Sunday 19 November 2017

Kenny gives ministers free vote on abortion campaign

Enda Kenny. Photo: Getty
Enda Kenny. Photo: Getty
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny says he will allow ministers to vote for or against the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in a prospective abortion referendum - without repercussions.

Mr Kenny said everybody would be allowed to vote with their conscience, even if it means having ministers on different sides of a campaign.

"If it comes to a point where there is an issue to be decided by vote, I've already said that the members of my party would have a free vote and that applies whether they are in government or not in government as ministers," he said.

Mr Kenny's comments directly contradict Fine Gael's director of elections Brian Hayes, who says ministers should resign if they disagree with future government policy on abortion.

Speaking in Munich, where he concluded a three-day trade mission, Mr Kenny said: "This is a really sensitive, personal issue for so many people and one that needs to be discussed in a rational, comprehensive and sensitive fashion."

Mr Kenny has described British Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to allow his ministers campaign on either side of the EU membership referendum debate as "pragmatic".

The Taoiseach suggested if Mr Cameron didn't allow such flexibility, it could result in ministers having to be fired and would put the prime minister "in a very difficult position".

Fine Gael's election manifesto will include a commitment to set up a constitutional convention to examine the Eighth Amendment which gives equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.

If that process concludes that changes to the Constitution are needed, the Cabinet will have to draft legislation that would be put to a public vote.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny has hit out at suggestions his party is engaging in auction politics ahead of the General Election.

The Taoiseach said the next government would need to be "very careful and prudent with the management of the public finances". Fianna Fáil has claimed that Fine Gael is adopting right-wing policies that will see taxes cut to a point that public services cannot be properly funded.

Among the election promises made by Fine Gael so far are the abolition of the much-hated Universal Social Charge, a new Working Family Payment that would guarantee parents at least €11.75 per hour no matter where they are working, and some increases to social welfare payments.

Mr Kenny said: "We are not going back to the days of boom and bust, nor are we getting into the business of auction politics."

Irish Independent

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