Friday 21 October 2016

'Ministers who disagree with Cabinet should resign' - Howlin challenges Independents on Eight Amendment vote

Published 19/10/2016 | 11:48

Brendan Howlin. Photo: Collins
Brendan Howlin. Photo: Collins

Ministers who disagree with the position of Cabinet are obliged to resign from office, according to Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin.

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Mr Howlin has ramped up the pressure on the Independent Alliance after it emerged a number of its ministers are seeking a free vote on an abortion bill due before the Dáil next week.

The bill, being tabled by TDs Ruth Coppinger and Brid Smith, proposes a repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the constitution.

The Eighth Amendment, which gives equal status to the rights of the mother and the unborn, is currently being examined by the Citizen’s Assembly.

But the prospect of Independent Alliance ministers Shane Ross and Finian McGrath voting against the rest of Cabinet has caused unease in Fine Gael.

Mr Howlin said his party will support the bill - despite voting against a similiar bill last year when Labour was in Government.

He emphasised that under the constitution, collective Cabinet responsibility must apply.

And he said any minister who disagrees with Cabinet should resign.

“Under the constitution, there is a constitutional imperative that the Cabinet acts as a collective. That’s not a matter of choice, that’s not a matter of debate. That’s a constitutional imperative so it would be extraordinary in the extreme on any issue if the collective decision of Cabinet wasn’t adhered to at all,” Mr Howlin said.

“The long standing convention is that any member of the Government who disagrees with the position of Cabinet resigns from that Cabinet,” he added.

Mr Howlin made the remarks as his party published a new bill to regulate crisis pregnancy agencies.

The legislation would for the first time, require that those who provide counselling to women experiencing crisis pregnancies be registered and regulated.

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