News Politics

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Labour Party backs off "immediate" referendum calls

Katherine Donnelly 
and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 19/08/2014 | 02:30

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Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan

The Labour Party is backing off any talk of pushing for a referendum on abortion, even though the junior coalition party is pro-choice.

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In the wake of the test of the country's abortion laws, elements of the party called on the Government to "immediately table a referendum" to allow terminations.

But Tanaiste Joan Burton is ruling out any referendum in the lifetime of this Government in the wake of a baby being delivered by caesarean 
section after the mother 
sought an abortion on suicide grounds.

The Tanaiste's spokesperson said Ms Burton was in favour of the repeal of the eighth amendment of the Constitution, inserted on foot of a referendum in 1983, but it was "not an issue for this Government".

"The mandate for this Government is to introduce X case legislation and that was done," the spokesman said in reference to the passing last year of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act, 2013.

Labour minister Jan O'Sullivan also said there would be no further moves to change abortion laws in the lifetime of the present Government.

The Education Minister said it was a "very difficult case and everyone is concerned for the woman, the baby".

Ms O'Sullivan said she did not know all the details and so could not comment, but added that "there does appear to have been some time delay, but don't know the reason".

Asked whether she felt the legislation was working, she said she didn't think a decision can be made based on one case.

"I don't think the legislation is flawed but the legislation is within the context of constitution that exists, and the legislation can only go so far in that context," she said.

"Within the parameters that the Government found itself in, this is best possible legislation that could be introduced.

"It isn't possible to deal with broader issues under terms of constitution and realistically, there isn't going to be a referendum in the lifetime of the Government," she added. The minister said the legislation was being monitored and she believed "a future government will have to look at another referendum".

Ms O'Sullivan said there were issues that could not be addressed under the constitution as it is currently framed, but believed the abortion issue would need to be revisited.

"I do think there are issues, particularly where there is not a viable foetus, where the baby is not going to survive."

In a statement issued through the Labour Party press office, several internal party grassroots groups, Labour Women, Labour Youth, Labour Equality and Labour Intercultural, called for the repeal of the eight amendment. Labour Women chair Sinead Ahern said the groups were calling on the Government to "immediately table a referendum to remove the eighth amendment from the Constitution".

Meanwhile, Equality Minister Aodhan O Riordain has pointed out he believes the "next government" must be "brave enough" to call another abortion referendum.

However, Mr O Riordain has called for the present Government to "now lay the grounds for a referendum to potentially repeal the eighth amendment" by recalling the Constitutional Convention to examine the prospect of a referendum.

"The next government needs to go to the people and ask them to change the constitutional position in Ireland in relation to abortion. This was always going to happen, we were bound to have cases like this that leave people very upset and emotional," the minister told the Irish Independent.

Irish Independent

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