Monday 14 October 2019

Independent TD Mattie McGrath plans amendments that could delay abortion law

Mattie McGrath insists any ideas would be 'constructive'

Mattie McGrath fears set up of abortion clinics. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mattie McGrath fears set up of abortion clinics. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mattie McGrath TD. Picture: Frank McGrath
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Fears have grown that the proposed law to regulate abortion in Ireland will be delayed in the Dáil af a pro-life TD has confirmed he will be tabling "constructive amendments".

The bill is due to be brought to Cabinet on July 10 and will be discussed by TDs on July 11 and 12.

TDs may delay their summer break by a week if necessary in order to ensure the bill can be sent to the Oireachtas Health Committee. Following the summer recess, the Dáil will consider the report stage of the bill before it is referred to the Seanad.

Pro-life TD Mattie McGrath - who emerged as one of the most vocal opponents to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment - has said he planned to table amendments to the proposed law.

"I have no intention of obstructing this bill but I certainly have every intention of tabling amendments," he told the chamber.

He later insisted they would be "constructive amendments".

In the wake of the landslide vote in favour of repeal, there have been calls from several sides of the house to progress the bill as swiftly as possible.

Mr McGrath said he would need to see the legislation before deciding what amendments to table. "They won't be frivolous amendments, they will be serious amendments," he said, adding that he hoped the views of the people who voted No would be taken into account.

There is no limit to the number of times a TD may speak on an amendment, leading to fears amendments may delay the passage of the proposed legislation.

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The Independent Tipperary TD - who was one of three members of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment who refused to back its all-party report - also took issue that he was not invited to attend a meeting with Health Minister Simon Harris this week on the proposed legislation. Mr Harris met with health spokespeople from Opposition parties on Wednesday to discuss the next steps following Friday's referendum.

However, Mr McGrath alleged in the chamber that he was not invited because he was on the "No side", to which Mr Harris responded: "Health spokespeople were invited, you are certainly not one of them."

Mr McGrath's pledge to table amendments comes after Micheál Martin instructed Fianna Fáil TDs - the majority of whom advocated for No during the referendum - that amendments must be filtered through the party's spokesman on health, Stephen Donnelly.

Any amendments tabled by Fianna Fáil will be within the parameters of the heads of the bill published ahead of the referendum and will not seek to change the substance of it.

Meanwhile, Mr Harris called for continued co-operation among all members of the House in order to progress the Bill as quickly as possible.

"The people have spoken and now we need to get on with our job. I am eager to implement the will of the people without delay," he said yesterday.

"I brought a memorandum to Cabinet this week and received approval to draft the bill to regulate termination of pregnancy.

"This bill will be in line with the bill that was put before the people when they cast their votes last week. I thank the Opposition for engaging with me yesterday.

"It is so important that we continue to work in a bipartisan fashion. If we do that, we can get this bill published through this House before the summer recess."

It is expected, if the timeline on passing the law can be met, abortion services may be introduced by January 2019. Work is also under way to allow the bill to be regulated here.

Irish Independent

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