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Trade Minister reveals referendum decision is influenced by personal experience of losing baby born at 20 weeks

Growing number of ministers and Fine Gael TDs following Simon Coveney's decision to support repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but not unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks

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Minister of State for Employment and Small Business: Pat Breen

Minister of State for Employment and Small Business: Pat Breen

Business Minister Heather Humphreys Photo: Steve Humphreys

Business Minister Heather Humphreys Photo: Steve Humphreys

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Minister of State for Employment and Small Business: Pat Breen

Trade Minister Pat Breen has revealed for the first time that his decision on the upcoming abortion referendum was influenced by his personal experience of losing a baby that was born at 20 weeks.

The Minister of State with responsibility for Trade, Employment and Business confirmed to the Irish Independent that he now supports repeal, but he has doubts over whether they could vote for unrestricted abortion.

"She lived for eight months. She'd be 21 now," he said.

However, the Clare TD said he was trying to "distinguish my views between my own experiences and what's best for society as a whole. I think of the 53 women from my own county, Clare, who travelled to the UK.

"Then there may be many more who took the abortion pill.

"I share the agony of these girls and I understand that nobody does it lightly - nobody does it for the sake of doing it."

He expressed concern that if legislation was introduced to allow abortion up to 12 weeks, then a future Dáil could go further.

Sports Minister Brendan Griffin and Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh confirmed that they will support repeal, but also have doubts over whether they could vote for unrestricted abortion.

Mr Griffin said the Eighth Amendment was "making it impossible to deal with rape and incest and women with fatal foetal abnormalities".   

"I agree it's not workable and should be repealed, but I couldn't agree with abortion in any circumstance up to 12 weeks."

It was widely reported that at a recent Cabinet meeting Mr McHugh was opposed to any change, but he spent the past few weeks speaking to health professionals in Ireland and Britain.

He now supports repeal but "retains concerns" over the 12 weeks.

A growing number of ministers and Fine Gael TDs are following Simon Coveney's decision to support repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but not unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks.

Three junior ministers have told the Irish Independent they have similar views to Mr Coveney, while a number of backbenchers are expected to publicly support his stance in the coming days.

Business Minister Heather Humphreys also outlined that she was "in favour of a repeal of the Eighth Amendment" but needs more time to "consult and engage" with her constituents on the question of 12 weeks.

Education Minister Richard Bruton yesterday joined Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in supporting the full recommendations of the Oireachtas report, leaving just three Cabinet members undeclared.

Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, Communications Minister Denis Naughten and Defence Minister Paul Kehoe are still holding their counsel.

Mr Naughten said he supported the holding of a referendum but "people will have to make up their own minds by listening to all the arguments".

In a further Fine Gael split, Junior Agriculture Minister Andrew Doyle has decided to go against his constituency colleague Simon Harris, who is in charge of the referendum.

The Wicklow representative said: "We should have been able to give access to abortion where a women's health was in danger but now it's gone too far.

"I have an issue with the right to life being taken out of the Constitution.

"Health should have been part and parcel of the legislation in the first place, but only for stubbornness on the extreme pro-life position now it's gone the other way."

Overall, the Irish Independent has calculated there are currently 65 TDs who have signalled that they are opposed to unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Irish Independent