Kevin Doyle: Taoiseach under pressure as Fine Gael ministers clear path for another abortion referendum
Published 23/11/2015 | 02:30
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is facing increasing pressure within Fine Gael to address the issue of abortion ahead of the General Election - as three ministers have spoken out on the issue.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said she never felt the Constitution was "the place to deal with complex issues" such as fatal foetal abnormality.
She was responding to comments from Children's Minister James Reilly, who called for an referendum on repealing the eighth amendment early in the next term of government.
The eighth gives an equal right to life to the mother and the unborn. But Dr Reilly (pictured) said he "cannot countenance, as a doctor or human being", the scenario where women are "forced to go through with their pregnancies in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities".
"Most repugnant of all to me is that they have to leave this country for a termination and then sneak back in like criminals to bring their babies' remains back," he said.
And today, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe tells the Irish Independent he believes abortion is an issue that "Irish people will want to revisit" in a referendum at some point.
Mr Donohoe said the next Oireachtas would need to come up with something to replace the eighth amendment in the Constitution before putting it to a referendum.
"I think in the lifetime of the next Dáil that process needs to be gone through. Before we determine when (a referendum would take place), first we would have to see what the wording would be.
"There will be another referendum at some point on this matter."
Pressure is now mounting on the Taoiseach to outline a clear strategy for Fine Gael on the issue of abortion.
He has refused to commit to holding a referendum on repealing the eighth amendment if returned to power, even though the Labour Party has said it will want such a commitment in a new programme for government.
Tánaiste Joan Burton repeated her stance yesterday, adding that she believed there was now a majority of "like-minded politicians" in the Dáil to ensure such a vote is staged.
"The Labour Party under the then leadership of Dick Spring voted against the eighth amendment," she said.
"If elected to Government, I want to secure agreement in a future government that we will, after due examination, offer our citizens through the medium of a referendum an opportunity to repeal the eighth amendment.
"(I want it to) focus particularly on the issues of fatal foetal abnormality, threats to the life of the mother or, indeed, very serious health complications, and thirdly in relation to issues of rape and incest.
"I believe that working with like-minded political parties, we could secure a majority for a Dáil vote to put the issue to the people."
As deputy leader of Fine Gael, Dr Reilly's intervention will be seen as significant. He told the 'Sunday Independent' that women who know their baby will not survive outside the womb face a "nightmare" on a daily basis .
"People asking: 'When is the baby due? Is it a boy or girl? Have you got the cot yet? Is the room ready?' Knowing that this baby has no chance of survival."
The Pro-Life Campaign criticised Dr Reilly's comments ,saying the eight amendment was "the last remaining protection for the unborn child".
Cora Sherlock said the Government needed to focus on developing "perinatal palliative care as an alternative to abortion, where parents and families of babies with a terminal illness receive the supports and help to care for their son or daughter for whatever short length of time they survive".