Abortion referendum to go ahead following Dáil vote

Vote to hold referendum passes by 97 to 27, with 16 Fianna Fáil TDs voting against

The Government will not bring forward a new referendum a proposal for a new referendum on the Eight Amendment if the referendum is defeated. Video: Oireachtas

 

TDs voted by 97 to 27 on Wednesday night to allow a referendum on abortion to go ahead.

After numerous votes in the Dáil, 16 Fianna Fáil TDs voted against the legislation, five fewer than in a vote earlier in the day.

The Bill now goes to the Seanad.

Fianna Fáil members have freedom of conscience on the issue of abortion, meaning each member can vote in accordance with their own view. Party leader Micheál Martin, however, is supporting repeal and allowing for terminations up to 12 weeks even though the majority of his party does not support the proposition. The party’s ardfheis voted in favour of Fianna Fáil adopting an anti-abortion position.

Earlier on Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government will respect the result of the abortion referendum.

“If the referendum is passed, I hope people will respect that,” he added. “If the referendum is defeated, the Government will respect that decision and will not bring forward a proposal for a new referendum during the period of this Government.”

The Taoiseach was responding in the Dáil on Wednesday to recent remarks by Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty, who said the repeal campaigners would not accept a No vote.

Remarks

Her remarks were raised by Independent TD Mattie McGrath, who asked whether the Government intended holding another referendum if the May poll was defeated.

Mr McGrath said Ms Doherty’s remarks were “shameful”.

Speaking to The Irish Times last week, where she was attending St Patrick’s Day events, Ms Doherty said: “The people who have brought us, and who have been very vocal on this issue for a number of years, they are certainly not going to accept a No.

“It will probably make them redouble their efforts.”

Ms Doherty also said her previous opposition to the legalisation of abortion was “born out of ignorance”.

Ms Doherty was responding to queries about how the Government would respond if there were a No vote, and whether another referendum on the subject would be called in the future if the current proposal was defeated.

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, also known as article 40.3.3, recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child. A referendum on repealing the amendment will be held in May or June.

Withdraw

Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae did not respond when asked by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy to withdraw comments he made during the abortion debate on Tuesday night.

Ms Murphy said Mr Healy-Rae should apologise for “hurtful” comments he made relating to people who had a termination of pregnancy following a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.

Mr Healy-Rae had said he heard Minister for Health Simon Harris say on radio it was terrible to think a mother was coming home from the UK after termination “with their loved ones in the boot of a car”.

“I don’t know what you meant, Minister, but I surely do know that the little dead baby did not feel very loved and it would make not a difference whether the baby was in the boot of a car in London or the north of Ireland or the south of Ireland,” Mr Healy-Rae added. “The unborn baby was dead at that stage anyway.”

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