Senior FG figures warn Taoiseach not to rush decision on legislation
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been warned that if the Government attempts to rush through any "stitch-up'' when it presents its proposed response to legislating for the X Case next week, he will face a major Fine Gael revolt.
The Government is expected to present its response on Tuesday, but Mr Kenny was warned that he will "be seen to be in absolute breach of his word if anything resembling a final solution is presented next week".
And the claim by Eamon Gilmore that he and Mr Kenny would resolve the abortion issue by Christmas has sparked a furious response from senior Fine Gael figures who warned that "the Government must absolutely facilitate an open-ended debate that is respectful of all views'' before it finalises its response to the Ryan report.
They added: "A very significant number of people will not accept a stitch-up. . . as part of some divvy-up to facilitate the wishes of the Labour Party.''
The mood amongst the wing of Fine Gael that is suspicious of any attempt to legislate for suicide will have been hardened by a letter sent to all of the party's representatives by 11 top-level consultant psychiatrists.
The letter was signed by Jacqueline Montwill, consultant psychiatrist for Mayo Mental Health Services; Eugene Breen, CP Mater University Hospital; Alan Byrne, CP Naas; Patricia Casey, professor of psychiatry Mater/UCD; Ciaran Clarke, CP Barringtons Limerick; Brid Corkery, CP St Stephen's Hospital Cork; Brian Houlihan, consultant child psychiatrist at Children's University Hospital Temple St; Richelle Kirrane, CP John Connolly Hospital; Martin Mahon, CP John Connolly Hospital; Bernie McCabe, CP Navan Mental Health Services, and Geraldine Lyster, CP St Brigid's Hospital Louth
Significantly, the letter claims that "termination of pregnancy is not a psychiatric treatment for suicidality, nor is it mentioned as such in any of the major textbooks of psychiatry''.
The letter also expresses the belief that "offering an abortion to a distressed person who is psychiatrically ill would be strongly ill-advised since the person's capacity to make important life decisions is frequently impaired".
Political sources have said that tensions have arisen between Mr Kenny and Justice Minister Alan Shatter over Mr Shatter's response to the Expert Group Report on Abortion which appeared, to many observers, to implicitly endorse the development of a far more liberal abortion regime than the simple outworking of the X Case Supreme Court Judgement.
However, opinion within Fine Gael is so divided over the issue of legislation. Lucinda Creighton has made it clear she will resign if any legislation is too liberal.
Ms Creighton was not available for comment. However, Fine Gael sources also noted that "Shatter is driving every-one mad. He is complaining the X Case is not enough."
Within Fine Gael it is believed that at least 30 TDs and senators remain to be convinced by the virtues of the legislative route. These include Ms Creighton; Derek Keating; Michelle Mulherin; Regina Doherty; John O'Mahony; John Paul Phelan; Brian Walsh; Peter Mathews; party chairperson Charles Flanagan; Terence Flanagan; Billy Timmins; Sean Conlon; Michael Creed; John Deasy; James Bannon; Paul Connaughton, Tony McLoughlin; Jim Daly; Marcella Corcoran Kennedy; Patrick O'Donovan; and a number of senators such as Paul Bradford.
One source noted: "It is not that we are medieval about what women can or cannot do with their bodies. Our concern is about issues such as how do we define suicide and is it the case that we run the risk of following the path of other jurisdictions where this legislation could be used to introduce a UK-style abortion regime though the back door.''
Another source asked: "How do we define regulations for suicides? Dan Neville, who is the expert on this issue, admitted it is actually impossible to form a conclusion on suicidal ideation.''
TDs were also anxious to clarify that "this is not about being controlled by Opus Dei or priests and nuns waving rosary beads. People have genuine issues of conscience."