Bruton defends Government’s ‘balanced’ approach to abortion

‘Middle Ireland’ may be more progressive than administration thinks, says Bríd Smith

John Fitzpatrick at the Citizens’ Assembly. Richard Bruton said the Taoiseach’s approach to the abortion issue was a Citizens’ Assembly followed by an Oireachtas committee and then a move to legislation. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

John Fitzpatrick at the Citizens’ Assembly. Richard Bruton said the Taoiseach’s approach to the abortion issue was a Citizens’ Assembly followed by an Oireachtas committee and then a move to legislation. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Government has established a considered approach to dealing with abortion “without seeking to push or bully people”, the Dáil has been told.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton, standing in for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, said “the Government’s intention is clearly that this will not lie untouched”.

He said abortion was an issue of considerable importance to the public. “We have established an approach that has proved itself in the past.”

Mr Bruton said the Taoiseach’s motivation in setting up the Citizens’ Assembly “mirrors what he did in the X case”. He said that case “lay around for 20 years and no Dáil had the courage of its convictions to deal with what the Supreme Court had found in the X case.”

He said Mr Kenny’s approach was a Citizens’ Assembly followed by an Oireachtas committee and then a move to legislation.

He was defending the Government’s approach after Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger claimed the Taoiseach “thought the Citizens’ Assembly was a pliable poly that would come back with very minimal change”.

She said that when 99 members of the public were put in a room and asked to discuss this topic and to really engage and debate it, “they came back with a compassionate and realistic response. They want an end to hypocrisy.”

She asked if Mr Bruton believed that “so-called ‘middle Ireland’ might actually be more progressive than the Minister and others thought and that the journalists who were advocating slow change were actually behind the curve”.

She questioned whether Fine Gael would accept the assembly’s recommendation or “try to water it down”.

Mr Bruton insisted the Government’s approach “will give the opportunity to this House to consider these issues in a fair and balanced way without seeking to push or bully people, but allowing a sensible debate based on the facts and on the work done by the Citizens’ Assembly and by others”.