Tuesday 21 August 2018

FF TDs ready to block new abortion laws

Martin facing backlash over 12-week limit

Leader: Micheal Martin. Photo: PA
Leader: Micheal Martin. Photo: PA
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Pro-life Fianna Fail TDs will seek to block new laws allowing unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy even if voters call for the constitutional change in the forthcoming referendum, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Anti-abortion TDs have also warned the will of the people might never be enacted if voters pass a referendum backing abortion up to 12 weeks, due to the composition of the Dail.

Prominent Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness said passing unrestricted abortion laws could a be a "major issue" for the Government.

"The 12 weeks is a real serious issue for lots of people and with the make-up of the Dail the way it is, you don't know which way it would go," Mr McGuinness told the Sunday Independent.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward said "under no circumstances" would he vote for legislation that would allow unrestricted abortion, even if the referendum passed.

Sligo-Leitrim TD Eamon Scanlon said there is "not a hope" he would vote for new abortion laws and warned the 12 weeks proposal posed a "legal minefield" for the Government.

Several other TDs, including Waterford’s Mary Butler, Donegal’s Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, Louth’s Declan Breathnach, Laois’s Sean Fleming and Cavan/Monaghan’s Brendan Smith  also told the Sunday Independent they would not vote for laws allowing unlimited abortion up to 12 weeks, even if the referendum passed. Kerry's John Brassil said he would have difficulty voting for new laws but would wait to see the result of the referendum.

Three Fianna Fail TDs - Meath East's Thomas Byrne, Kildare North's James Lawless and Tipperary's Jackie Cahill - said they were opposed to new abortion laws but added they would back legislation if the referendum was passed.

The warning will pose a major headache for Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who have both allowed their TDs a free vote on any abortion-related legislation.

If both leaders fail to convince the majority of their TDs to voluntarily back the introduction of laws allowing unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks, the outcome of the referendum might never be enacted.

Mr Martin infuriated his TDs last week when he blindsided them by announcing his support for abortion up to 12 weeks.

His comment came a day after the vast majority of his parliamentary party told him they could not support unrestricted abortion up to three months into pregnancy.

Fianna Fail's health spokesman, Billy Kelleher - who favours a more liberal abortion regime - was criticised at the meeting for not representing the party's mixed views on abortion.

Mr Kelleher was a member of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution and proposed the recommendation that the Government should legislate for abortion up to 12 weeks.

Yesterday, a senior Fianna Fail TD said the committee "bit off more than it could chew" and warned the public wasn't ready to support the proposal.

Another TD said the Fianna Fail leadership was "not listening to the ordinary Joe in the streets" by backing new abortion laws.

A meeting for Fianna Fail TDs has been organised by Mr Aylward next week in reaction to Mr Martin's position on abortion.

Pro-life TDs want to ensure their views receive an equal share of media attention as those of the party leader and health spokesman.

After he spoke out against Mr Martin's stance, Mr Aylward was contacted by several party members who support his campaign to give anti-abortion TDs more airtime.

It is understood he is backed by Galway West TD, Eamon O Cuiv, Cork East's Kevin O'Keeffe, Cork South West's Margaret O'Mahony Murphy, Mary Butler, Eamon Scanlon and Cavan Senator Diarmuid Wilson.

Fianna Fail sources have estimated around 70pc of the party is opposed to the introduction of unrestricted abortion.

Fianna Fail TDs have been inundated with calls from constituents. Senior party figures say they expect resignations over the party leader's position on abortion.

Sunday Independent

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