Labour minister breaks ranks to say abortion vote not 'deal-breaker'
Published 18/08/2015 | 02:30
A Labour minister has broken ranks with the party leadership and is calling for strong consideration to be given to a joint manifesto with Fine Gael ahead of the general election.
Minister of State Ann Phelan also says that a repeal of the Eighth Amendment to allow for terminations in cases of foetal abnormalities would "not be a deal-breaker" for her in agreeing a joint manifesto with the senior partner in government.
The Labour parliamentary party reaffirmed earlier this year its commitment to working for the repeal. In May, Tánaiste and party leader Joan Burton said Labour's 2016 general election manifesto would seek "on behalf of women to repeal the Eighth Amendment".
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Phelan said: "I understand the importance of Labour being a separate party with separate policies, but we have turned the country around with Fine Gael and I think tampering with recovery is not the answer.
"We will have to talk to party members and take soundings, but personally I am very open to a joint manifesto as well as a full voting pact with Fine Gael. I realise I might be on my own in this thinking, but it needs to be discussed.
"The Eighth Amendment would, of course, have to be discussed. The Labour Party has always been to the forefront for social change, and the party has said it wants to repeal the amendment, but this would not be a deal-breaker for me. I would compromise on it. I would prefer to see the Government go to the people on broad economic issues and embedding the recovery."
It is understood the Tánaiste will ask Labour TDs and senators to agree to a vote transfer pact with Fine Gael at the party's pre Dáil think-in, but will not advocate for a statement of common policy aims with Fine Gael.
A joint manifesto has also been ruled out by those at the top in Fine Gael, with concerns that a policy alignment could dilute the party's tax-cutting message in the election.
But Ms Phelan said a joint manifesto and a vote transfer deal would send a strong signal to the electorate of a continuation of the "safe and sound management of the country".
Also yesterday, a pro-choice group, who presented knickers to Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a Fine Gael event last year, staged a mock Rose of Tralee festival where they called for the Eighth Amendment to be repealed.
The event, by the Speaking of Imelda group, saw activists present themselves as contestants in their version of the Kerry festival representing different countries where they outlined the rights available to pregnant women.
The Ireland and Northern Ireland 'Roses' were adjudged the losers in the mock competition due to the lack of access to abortion.