Saturday 24 February 2018

I was booted off Dail committee for making a stand over bill – rebel TD

Eilish O'Regan and  Fionnan Sheahan

THE Government has kicked an Independent TD off the Oireachtas health committee just a week after he voted against the abortion legislation.

Former Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten discovered yesterday he was being removed from the committee.

But the Government has denied the decision was related to his stance on the abortion legislation, dismissing the claim as "absolute rubbish".

The Roscommon TD is putting his removal now down to asking for a vote during the report stage of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.

He pushed a vote on his proposal that women who are suicidal and seeking an abortion be represented when they appear before a tribunal assessing if she have the termination.

Mr Naughten says he is being "muzzled" and is saddened he was expelled as a member of the committee for doing his job of scrutinising legislation.

He was being punished for "pressing that a woman, who believed that her life is under threat, has a legal right to have a person attend with her when she is faced with making her case for a termination in front of a panel of three medical consultants".

Mr Naughten is a former chairman of the committee and stayed as a member after losing the party whip for opposing the Government on the closure of the emergency department at Roscommon Hospital.

Although it is normal practice for TDs who lose the party whip to be taken off committees by the Government, he remained on the committee after agreeing to resign as chairman.

Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe said Mr Naughten was never given any commitment that he would remain on the committee for the duration of the Dail term.

Mr Kehoe rejected the Independent TD's claims as "absolute rubbish".

He said Mr Naughten is being replaced with Fine Gael TD Dan Neville, who has a long track record of campaigning on the issue of suicide awareness and prevention.

"We were carrying out committee changes following the promotion of Tom Hayes and Paschal Donohoe by becoming junior ministers and the removal of the whip from five TDs over the abortion legislation, so it was an opportune time to make a number of changes," he said.

The Independent TD made an effort to raise his removal at a meeting of the committee yesterday, which was discussing childcare issues with Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

But he was told it was not possible for members to make personal statements.

Irish Independent

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