Fine Gael and Labour set to clash on abortion
Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30
Tánaiste Joan Burton and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are set to clash over removing the controversial Eighth Amendment from the Constitution as the general election campaign heats up.
Mr Kenny insisted Fine Gael will have no commitment in its election manifesto to hold a referendum on the amendment that protects the rights of the unborn and prevents abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.
However, a spokesman for the Tánaiste said yesterday that the Labour Party's position is "very clear" and it will pledge to have in its manifesto a referendum to remove the amendment.
In a further sign that it is likely to cause coalition tension, a Labour cabinet minister yesterday said a referendum will be a "red line issue" when it comes to agreeing any future programme for government.
The senior minister said the vote transfer pact is "not contingent" on any policy agreement, but the members will insist on a referendum being a "first order demand" ahead of any future coalition talks.
"The point is, if the membership are to go with the transfer plan they will have to be sure we will insist on the Eighth being repealed," the minister said.
The issue is likely to be a key discussion topic when Labour members gather in the Glenview Hotel in Wicklow for the party's annual think-in.
The Tánaiste's spokesman said that removing the amendment is "not as simple an issue as simply removing the clause".
He said the issue is being looked at by an internal Labour Party working group ahead of publishing its manifesto.
Another senior Labour source said it was "no surprise" that the Taoiseach ruled out having abortion policy in his party's election manifesto.
Junior finance minister Simon Harris said the situation facing women with unviable pregnancies is "extraordinarily difficult and unacceptable".
"I think there is an onus on all politicians and everybody in society to be very clear on what they would like to replace the Eighth Amendment should it be repealed, and I think we need to address that issue responsibly," Mr Harris told the Irish Independent.
Mr Kenny said he is not in "favour of abortion on demand" but is open to listening to arguments for changing the current laws governing abortion.