamentary party, he said he would reconvene a convention-like body to examine the amendment which gives the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.

Fine Gael would not “run away” from the issue, he declared, though his stand now contradicts the position he took in January 2013 when he argued that free votes should not be allowed in such cases.

On Tuesday, Mr Kenny gave Fine Gael deputy leader and Minister for Children James Reilly a dressing-down in front of his party’s ministerial team following Dr Reilly’s calls on Sunday for changes to the Eighth Amendment.

In a public rebuke, during a pre-Cabinet meeting of Fine Gael ministers, Mr Kenny told the former Minister for Health that he expected better of a deputy leader of the party.

In his Sunday Independent interview, Dr Reilly called for a referendum, early in the term of the next government, to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal right to the life of the mother and the unborn. He said he could not “countenance as a doctor or human being” seeing women being forced to go through with their pregnancies in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, or forced to hide UK abortions.

Dr Reilly’s advisers were also scolded by Mr Kenny’s staff at separate meetings earlier this week, where it was suggested that now was not the time for the party to be talking about abortion.

During his contribution last night, the Taoiseach said the decision of a Constitutional Convention would be facilitated in the lifetime of the next Government if Fine Gael were re-elected. Fine Gael TDs will have a free vote.Mr Kenny confirmed that pledge would be form part of the party’s manifesto for the upcoming election.

The move follows comments by the party’s deputy leader James Reilly who called for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment in an interview last weekend.

Referendum

Earlier this year Mr Kenny said he would not commit to holding a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment if Fine Gael returned to government.

The Labour Party has already said it would place a referendum to repeal the amendment at the heart of its general election manifesto but Mr Kenny indicated Fine Gael would not follow suit.

In September, speaking at Fine Gael’s parliamentary party think-in in Adare, Co Limerick, Mr Kenny said: “In respect of the Eighth Amendment I do not favour abortion on demand and I have no intention of abolishing the Eighth Amendment without considering what it might be that might replace it and that means more than any other sensitive issue I am quite prepared to listen to people who have contributions to make in that regard.

“But believe me, believe me, to commit to abolishing the Eighth Amendment without consideration of what you might do is not on my radar.”

When pushed on whether Fine Gael would commit to a referendum, Mr Kenny said: “No, I am not committing to any referendum.”