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Martin under pressure as Fianna Fail divided on its backing for bill

FIANNA Fail looks set – for now – to vote against the Government's abortion legislation as party leader Micheal Martin failed to get a critical mass to support the Coalition's approach.

Mr Martin and others in the party hierarchy had wanted to support the abortion bill, but his TDs and senators are almost split down the middle. It puts Mr Martin in a weak and difficult position and facing the prospect of losing a handful of Oireachtas members if he imposes a whipped vote – no matter which position the party takes.

A decision on what stance the party will take has been put back until after the the Oireachtas Health Committee hearings, which take place in two weeks. But sources suggested it is inevitable the party will have to oppose the legislation.

"I can't see a position where there will be a vote in favour," a source said.

However, one TD said positions could change before the next meeting.

"If it was 50/50 today it will be 80/20 the next day," one deputy said.

"They need to realise the Supreme Court has decided," the deputy added.

The idea of a free vote was described as "a joke" by another TD, who said: "You may as well be a group of Independent TDs then."

Irish Independent