Gilmore defends all-night sitting of Dáil from Washington

Tánaiste describes criticism of the debate by the opposition as ‘a bit ironic’

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has defended the Government's decision to allow the all-night debate on the abortion legislation, which Fianna Fáil described as a "shambles."

Opposition criticism of the debate, which ran until 5am, was “a bit ironic,” he said, because most of the time the Government is criticised for ending debates using the guillotine procedure.

“We felt this is a sensitive piece of legislation. We felt that time should be given,” said Mr Gilmore on a two-day trip to Washington to discuss new US immigration legislation and economic matters.

The Government felt time should be given to debate the bill as the opposition were “very anxious” to look for additional time, he said. He expects the process to “probably move faster” as the legislation proceeds.


The Labour leader said that the party's TD for Clare Michael McNamara "simply pressed the wrong button" when he voted against the Government on part of the abortion bill.

“It happens,” said Mr Gilmore. “There is no doubt about where he stands on the legislation - he supports it.”

Mr Gilmore said Fine Gael TD Tom Barry had engaged in "inappropriate behaviour" by grabbing his Fine Gael colleague Áine Collins and putting her on his lap during the debate on the legislation.

“He’s apologised for it - I understand that Deputy Collins has accepted his apology,” he said.

On the decision of Minister of State Lucinda Creighton not to support the legislation's section on suicide, Mr Gilmore said he would hope and expect Government deputies to support the legislation.

“I’ve heard the views that she has expressed on it. I think we just have to see it through and wait and see how things play out,” he said.

The Tánaiste, who had previously wanted include provisions in the legislation to deal with fatal foetal abnormalities, accepted that there were areas that the Bill did not address.

"That is something that will have to be looked at in the future but right now our focus is on getting this piece of legislation through the Oireachtas, " he said.

He declined to say whether this was something that would be addressed with further legislation during the lifetime of this Government.

Mr Gilmore said he did not want this coalition to be the seventh successive government to ignore the need to legislate for the X case 21 years ago.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent