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Thursday 28 August 2014

'Hames' Reilly focus of opposition yet again

Published 28/11/2012 | 05:00

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THE nation's omniscient canines are at it again. "The dogs on the street know it," Mary Lou McDonald informed the Taoiseach during Leaders' Questions.

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According to the Sinn Fein deputy, even the hounds are howling the name of James Reilly – or Hames Reilly more like, given that's precisely what he seems to make of every issue he goes near.

Once again Enda was obliged to turn into the Tammy Wynette of Castlebar and stand by his man in the face of a fusillade of dog's abuse hurled by the Opposition.

For the Health Minister was the focus of more displeasure during yesterday afternoon's Leaders' Questions over a renewed row over the selection of primary care centres.

But even with Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald declaring that his position as minister is now "untenable", such criticism must've been like restful birdsong after the explosion of emotion swirling around him in the past fortnight over abortion.

It's hard to believe that it's a mere two weeks since news of the death of Savita Halappanavar has shaken the country and rattled the Government to the core.

And the Health Minister has been in the eye of the maelstrom, in particular over the manner in which the setting-up of an inquiry into the woman's death was handled.

And now it's clear that there's little rest ahead for James Reilly on this matter. Yesterday afternoon the report from the expert group on abortion was published – and almost immediately there was another misstep from Hames Reilly.

At a press conference to announce that the Government would make a decision on the report "before the end of next month", he added that in January "we will seek to implement through legislation the decision of the Government".

The reporters pounced – had the Government already decided on the legislative route?

A taken-aback minister hurriedly described his usage of the expression "through legislation" as "a slip of the tongue". "Obviously I don't want to pre-empt the debate in the Dail and the decision of the Cabinet."

And the opposition kept up the pressure last night. ULA deputy Clare Daly reintroduced an amended version of her Bill on the X Case ruling which was defeated in the Dail last April.

Ms Daly gave a strong speech. "I have to say that the saddest part of moving this Bill is that it doesn't even begin to deal with the majority reasons why thousands of Irish women have to choose abortions every year.

"It doesn't deal with the circumstances of pregnancies arising out of rape or incest, the decisions that people have to make because they're too young, too old or many diverse circumstances."

She made an appeal to the Justice Minister to accept her Bill, to expedite the introduction of legislation.

"The person who hasn't got time is Savita Halappanavar – how many other cases are we going to wait for?

"When we moved this Bill, or an amended version of it, earlier this year this woman wasn't even pregnant. Now she's dead. Are we waiting for another such case?"

However, in reply to her speech, Alan Shatter described the Bill as "well intended but substantially defective".

But he did condemn the status quo – "the truth is we have had, for three decades, a deeply dysfunctional and obtuse legal architecture badly in need of reform".

He called for a "common-sense, rational and sensitive" debate.

"I believe members of this House, in addressing this issue, should ask themselves what would they do, or what would they want to see done, if it was their wife, their mother, their sister, their granddaughter or their niece."

The debate continues tonight, but it won't end with the vote at 9pm. This isn't going away for some time yet.

Irish Independent

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