Sunday 25 September 2016

Independent Alliance wants free vote on fatal foetal abortion Bill

Published 22/06/2016 | 02:30

Waterford TD John Halligan confirmed last night that he intends to vote in favour of the legislation. Photo: Douglas O'Connor.
Waterford TD John Halligan confirmed last night that he intends to vote in favour of the legislation. Photo: Douglas O'Connor.

The Independent Alliance is demanding a free vote on a Bill that would allow terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

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And one of the group's ministers, Waterford TD John Halligan, confirmed last night that he intends to vote in favour of the legislation, which is due before the Dáil next week.

The Bill, which is being spearheaded by Wexford TD Mick Wallace, is similar to the piece of legislation brought forward by Dublin Fingal TD Clare Daly last year.

It proposes that women should be allowed to have an abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality where both a perinatologist and an obstetrician deem the pregnancy to be non-viable.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are likely to vote down the Bill, with one Fianna Fáil source last night describing it as "unconstitutional".

However, the prospect of members of the Independent Alliance voting in favour of the Bill has caused a dilemma for the minority Government.

The Taoiseach's spokesman indicated yesterday that there is an expectation that all members of Government will vote in accordance with the Programme for Government.

The programme sets out that the issue of the Eighth Amendment will be examined by a Citizen's Convention.

The spokesman would not be drawn on the potential implications, if any, for Mr Halligan or others if they vote against the Government next week.

A spokesman for Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, who is not a member of the alliance, said she has yet to make clear how she will vote.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday formally endorsed the process for the establishment of the Citizen's Convention. The first meeting will take place by November.

Around 100 people will sit on the body - which will first examine the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal status to the rights of the mother and the unborn. The assembly will also examine issues such as fixed-term parliaments. It will report back within 12 months.

This means that the earliest a referendum on abortion is likely to take place is 2018.

Ministers agreed that an "appropriate person" will be asked to chair the assembly.

Fianna Fáil is understood to be in favour of the convention being chaired by a retired judge.

A Government spokesman, however, accepted that finding an appropriate individual to chair the convention could prove a "challenge". This is due to the importance of finding an individual who has not made public pronouncements on the Eighth Amendment.

Irish Independent

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