Sunday 24 September 2017

Joan Burton facing Labour party revolt as backbenchers consider supporting abortion bill

Tanaiste Joan Burton

Niall O'Connor and Daniel McConnell

LABOUR TD Anne Ferris will today demand that Tanaiste Joan Burton sanctions a free vote on Clare Daly's abortion bill.

The Wicklow deputy is refusing to budge on her position - despite the prospect of being booted out of the parliamentary party.

Ms Ferris has told supporters that she has received a barrage of support from constituents and female voters over her stance on fatal foetal abnormalities.

"Anne won't budge on the matter," a source told independent.ie.

She has not been contacted by Ms Burton or other senior party figures since it emerged she is intending to vote against the government.

Ms Ferris has told her close associates that she is prepared to lose the party whip but that she believes such a prospect would be "deeply unfair".

However, Labour chairperson Jack Wall has categorically ruled out the prospect of a free vote on the bill, which calls for terminations to be permitted in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

It's emerged that Labour TDs have tabled a motion aimed at forcing the party leadership to sanction a free vote on a bill calling for abortion to be allowed in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

The bill, proposed by Independent TD Clare Daly, has caused turmoil for the junior coalition partner.

Read more: Labour in crisis as Ferris to vote for abortion bill

Dublin Bay North Sean Kenny told Independent.ie this morning that he too is considering voting in favour of Ms Daly's bill.

"I feel very uneasy about the whip being applied. I will make my decision after I hear the legal advice from the Attorney General."

Communications Minister Alex White is due to give the briefing at a special meeting of the parliamentary party this afternoon.

The emergence of an internal party motion aimed at forcing the leadership to grant a free vote on the matter has created major difficulties for Ms Burton.

Clare TD Michael McNamara, who tabled the motion, said he expects it to be supported. However, senior party sources disagreed and said the party must remain united on the issue.

Read more: Labour TDs need to vote with their conscience on Daly's abortion bill

Ms Burton's spokesman had also said it was unlikely any TD would support the bill proposed by Ms Daly.

Responding to Ms Ferris's declaration, Ms Burton's spokesman said she had nothing to add until after the vote.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on Radio One, Clare Daly said if the TDs "had any conscience" they would vote in favour of the bill.

She said it would be a 'shameful' day if the bill did not go through - adding that only the courts had the right to determine the constitutionality of a bill.

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