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Saturday 25 January 2020

Kenny accused of misinterpreting ‘right to die’ ruling by Marie Fleming’s partner

Sarah Stack

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been accused of misinterpreting a ruling from Ireland's highest court as he rejected calls for new laws allowing assisted suicide.

Tom Curran, partner of terminally ill multiple sclerosis sufferer Marie Fleming, claimed Mr Kenny was wrong in saying he cannot bring in right-to-die legislation.


Mr Curran and his partner's daughter Corrinna Moore attended the Dail as the family stepped up their fight for her assisted suicide after being refused by the courts.


"Words of compassion are very easy but it's compassion in action we want to see, anybody can speak them," he said.


"We feel abandoned and more importantly dismissed as if we're dirt on their shoe."


Mr Kenny said he understood the grief of Ms Fleming, who he described as an extraordinary woman - and the commitment of her partner and family, but claimed it is not open to him to bring in new laws on the contentious issue.


"By any standards this is an extraordinary case involving an extraordinary woman," Mr Kenny said.


"I believe that if this house were asked to find words to adequately describe the impeccable courage and dignity and competence of Ms Fleming, it would probably be rendered mute."


Independent TD John Halligan had called on the Taoiseach to legislate for assisted suicide with necessary safeguards and to allow for the contentious issue to be debated by TDs and Senators.


Ms Fleming, who was too ill to attend a recent Supreme Court ruling against her right-to-die appeal, was also too unwell to be at the Dail today.


The former academic is fighting her fourth infection in as many months and can only move her head. She lives in constant pain, cannot swallow and suffers choking sessions which she fears will eventually kill her.


Mr Curran faces up to 14 years in jail if convicted of helping her to die.


Outside the Dail he accused the Taoiseach of not understanding the Supreme Court ruling, which refused to allow her appeal for the right-to-die but stated that the Oireachtas had the power to change legislation.


"I did expect him to say no but I didn't expect him to say that he couldn't, which is what he said," said the carer.


"He was completely wrong. He is saying it's not within his power.


"The Supreme Court told the Oireachtas directly that is it within their power and they passed it back to the Oireachtas saying there was no constitutional ban on changing the law.


"They brought in the law in 1973, they brought in the offence then, the Oireachtas can change that law and modify it to allow, as the court said, classes of people, like Marie, to have the freedom to do what she wants to do or to have the option to do."


Mr Curran and Mr Halligan plan to seek a clarification from the Taoiseach's office and address cross party politicians in the Dail next month on their understanding of the Supreme Court ruling before a bill is drafted.


"We just need to keep the momentum going now that it's started," said Mr Curran.


"This never started as a campaign. This was a very personal issue and it's still a very personal issue and I'm still doing it for our own sake, but it seems we've been put forward as the spokespeople for an awful lot of other people.


"We're not alone out there."


Mr Halligan, a humanist, said he has stressed in his will that he wants to be assisted to die if he becomes terminally ill.


"All of us have a right to a dignified life and the right to demand a dignified life but we also have the right to a dignified death," Mr Halligan said to Mr Kenny.


"We have the right to a peaceful death. It is everybody's wish to have a peaceful death.


Mrs Moore said even her 11-year-old twin boys ask why their granny is not allowed to die if she wants to.


"It's a very long day to put in when you can do absolutely nothing," she said about the health of her mother.


"Try to be her not only for a day, but an hour. Try to put yourself in mummy's shoes for an hour and you'll realise why we're doing this and why she wants the option to do this.


"It's like being in a permanent state of grief."

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