Analysis

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Reilly listens but offers no concessions

Michael Brennan

Published 04/07/2013|04:00

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HEALTH Minister James Reilly has been toning down his approach in an attempt to convince a group of wavering Fine Gael backbenchers to vote for his bill.

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Gone is the forceful figure who has been accused of arrogantly ignoring the views of others. Instead, he has been listening intently to TDs and "respectfully" disagreeing with their proposed amendments at the Oireachtas Health sub-committee.

He has had very little to give the backbenchers in terms of their demands – no removal of suicide as grounds for an abortion, no cooling-off period before an abortion is allowed and no special medical representation for the unborn child.

But Dr Reilly has done his level best to reassure Fine Gael TDs, telling them repeatedly that the aim of the bill is to clarify the existing law and not to provide any additional rights.

He also said that any suicidal woman who refuses to co-operate with treatment that could help her will not be allowed to have an abortion – in a further attempt to show that it will not lead to the 'floodgates' opening on abortion.

The sub-committee is one of the final opportunities to amend the bill – and was attended by several of the Fine Gael TDs with the biggest concerns. They included Mayo TDs John O'Mahony and Michelle Mulherin, Cavan-Monaghan TD Sean Conlan and Cork North West TD Michael Creed.

And rebel Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins – who has already voted against the second stage of the bill – was present.

Junior Minister for Primary Care Alex White was on hand to back up Dr Reilly's rejection of a 'cooling-off period'.

Two quick-witted and sharp-tongued party rebels – the former Labour junior minister Roisin Shortall and the former Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten – wanted to know if a viable unborn baby could be left disabled for life as a result of being delivered early if the mother wanted a termination.

Dr Reilly said no mother had a right to an abortion when her unborn child was at a late stage of pregnancy – but that an early delivery was provided for.

Ms Shortall also clashed with her party colleagues when she said the lack of time limits for carrying out a termination of pregnancy was "abhorrent".

Labour TD Ciara Conway said the aim was to protect the lives of women and the alternative was to let them die.

We will find out next week – when the Dail is set to vote on the report stage – if Dr Reilly's conciliatory approach has managed to stop the ranks of Fine Gael rebels from swelling.

Irish Independent

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