Renua indicates party open to referendum on abortion

Creighton declares no fear of vote on any issue ‘because, ulitmately, people will decide’

Lucinda Creighton: Position on referendum in line with party policy. Photograph: Sara Freund

Lucinda Creighton: Position on referendum in line with party policy. Photograph: Sara Freund

 

The admission by Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton that it would enter coalition with parties committed to an abortion referendum was in line with party policy, a spokesman has said.

Ms Creighton said at the weekend she never feared a referendum on any issue, “because, ultimately, the people will decide’’.

The Renua spokesman said the party had members with differing views on social issues.

“We believe in freedom of conscience on such issues,’’ he added. “A referendum would allow the people make the ultimate decision.’’

Ms Creighton resigned as Fine Gael minister of state for European affairs in 2013 when she opposed the suicide clause in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

She said at the time she could not support a clause that was “essentially built on sand’’, adding that the law “would change the culture of this country and would change how we deal with vulnerable women’’.

Although the economy is likely to dominate the general election, expected in the spring of next year, abortion could prove to be a highly controversial issue. All parties and Independents will be pressed on their views on repealing the Eight Amendment to the Constitution, which gives an equal right to life to the mother and the unborn. It was passed in 1983 after a bitter and divisive referendum. Pro-choice and pro-life groups will be particularly active in lobbying politicians, and the issue could cause divisions within some parties.

Last week Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would not commit to holding a referendum repealing the amendment without considering what would replace it. He said it was a sensitive issue and he was quite prepared to listen to people who had contributions to make.

In response, Independent TD Clare Daly said abortion was an election issue, whether the Government liked it or not.

Last May, in the aftermath of the marriage equality referendum, Fine Gael Minister for Children Dr James Reilly said the amendment should be repealed to allow for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

Manifesto

At the time, Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton said Labour was in favour of putting the repeal of the amendment to the people during the next Dáil.

Labour and Sinn Féin have voted at their conferences to hold a referendum. In the Dáil, Labour Minister of State Kathleen Lynch challenged parties to include their views on abortion in their manifestos.

“It really should be there, and then allow the people to decide who gets elected and who does not,’’ she added.

Fianna Fáil sources have said the party could have difficulty in reaching a consensus on the issue when drafting an election manifesto. “It will not look good if we sit on the fence,’’ said a source. “But that is what might happen.”