Saturday 29 April 2017

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil selecting nominees for committee on abortion

Chairperson Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, at the Citizens Assembly Picture: Fergal Phillips
Chairperson Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, at the Citizens Assembly Picture: Fergal Phillips
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have begun the process of nominating TDs for the Oireachtas committee that will set out a path for reform of Ireland's abortion laws.

The Citizens' Assembly set up by the Government to compile a report on the possible repeal of the Eighth Amendment will hold its final discussion on the topic next weekend.

Its chair, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, is expected to deliver its findings by the end of June.

The formation of the committee is expected to be a tricky task for Fine Gael which will have a free vote on the issue when it comes before the Dáil.

In recent days Government chief whip Regina Doherty emailed Fine Gael TDs and senators expressions of interest from politicians who want to be on the committee.

However, one senior party source told the Irish Independent they don't expect to get too many applications.

"The water committee will look easy compared to this one," the source said.

It is understood that Dublin Bay South TD Kate O'Connell, who was on Fine Gael's water team, will seek a spot on the new committee.

Last year she broke down in tears as she told a Dáil debate of how she and her husband were told their son had a "profound defect" during a scan.

The first-time TD said she delivered a child that "had almost the entirety of his organs outside his body", who is miraculously alive today, aged five.

"Today, as we sit here, people are receiving a diagnosis that tells them to prepare for a death, and not a birth - and that their misery cannot be relieved in their own country," she said, adding that legislators must realise the law surrounding abortion has to change.

Fianna Fáil has selected its health spokesman Billy Kelleher to be on the committee, along with Lisa Chambers, Anne Rabbitte and James Browne.

A spokesperson said it was still awaiting final numbers on the make-up of the committee before nominating any senators.

The Citizens' Assembly will meet to discuss the topic for the fifth and final time next weekend before making recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Its conclusions will primarily by reached by secret ballot.

The Oireachtas committee is expected to have up to 20 members, with a minimum of eight present at all times.

Its terms of reference say it must report its conclusions to the Oireachtas within three months of its first public meeting.

Irish Independent

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