Independents eye free vote on fatal foetal abnormalities Bill

Collective Cabinet position on abortion vote proves elusive as political stand-off continues

The Bill was debated in the Dáil on Friday, but no agreed Government position could be outlined due to the ongoing dispute. Photographs: The Irish Times

The Bill was debated in the Dáil on Friday, but no agreed Government position could be outlined due to the ongoing dispute. Photographs: The Irish Times

 

The Independent Alliance has said it will not settle for anything but a free vote on a Bill to allow for abortions in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

The stand-off between three alliance members in Cabinet and Fine Gael is continuing, with no contact yesterday between the alliance and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The proposed legislation from Independent4Change TD Mick Wallace would allow for terminations in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. The Bill has been ruled unconstitutional by Attorney General Máire Whelan.

It was reported that Minister for Transport Shane Ross, Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath, and Minister of State at the Department of Jobs John Halligan were willing to abstain as part of a compromise.

However, The Irish Times understands the Alliance is insisting on a free vote and is unwilling to alter its position.

The three Ministers claim there is nothing in the programme for partnership agreed with Fine Gael that prevents a free vote.

Collective responsibility

The Alliance Ministers insist an agreed position could be to allow a free vote.

Mr McGrath, Mr Ross and Mr Halligan all voted in favour of similar legislation when tabled by Independent4Change TD Clare Daly last year.

The two other members of the Alliance, Kevin “Boxer” Moran and Minister of State Sean Canney, are expected to support the Government’s opposition to the Bill.

The Bill was debated in the Dáil yesterday, but no agreed Government position could be outlined due to the ongoing dispute.

Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting was adjourned without a decision but with expectations that a special one would be held this week. But there has been no contact since between Mr Kenny and the Alliance.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he would like the Government to stick together on this vote.

He said there was agreement that the legislation allowing for abortions needed to be examined.

However, Mr Coveney said that every member of the Government must accept the advice of the Attorney General and “make responsible decisions on the back of that”.

The Labour Party has confirmed it will vote against Mr Wallace’s legislation next Thursday due to the Attorney General’s advice.

Fianna Fáil will allow a free vote. A number of party TDs are expected to vote in favour of the Bill, including health spokesman, Billy Kelleher.

Other Fianna Fáil TD thought to support the Bill are Niall Collins, Robert Troy, Pat Case, Lisa Chambers and Fiona O’Loughlin.

Sinn Féin, the AAA-PBP, the Greens and the Social Democrats are also expected to vote in favour.