independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Gilmore vows legal clarity as TDs stay split on issue

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has vowed the Government will take action to provide "legal certainty and legal clarity" on abortion in the wake of the Savita tragedy.

But the coalition is at odds over abortion with Labour TDs demanding legislation and Fine Gael TDs saying they will wait to see a report from an expert group.

One Labour source said there was a "growing impatience" with the tendency in the Government to delay taking action on such issues.

However, it is clear some Fine Gael TDs have softened their stance and are now willing to examine proposals to bring in guidelines on where terminations were allowed.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told his party's TDs last night that he would be taking no action until the Government had considered the expert group report.

Mr Kenny said he expected to read the report either last night or today.

He ordered his TDs to stay quiet on the issue and keep their opinions to themselves until the report is published.

However, a number of Fine Gael TDs objected, including Catherine Byrne who said she would not be muzzled.

Health Minister James Reilly confirmed he had received the report this week.

But the Tanaiste told the Irish Independent that the Government was "going to deal with it" as he responded to the case of Savita Halappanavar.

'Heart-breaking'

"It's a heart-breaking case. I was very upset reading and hearing about it," he said.

"We need in this country to provide legal certainty, legal clarity for a situation where a woman is requesting a termination in circumstances like those.

"This issue has been with us for 20 years and this is the first government that has decided we are going to deal with it.

"We will need to give a response to the Council of Europe by the end of November, so I expect we will consider the ABC case report between now and the end of November," he added.

When asked if this meant bringing in legislation or regulation, he said the Government would see what the group recommends.

Some Fine Gael backbenchers said legislation for abortion was not needed, and one called for a referendum.

But the vast majority kicked to touch and said they would wait on for report from the Government's advisory group.

Cork East's Tom Barry said he thinks "we've a good enough system as it is".

Carlow-Kilkenny's John-Paul Phelan said Ms Halappanavar's death is tragic, "but as it stands in this country she should have been allowed a termination".

Mr Phelan said he believed Ms Halappanavar's case should have been covered by existing medical council guidelines.

Dublin South-East's Eoghan Murphy said the report should be published immediately "so we can have a proper debate".

The Taoiseach said Dr Reilly will read the report, reflect on it and bring it to Government.

But Mr Kenny did not give any details or any timeframe.

He only said the Government will be in contact with the European Court of Human Rights by November 30, but did not say when they will make a decision.

Irish Independent

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