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Coalition ministers insist there's no plan for liberal abortion

GOVERNMENT ministers from both parties have insisted there is no plan to bring in a liberal abortion regime.

The ministers were responding to the secretly taped conversations of two Labour Party TDs talking about more expansive abortion laws after the X Case legislation is passed.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said the forthcoming legislation on abortion is as liberal as the law will become.

And Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the Government would be legislating "essentially for the status quo".

Meanwhile, a Labour junior minister, Alan Kelly, said it was "simply not true" to say there were plans for further legislation, adding: "I don't see it going any further."

They were responding to the emergence of conversations about abortion with Labour TDs Aodhan O Riordain and Anne Ferris that were secretly taped by a pro-life activist posing as a student seeking advice last June.

Mr O Riordain complained that the recording took place without his "consent or knowledge" while Ms Ferris's partner last night lashed out at what he called "scurrilous newspaper articles".

In the transcripts, both TDs suggest that legislating for the X Case – where abortion would be allowed where there is a risk of the mother committing suicide – could lead to subsequent less restrictive abortions laws in Ireland.

Mr Rabbitte moved to quell this idea, saying he didn't think the Labour Party "would be minded" to legislate any further.

"What is proposed, as I understand it, is a very restrictive regime," he said on Newstalk.

And Mr Coveney said the Government would only be legislating "essentially for the status quo".

Mr Coveney said it wasn't surprising people have varying views on the circumstances in which abortion should be allowed.

"Those views are very deeply held. It is not difficult to catch somebody out," he said on RTE's 'The Week In Politics'.

The 'Sunday Independent' published transcripts of the secret recordings quoting Mr O Riordain as saying that legislating for the X Case was "a starting point" adding later "we will get there over time".

He added: "I'll say this much, it's never going to happen unless Labour are in government."

The TD also said: "Nobody celebrates abortion, it's tragedy but it should be legal and it should be safe."

Ms Ferris is quoted as saying: "We will legislate certainly for what the European Court has told us to (the X Case) and then we can go further than that . . . we get the first part done and then we will go on to the next bit."

She highlighted her pro-choice credentials and said that she would leave the Labour Party if the X Case legislation didn't go through the Dail in the Government's first term.

Mr O Riordain issued a statement responding to the newspaper report.

Committed

He said a recording of the meeting emerged on tape a number of months ago and that the recording took place without his "consent or knowledge".

He said the meeting was a pre-arranged appointment with a woman who said she was a constituent with a query about college fees.

Mr O Riordain said his views and those of the Labour Party on the X Case legislation were "well-known" and that the party was fully committed to passing legislation, which was included in its pre-election manifesto.

Ms Ferris didn't return calls to the Irish Independent last night. Her partner John Nolan answered the door at her home in Bray.

He said: "This is Anne Ferris's private residence and you're not welcome here.

"If you want to talk to her, you ring her next week. She works in the Dail."

Dismissing a request for comment from Ms Ferris, he blasted the "scum press in this country", which he said was responsible for "scurrilous newspaper articles".

Irish Independent