News Analysis

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Parties face divisive split if it comes to Dail vote

Published 16/11/2012 | 17:00

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Allowing abortion in limited circumstances, where there is a threat to the life of the mother, appears to be on the way to be regulated in the near future following the Savita tragedy.

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How the Government gets there is the big question – especially without a vote in the Dail.

Whatever way it's done, if TDs have to push a button in the Dail chamber on the matter, there will be a divisive split.

"A Dail vote would be nearly worse than a referendum," a veteran party figure observed.

Differing views exist in both Fine Gael and the Labour Party on abortion.

Legislating for the X Case is a bare minimum for Labour and there are many in the party for whom this is quite a compromise position. Although Labour is categorised as pro-choice, not everybody is of this view.

Nonetheless, the party has an official position: legislate for X.

Fine Gael has an even broader church. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is viewed as moderately pro-life, but not fanatical and would favour interventions to protect the life of the mother.

Again though, when it comes to actually doing anything to put this on a legal footing, he wouldn't be overly enthusiastic.

Like many of his older colleagues, he has been there for the debates of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s and doesn't have fond memories. Veteran TDs are not in favour of knee-jerk reactions.

What happened this week is a new generation of Fine Gael TDs suddenly had the issue personalised in Savita Halappanavar.

Rather than closing the door to even debating the issue, they want the options examined.

First-time TDs, who were only children or teens at the time of the X Case, saw a name and a face attached to the problem and realised they didn't want to see their wife, sister or girlfriend in the same situation.

"A huge number of our party members are under the age of 35 or 40. They don't even remember the X Case. They see it in a different light now compared to what they did," a minister said.

But the different light doesn't mean many of them want to actually vote on it.

Irish Independent

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