Saturday 3 December 2016

Taoiseach under fire: Kenny criticised over handling of North and abortion issues

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

Published 05/07/2016 | 15:40

Enda Kenny floated the idea of an all-island body
Enda Kenny floated the idea of an all-island body

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has come under fire in the Dáil over his approach to the establishment of an all-island forum, as well as the Cabinet row over abortion.

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Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said Mr Kenny’s authority had been “damaged” on Monday, when both issues became tainted by controversy.

In relation to the issue of abortion, Mr Kenny today agreed to allow Independent Ministers to have a free vote on a bill being tabled by Mick Wallace. This is despite the fact the Attorney General Máire Whelan deemed the bill to be unconstitutional.

Speaking during ‘Leaders’ Questions, the Fine Gael leader said he has reminded his ministers of their responsibilities but that he “cannot dictate to others” who are not members of Fine Gael.

Mr Kenny told Mr Howlin that he personally "100pc accepts” that under the constitution, the AG is the Government’s chief legal adviser.

Mr Howlin, as well as Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, also criticised the Government over its botched attempts to establish an all Ireland forum to respond to ‘Brexit’.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster at Dublin Castle
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster at Dublin Castle

Read more: Now retailers hit as shoppers head North in ‘Border Brexodus’

Mr Kenny was left red-faced at Dublin Castle yesterday after the North’s First Minister, DUP leader Arlene Foster, said she had not been consulted over the issue.

Mr Adams said the DUP rejection of the establishment of the body should not prevent its establishment.

The Sinn Féin leader pressed Mr Kenny to agree a date for the setting up of the body - but he refused to do so.

“If I proceed ahead to set up a forum that is not participated in by other parties it is divisive,” Mr Kenny said.

“That is not in the interests of the people of Ireland , North and South,” he added.

During his own questions, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin strongly criticised the Government’s approach to the issue.

Mr Martin said a number of ministers, such as Simon Harris, had spoken on the airwaves about the prospect of such a body before agreement was secured from parties like the DUP.

He accused the Government of “spin over substance” and said more “professionalism” should have been shown.

Mr Martin also said additional capacity is now required in Government departments in respect to the North.

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