Friday 18 January 2019

Final Results

Repeal the Eighth Amendment?

Yes 66.40% 1,429,981

No 33.60% 723,632

  • Constituencies declared: 40/40

Referendum Hub

Emotional Cabinet hears of a modern Ireland it didn't like

Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

It was a Cabinet meeting like no other. Ministers told stories of teenagers taking boats to Liverpool and would-be parents facing decisions that no pre-marriage course could have prepared them for.

Behind closed doors, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ventured this was "a country where men have told women what to do for too long".

When it all appeared to be winding down after two hours of going around the table, they found another gear and the discussion went on for the same length again.

By the end, the outcome was "obvious". "Nobody needed to call for a vote or have their opposition recorded for posterity," said a source.

There was always going to be some dissent but there was no rancour.

"It was actually pretty emotional at times," said one minister. "Everybody reached the conclusion that the current situation doesn't work."

It was the Taoiseach and Health Minister Simon Harris who set the tone.

At a press conference afterwards, Mr Varadkar offered a glimpse into his own "personal journey", but sources said he went into a lot more detail at Cabinet.

He talked about Miss Y, who was turned back from an English port when she sought to travel for an abortion. At one point she told a counsellor she "would rather die than have this baby" - but ultimately her infant was delivered by caesarean section.

Mr Varadkar's second moment was the case of a woman who was clinically dead but kept on life support while the courts studied her case because the baby she was carrying was alive.

Read More: Leo will struggle to split repeal from issue of 12 weeks

On a St Stephen's Day, doctors were authorised by the High Court to end treatment because there was virtually no chance of the baby being born alive.

This was not history; it was 2014.

All eyes were on the ministers who had yet to publicly declare opinions, especially Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

"Tangled in a web," is the way one colleague described the Foreign Affairs Minister.

"He went 360 degrees and came back again," said another. There was significant sympathy for Mr Coveney even though most disagreed with his assessment.

Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh was widely reported to have told a previous Cabinet meeting that he could not support repeal of the Eighth so there was some surprise when he appeared to take a more nuanced stance.

"He waited a long time before saying anything but then spoke about the bigger picture," said one observer.

It's understood he spoke strongly about the need for services to be central to everything that happens.

"His point was that this isn't a situation where we can talk about HSE waiting lists to see counsellors or experts," said a source.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe, who remains undecided, urged colleagues to stick rigidly to the recommendations of the all-party committee.

He worried that if they "start meddling with wording" then the issue would become a party political issue.

Michael Ring said there was a search for an approach that acknowledged the views of rural Ireland.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy stated "the obvious" by warning that if a referendum goes ahead then the onus was on the Government to get it to pass.

Then when all was said, the Taoiseach was given the nod to spread the word.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News