Kevin Doyle: Tánaiste has contradicted himself on plan for a 'third way'
Simon Coveney is entitled to his view in the same way every other voter is.
You can't take it away from him. You can't bash him for it. But you can question him on it. And his radio interview yesterday left a lot of questions.
The Tánaiste is more than just any ordinary lawmaker. He's the deputy leader of a Government that intends to ask the people if they want to legislate for abortion up to 12 weeks.
Mr Coveney says he is happy for the electorate to answer that conundrum - but then he'll set off on his own crusade to create a more wholesome version of abortion than what is on offer.
The Foreign Affairs Minister sought to outline his position yesterday, saying he supports repeal of the Eighth Amendment but would still like to see the unborn protected in legislation.
Mr Coveney indicated he may even go so far as to propose Dáil amendments to a Bill being prepared by Health Minister Simon Harris to allow for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.
The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment proposed unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks on the ground that it would be too difficult to legislate for case of rape or incest.
But Mr O Coveney told RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rouke: "Some of legal experts said it was difficult to legislate for this (rape), just because it's difficult doesn't mean we go down a different route that makes it easier for everybody."
However, the chairperson of the Oireachtas committee, Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone, said "all expert evidence shows that rape is impossible to legislate for".
"Yet another Irish solution to an Irish problem doesn't make any sense in the context of women's health."
Mr Coveney's position is genuine and disingenuous at the same time. It's true to Simon Coveney, but not what his Government is putting on the table. He is essentially talking up 'a third way' based entirely on his personal views.
During his interview, Mr Coveney praised the Oireachtas committee as having done "a very good job on this".
"They listened to a lot of expertise, they spent six months teasing through some very difficult issues and they made a whole series of recommendations," he said.
But in the next breath he dismissed their key finding. The report said abortion should be available to women up to 12 weeks because of "the complexities inherent in legislating for the termination of pregnancy for reasons of rape or other sexual assault".
It even stated that introducing a verification process for rape victims would lead to "further traumatisation".
Mr Coveney said that we need to look past the committee's recommendations on rape "because that is such an intimate and private and delicate conversation that one doctor should be able to sanction an abortion in those circumstances". Let's see that legislation then so we can test it before the vote.