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Friday 18 October 2019

Minister under fire for not taking questions

Early exit is labelled a 'farce' as Hogan forced to defend Reilly

Health Minister James Reilly said the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 will clarify existing laws
Health Minister James Reilly said the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 will clarify existing laws

Lise Hand and  Conor Kane

Health Minister James Reilly came under fire yesterday for not taking questions on draft abortion laws at the meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee.

"I can't think of a more appropriate place where the minister would be than in this chamber," said Wicklow TD Billy Timmins, to chants of "hear hear" from both opposition and government TDs and senators.

Also, Environment Minister Phil Hogan said he did not expect any of his Fine Gael colleagues to vote against the abortion legislation despite reports of misgivings among some backbenchers.

"I wouldn't expect anybody to be voting against a very practical measure that is imposing on the people of Ireland a legal remedy to a very difficult legal situation and saving the life of the mother and saving the life of the unborn, as we're required to do under the Constitution."

There was a lot of "extraneous material creeping into the debate that is not in the heads of the legislation at all," the Environment Minister said.

Mr Hogan defended the Health Minister over Dr Reilly's decision to leave the hearing immediately after giving his initial statement – a decision that sparked criticism from cross-party members of the Oireachtas.

"The Minister for Health has given an undertaking to take into account the discussions that he's having over the next three days in the Oireachtas, and I think you'll see that the legislation then will be published by the end of June and in the Oireachtas for July, for approval or otherwise," Mr Hogan said.

Earlier in the Seanad, Independent TD Mattie McGrath labelled Dr Reilly's departure as "a farce".

"The minister ran out of the chamber."

Fine Gael senator Paul Bradford said it was "bizarre" that the Dr Reilly was not present.

Members of the committee were informed by email yesterday that while the hearings would be addressed by Dr Reilly, he would have to leave before taking questions.

CLARITY

A spokesman for Dr Reilly said that the morning's session was to provide members of the Oireachtas with "complete and absolute clarity on the meaning of the Heads of the Bill", rather than on the political implications of the legislation.

"In that instance, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, and the secretary general at the Department of Health, Dr Ambrose McLoughlin, were well placed to provide detailed answers".

The hearings were scheduled to last three days and the Oireachtas Health Committee is to report ahead of the measure going before the Dail and the Seanad next month.

Irish Independent

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