Thursday 19 January 2017

FG seeks deal to stop abortion row with Independents

Kevin Doyle and Niall O’Connor

Published 20/10/2016 | 02:30

TD Ruth Coppinger. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
TD Ruth Coppinger. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Fine Gael is to propose an amendment to an abortion bill being tabled by Ruth Coppinger in a bid to prevent another disruptive stand-off with the Independent Alliance.

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny is set against giving Independent members of Government a free vote - but the Irish Independent has learned that senior ministers are working on a compromise.

It would involve the Government tabling an amendment to Ms Coppinger's bill, which proposes a referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

The Eighth Amendment, which gives equal status to the rights of the mother and the unborn, is currently being examined by the Citizens' Assembly.

Fine Gael sources said that if suitable wording that acknowledged the work of the Citizens' Assembly and the potential for a future referendum could be found, another unseemly row could be avoided.

However, it was unclear last night whether members of the Independent Alliance would be willing to concede any ground.

In the event of a free vote, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran and Sean Canney would be expected to vote against Ms Coppinger's bill, but it is likely that Cabinet ministers Shane Ross and Finian McGrath and Minister of State John Halligan would go against the Government.

If the Government was to agree, an amendment would be voted on first in the Dáil - meaning that technically the Independents would not have to vote against the bill.

It comes as Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said ministers who disagreed with the position of Cabinet should be obliged to resign from office.

Mr Howlin said his party would support the bill - despite voting against a similar bill last year when Labour was in Government.

"Under the Constitution, there is a Constitutional imperative that the Cabinet acts as a collective. That's not a matter of choice, that's not a matter of debate," he said.

Irish Independent

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