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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kenny and Reilly refuse to act until probes completed

Fiach Kelly

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny and Health Minister James Reilly have refused to be rushed into action until a number of investigations into tragic Savita Halappanavar’s death are completed.

Mr Kenny said two separate investigations were under way into the death which happened in Galway University Hospital. Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin called for an independent inquiry, but Mr Kenny said he wanted to wait until the first two probes were completed.

Mr Kenny did not rule an independent inquiry out, saying: "I think it would only appropriate that the two investigations that are being carried out here are concluded."

The Taoiseach also told the Dail Health Minister James Reilly last night received a long-anticipated expert group into abortion.

Dr Reilly said it could be months before the report was presented to Cabinet and insisted he would not comment until he had read it.

"Pre-empting the outcome of the report which has just landed on my desk late last night would be utterly irresponsible in my view," he said.

"I won't set any timeframe on what action will ultimately occur but certainly within a matter of weeks to months I will report to government on the content of this report. This issue has divided this nation a number of times. it's an extremely sensitive issue, it's one that evokes very strong emotions and we have to do what we're obliged to do under law," he said.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said it was time to legislate for abortion, but Mr Kenny said ministers would examine the group's recommendations.

Mr Kenny said it would present a "series of options" and the Government has until the end of November to tell the EU what it will take.

Health Minister James Reilly said about the Savita tragedy: “Obviously the matter is being investigated by the HSE and don't think I should say any more than that, other than to send my deepest sympathies to the family. I want the matter investigated and when we have greater clarity about what happened, I'll be in a better position to comment.”

In 1992 X case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution permitted abortion in circumstances where there was a “real and substantial risk” to the life of the mother.

Minister Reilly said "Twenty years is a long time to leave people with uncertainty on this issue. I accept that and it's my view we have to do this in a very careful, well-considered way," he said. "The issue must be addressed, clarity must be given to the medical profession as to when they can intervene and when they can't under the law in this country. Whether that's done by legislation, whether it's done by way of directive, whether it’s done by referendum - there are a whole host of possibilities here."

Labour Senator James Heffernan said it was time for the Government to 'grasp the nettle' by bringing in new abortion legislation.

"I know I speak for many of my colleagues in my party - we don't want abortion on demand. But the situation in Galway cannot be allowed to be repeated or to happen again," he said.

Mr Heffernan also said that politicians had to bear some responsibility for the "polarisation" of the debate on abortion.

The death of the Savita Halappanavar dominated discussion in the Seanad today.

Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway said what had happened was "intolerable". But Independent Senator Ronan Mullen warned that a situation like this could be a "wedge" to bring in abortion in this country. He called for people to proceed with great caution.

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