Leo Varadkar abortion speech gets mixed reaction from Government colleagues

Frances Fitzgerald says changes to the law a task for the next government


There was a mixed reaction from Government colleagues to Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s speech saying the law on abortion is too restrictive.

While some Ministers agreed with his views on abortion, there was no support for an early move to change the law or hold a constitutional referendum.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny distanced himself from his Minister saying now was not the time for constitutional change and he added that Mr Varadkar was expressing a private view.


Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said she agreed with much of what Mr Varadkar said on abortion but that changes to the law would be for the next government.

“I’m very proud to be part of a Government that actually dealt with this issue, having been avoided by everyone for so long,” Ms Fitzgerald said, referring to cases where the life of a woman was at risk.

Next government

She added: “I agree with much of what he said . . . I think these will be issues for the next government.” Last year, when she was minister for children, Ms Fitzgerald was critical of the “insensitive” way women with pregnancies involving fatal foetal abnormalities were treated. Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe also said the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities was something that must be looked at in the next Dáil.

“I’m very much pro-life. I’d would be against the introduction of any kind of regime or policy that led to the availability of abortion for choice reasons,” he said.


Mr Donohoe said he did not believe there would be a referendum in the lifetime of this Government.

“We saw in relation to the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill, the huge amount of work and time that went into drafting that Bill and I believe that time period would be required to deal with this matter and in order to deal with it in a sensitive and comprehensive way.

“I believe that amount of time is only something that a new Dáil could deliver. It is a matter that I believe does need to be looked at and we need to recognise the really difficult challenges that those mothers and families face and the grief and upset that it causes,” he said.

Labour Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch said she agreed with Mr Varadkar but did not think the issue could be dealt with in the lifetime of the current Dáil.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times