Fitzgerald to abandon plan to lower age of sexual consent to 16

Cabinet decision never taken on memo from Shatter on bringing age down from 17

Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald: said  last year she was “struck” by  comments of the Rape Crisis Centre and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, who also opposed the move. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald: said last year she was “struck” by comments of the Rape Crisis Centre and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, who also opposed the move. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is to formally abandon moves by her predecessor Alan Shatter to lower the age of sexual consent from 17 to 16. Ms Fitzgerald is bringing a memo to Cabinet on the issue, alongside proposals to criminalise the purchasing of sex. It is the latest in a number of reversals by Ms Fitzgerald of Mr Shatter’s policies, such as removing surrogacy from his Child and Family Relationships Bill.

Mr Shatter floated the idea of lowering the age of consent last December when he brought a memo to Government on the issue. It did not come down on either side of the argument, but he was understood to be in favour of lowering it. A decision was never taken at Cabinet and the controversial subject was referred to the Fine Gael and Labour parliamentary parties.

The move came up against particular opposition in Fine Gael, where it was discussed at an internal parliamentary party policy committee.

One source last night said: “The status quo will remain. Fine Gael TDs were lined up against it at the committee.”

At the time it was floated by Mr Shatter, Ms Fitzgerald, who was then Minister for Children, said she was personally opposed to lowering the age of consent from 17 to 16, although she said there might have been specific legal reasons for doing so.

Ms Fitzgerald said last year: “I think it might be more a values, cultural kind of issue and my personal view when it comes down to that element of it is 17. That’s my inclination.” She also said she was “struck” by the comments of the Rape Crisis Centre and the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, who also opposed the move.