Varadkar says new abortion referendum would have to be about more than suicide

Minister asks FG colleagues to reflect on Bill before voting against it

A new referendum removing suicide as a grounds for abortion would also have to include other issues, said Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar.

He said he did not believe it would be possible to vote a third time on the issue without asking questions on allowing terminations on the grounds of rape, alleged rape, incest, the health of the mother or in the case of a foetus incompatible with life.

“People who are pro-life in this House, or outside of this House, who are calling for referendums should be careful about what they wish for because they do not know, for example, how big a Pandora’s Box they may open.’’

Mr Varadkar appealed to Fine Gael colleagues thinking about voting against the Bill to reflect on the issue. “I would not like to see Fine Gael, my party, lose anyone from our ranks over legislation which I do not believe will substantially change what is happening now in Ireland relating to abortion.’’


Earlier, Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews, a strong opponent of the legislation, said the Bill was not right. "I hope we are in a civilised society. I hope everybody understands the gravity of what we are about.''

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he was very strongly opposed to any attempt to criminalise or be judgemental of women who had abortions. "Who in this Chamber, or outside this Chamber, has the right to judge these women?''

Mr Adams said it was a fact that the lives of some women were placed at real and substantial risk due to their pregnancy.

“In these cases only a termination of a pregnancy, as distinct from the termination of the life of the unborn, though that can be a consequence of the intervention, is going to save their lives.’’

Barry Cowen (FF) recalled a conversation he had with a priest in his Laois-Offaly constituency. "I explained I felt compelled and torn by virtue of one's obligation to adhere to the Supreme Court decision.

"That decision, whether we agree with it or not, or like it or not, obliges this House, and the members within it, to act on its instructions as legislators and provide legislation which reflects its interpretation of article 40.33 of our Constitution.''

Middle ground
Seamus Healy (Ind) said he supported the legislation which was limited and restrictive.

“In my view there is an overwhelming middle ground, a very significant majority of the public, who are in favour of the provisions of this Bill.’’

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times