Monday 5 December 2016

Taoiseach denies rift with Fine Gael deputy leader Minister Reilly over abortion referendum

Published 27/11/2015 | 15:20

Enda Kenny and James Reilly
Enda Kenny and James Reilly

The Taoiseach has denied that there is any rift between him and his party's deputy leader James Reilly over the issue of holding an abortion referendum.

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"There's no difficulty between myself and the deputy leader of the Fine Gael party. Deputy Reilly is perfectly entitled to his personal views," he insisted in London today.

"My issue was that it would be impossible to have an early referendum on an issue that is as complex as this, without people fully understanding what is involved".

Mr Kenny's dramatic decision to allow his party members a vote came on Wednesday night at Fine Gael's parliamentary party meeting, shortly after a serious disagreement between him and the Minister for Children.

Dr Reilly had heaped pressure on the Taoiseach by publicly demanding an early referendum to be held during the next Dáil to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

However today Mr Kenny said that it was always the party's intention to include dealing with this contentious issue in its manifesto for the general election next year.

"This matter was always going to be a part of the manifesto we'll prepare for our own party," he said.

While he didn't confirm reports that two of his most loyal Cabinet colleagues, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe had also made pleas for clarity on the issue before the Spring election, he said, "It's an issue which requires a very sensitive, very respectful, comprehensive discussion.I respect the right of every person to have their view on this."

Mr Kenny also revealed that if returned to power, a Citizens Convention would be convened before the end of next year.

"The proposal set out in the programme of our own party will be that within a six-month period if re-elected to office I would institute a Citizen's Convention on the constitution, or whatever title would be appropriate, to put that process in play".

The Taoiseach was speaking at the press conference after a meeting of the British-Irish Council in London, where he met with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and the North's First Minister and deputy First Minister, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

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