Fears pro-life TDs will block abortion laws until election
McGrath will question 'every syllable' of any new legislation
There are serious fears in Cabinet that pro-life TDs will move to prevent abortion legislation being enacted before the next general election if the referendum passes next week.
The Government is eager to pass the new law before the country next goes to the polls but there are serious concerns that filibustering by anti-abortion TDs will prevent plans for an early election.
Minister for Health Simon Harris intends to advance plans to enact laws which allow for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy immediately after the referendum, if the Yes side wins.
However, pro-life TDs are aiming to delay the passage of legislation through the Dail if they lose the referendum on Friday.
Prominent No campaigner and Independent TD Mattie McGrath said anti-abortion politicians will question "every line and every syllable" of the legislation if it is put before the Dail.
"I will respect the will of the people but any legislation will have a long and arduous passage through the Oireachtas. It is my duty to question the legislation because it is a life and death issue," Mr McGrath said.
Mr McGrath also expects he will be supported by more than 30 TDs from Fianna Fail and the Independent benches in his opposition to any new abortion laws.
A senior minister said the Government was willing to debate new abortion legislation day and night to ensure it was passed before an election is expected within the next 12 months.
"It will be an endurance test but we will debate the legislation long into the night and at the weekends," the minister said.
A senior Fianna Fail TD also warned that attempts by rural TDs to filibuster the enactment of new road traffic laws was a "dress rehearsal" for slowing down abortion laws.
"What they are doing on the road traffic bill will pale in comparison to what they will do on abortion legislation," the source said.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross yesterday called on the pro-life TDs to show consistency and support his life-saving drink-driving legislation.
"If Mattie McGrath and Danny Healy-Rae are so interested in saving lives, which they undoubtedly are, they should be consistent and save lives by allowing the quick passage of the drink-driving bill," he said.
If the referendum passes, Minister Harris intends to bring a memo to Government within two weeks seeking to draft legislation.
The legislation would be drafted during the summer months with a view to bringing it before the Oireachtas by October and enacting abortion legislation before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, RTE has assured Minister Harris that the audience for next week's Prime Time abortion debate will be more restrained than those who participated in the Claire Byrne Live Referendum Special last Monday.
The minister's advisers spoke to producers on Prime Time who said they would not tolerate inappropriate cheering or jeering during the last abortion debate of the campaign.
Separately, Sinn Fein yesterday defended publishing a referendum leaflet which attacks other political parties. The leaflet stated that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail "joined together" to put the Eighth Amendment into the Constitution at a time when women were in Magdalene laundries.
"We feel it's important that voters understand the history of the Eighth Amendment and its impact on women," a Sinn Fein spokesperson said.