Thursday 22 June 2017

Gilmore climbs down as decision is deferred

Michael Brennan and Fiach Kelly

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has been forced into a climbdown on his demand for a speedy Government response on the controversial abortion issue.

There will be no decision taken until the new year at the earliest, and there isn't even a timetable for when the Government will schedule its own Dail debate on abortion.

Health Minister James Reilly will bring the report of the expert group on abortion to Cabinet next week but will not make any recommendation then.

However, Dr Reilly says the issue of abortion will be dealt with quickly and said TDs must finally deal "with a long overdue responsibility".

But the lack of a clear timeframe is a blow for Mr Gilmore, who wanted Dr Reilly to make a recommendation next week so there would be "legal clarity".

A Government spokesman repeated no decision is likely until the New Year. And he said there had never been a commitment to make a recommendation next week.

Mr Gilmore was not at Cabinet yesterday because he was in Brussels for a meeting on the EU budget. There had had been demands from Labour TDs for a "clear timeline" about dealing with the abortion issue in the wake of the tragic death of pregnant Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar (31). Sinn Fein last night tabled its motion calling for immediate legislation to allow for an abortion where the mother's life is at risk.

The Government's counter motion promises that the report of the expert group on abortion will be "published immediately" after it is brought to Cabinet next week. There will then be a Dail debate in the coming weeks "in advance of the Government decision". However, there is no specific date for when the decision will be made.

A spokeswoman for Mr Gilmore insisted he was satisfied with the counter motion agreed by the Government.

Fine Gael Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell said legislators are culpable for not acting before now, adding: "If Savita's husband's account of what happened is correct, her death is at our door, nobody else's. I don't want any more deaths at my door."

Labour Waterford TD Ciara Conway, who had refused to say which way she would vote, is now expected to back the Government's counter motion.

There had been worries that Longford-Westmeath Fine Gael TD James Bannon – who is strongly anti-abortion – would vote against the Government, but he says he is satisfied with the Coalition counter-motion.

Another Fine Gael TD said the "feeling was okay" in the party.

Meanwhile, a Labour MEP criticised fellow politicians in Brussels for using the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar to push for abortion legislation.

Ireland South MEP Phil Prendergast spoke after more than 50 MEPs from Britain, Germany, Sweden and other European countries signed a letter addressed to Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the case.

She warned fellow politicians to stop making judgments about what had happened before any inquiry is completed.

Irish Independent

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