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Tuesday 19 November 2019

FG unlikely to back abortion poll

* Labour pledges referendum after election n Pro-lifers say it would be rejected

Fionnan Sheahan

FINE GAEL is unlikely to support the Labour Party's pledge to hold another referendum on abortion after the next general election.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is pledging to hold a referendum, if Labour gets back into power, to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or when pregnancy results from rape or incest.

But Fine Gael is not enthusiastic about the proposal following the divisive debate over abortion legislation.

The Government's advice is that a referendum would be needed if those reasons were to be included as grounds for an abortion, so they can't be included in the current legislation.

Although some ministers have signalled support for the fatal foetal abnormality cases, the party's chairman, Charlie Flanagan, said it wouldn't be a priority.

"That's a long way off and there's a lot of water to go under the bridge in the meantime. I don't see it as a Fine Gael priority in any event," he said.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she believed women were being dealt with very insensitively at the moment.

"As a party, we have made no decision on that. The Tanaiste is speaking on behalf of the Labour Party," she said.

Pro-life campaigners say such a referendum would be rejected. Independent senator Ronan Mullen said a principle had been conceded by the abortion legislation.

"It was obvious Labour intended to get as much as they could out of liberalising abortion. I have always argued this legislation will lead to abortion on request.

"They sense they have a momentum now and want to put it to the people," he said.

"A referendum on those issues was never something I would be afraid of."

Labour's party policy for the past five years is to allow for foetal abnormalities, rape and incest to be allowed as grounds for abortion.

But the party has also acknowledged this is not possible constitutionally without a referendum being passed.

The Seanad sits today to debate the final stages of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 and to hold a final vote on the legislation.

Irish Independent

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