Labour to vote against Clare Daly’s abortion Bill, Burton says

Tánaiste wants issue of fatal foetal abnormality addressed in constitutional fashion

Tánaiste Joan Burton has confirmed the Labour Party will be voting against an abortion Bill proposed by Independent TD Clare Daly. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has confirmed the Labour Party will be voting against an abortion Bill proposed by Independent TD Clare Daly. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

Tánaiste Joan Burton has confirmed the Labour Party will be voting against an abortion Bill proposed by Independent TD Clare Daly.

Ms Burton said the Government had received advice from the Attorney General stating that the Bill is unconstitutional.

Ms Daly has proposed a bill to provide for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities and it is understood that a number of Labour Party TDs have requested they be allowed have a free vote on the Bill.

The Tánaiste told The Irish Times the legal advice from Attorney General Máire Whelan is that Ms Daly’s Bill is not constitutional and consequently Labour Party TDs will vote against it.

“The legal advice to the Government from the Attorney General is that the Bill is not constitutional because there are issues with the formula that is used in the Bill which means that it comes within the ambit of the eighth amendment to the Constitution,” she said.

A number of Labour TDs, including Meath East’s Dominic Hannigan, Dublin Bay North’s Seán Kenny, Wicklow’s Anne Ferris and Waterford’s Ciara Conway are considering voting against the Government on the Bill or abstaining.

Any TDs who abstain are likely to face disciplinary action, including losing the party whip in the Dáil. Ms Burton’s spokesman said while requests to support the Daly bill are well intentioned, it is not possible to support an unconstitutional proposal and therefore all TDs will be expected to support the Government.

Ms Burton said that Ms Whelan’s legal advice to the Government was that bill – which was moved by Ms Daly and debated in the Dáil on Friday- could only become law if was supported by the people in a referendum.

“For the Labour Party as a policy , we want to see the issues of fatal foetal abnormality addressed and we want to see that done in a way which is within the framework and the ambit of the constitution and we have already passed a motion to that effect at our last party conference .”

Ms Burton said the Government had already decided not to support Ms Daly’s Bill because of the legal advice given but she pointed out that the Government had already addressed issues arising from the X case, which was a programme for government commitment.

“We have a policy group working within the party at the moment with an involvement of a number of our TDs and senators so it’s a matter of great importance, as these issues always have been, to the Labour Party but we want to deal with them in a way that successfully addresses the issues,” she said.

“If you know people, as I do, who have been affected by this, it’s a very traumatic and distressing issue for people who expected to have a live healthy baby and this particular tragic circumstances occurs – I think there’s enormous sympathy for them from people across all political parties.”

Ms Burton said that she was on the record as favouring the rescinding of the eighth amendment but the people had voted for it and as long as it remained, anyone framing legislation had to take account of its commitment to both the right of life of the mother and the right to life of the unborn.