Varadkar proposes pro-repeal Fine Gael group within party
Taoiseach asks TDs and Senators who support change to contact his office in coming days
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice: reaffirmed his opposition to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. “The 12 weeks is a big worry to a lot of people to put it bluntly.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has proposed Fine Gael members in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment form an alliance within the party.
Speaking at Fine Gael’s parliamentary party meeting, Mr Varadkar asked TDs and Senators who support change to contact his office in the coming days.
The Taoiseach suggested a meeting be held within weeks to discuss what role it will have in the forthcoming referendum on Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.
Fine Gael has a freedom-of-conscience vote on the issue of the Eighth Amendment. There are varying views within the party about whether it should be repealed from the Constitution and deeper divisions on the proposal to allow for terminations in the first trimester of pregnancy.
There was no discussion at the parliamentary party meeting about the Taoiseach’s suggestion.
However, it is understood to be supported by Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty, Minister for Education Richard Bruton, Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan and Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe.
The 12 weeks is a big worry to a lot of people, to put it bluntly
Fine Gael TDs Kate O’Connell, Maria Bailey, Hildegarde Naughten and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, and Senator Catherine Noone, have also indicated their support for the proposal.
Mr Varadkar has insisted Fine Gael Ministers are bound to adopt a formal position at Cabinet but can dissent from that viewpoint and can campaign against it.
Meanwhile in the Dáil, Mr Harris said abortion will remain restricted to certain circumstances even if the Eighth Amendment is repealed and terminations are made lawful up to 12 weeks.
He also confirmed that the referendum would take place before the end of May.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice re-affirmed his opposition to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. “The 12 weeks is a big worry to a lot of people to put it bluntly,” he said of the proposal to allow abortions on request up to 12 weeks.
The Roscommon-Galway TD also said he was worried that the decision on abortion will “now be removed, that the Irish people won’t have a vote again” after this referendum and that “it will be put into the hands of the political class now and into the future for whatever time and limits” are put on it.
He said: “The people of Ireland need to have it very clear that when they go to the polls in a referendum they will decide once and for all that they will be giving the power to the TDs in this Dáil.”