Friday 22 September 2017

FG will resist Labour plans to bring in new abortion law

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

GROWING numbers of Fine Gael ministers and TDs believe there won't be legislation introduced on abortion but that the regime will be regulated instead.

A failure to legislate would cause divisions within the Coalition as the Labour Party promised to bring in laws to deal with the X case.

The Government is awaiting an expert group report on how to respond to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the abortion regime.

But ministers and backbenchers alike now believe the abortion regime will be dealt with by regulations setting out in what circumstances abortions are allowed.

Fine Gael TDs have threatened to vote against any abortion legislation -- in line with a pre-election promise by their party.

Necessity

The Government is obliged to present an "action plan" to an EU body by late October, following the receipt of a report by the expert group in September.

Fine Gael and Labour are divided on the necessity to allow abortions if a woman's life is in danger.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly faced firm threats a fortnight ago from Fine Gael TDs who said they would vote against the Government on any attempt to legislate for abortion.

In a heated debate at a party meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators, Dr Reilly was warned by a junior minister that the issue could "rip the party apart".

The backlash followed comments by the Fine Gael deputy leader that the coalition would not become the seventh government to refuse to deal with the X case.

Fine Gael backbenchers feel the Health Minister got the hint and now realises he can't bring forward legislation as it would cause too much division.

"If it can be dealt without legislation, it's not a problem. If it can be done that way, then fine," a party TD said.

But some ministers and TDs believe the backbench revolt was counterproductive as it merely caused consternation over something that wasn't going to be a problem.

"The God squad in the Fine Gael party is getting upset. It'll be regulation. People are putting up a fight about something that mightn't ever happen," a minister said.

And there are also conspiratorial suggestions that the stirring up of emotions within the party on the issue is motivated by a desire to undermine Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Moreover, there is a view the Fine Gael parliamentary party is extremely conservative and won't tolerate implementing abortion laws.

A briefing in recent weeks by a group lobbying against abortion attracted 56 TDs and senators, with two-thirds of them coming from Fine Gael.

"If you speak to any of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, the vast majority would be all singing off the same hymn sheet," another TD said.

"You only legislate for things when necessary. The nub of it is there is no compulsion to legislate on the basis of a judgment from the European Court of Human Rights," a veteran TD said.

Analysis

Irish Independent

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