Thursday 26 April 2018

Kenny urged to correct record of his inaccuracies over abortion

Katherine Zappone Photo: Tom Burke
Katherine Zappone Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

The Taoiseach has been criticised by two Cabinet ministers over inaccurate statements that he made in the Dáil about abortion referenda.

Mr Kenny has insisted that he set the record straight in the Dáil last week by "clarifying" matters after his earlier inaccurate comments. But he has since faced calls to "formally correct the record of the House" and now the Children's Minister, Catherine Zappone, has added to pressure on Mr Kenny to act, while the Social Protection Minister, Leo Varadkar, has acknowledged that Mr Kenny made a mistake.

On June 1, The Taoiseach told the Dáil that the constitutional provision upholding the right to life of the unborn child was voted as an amendment to the Constitution in 1983. He incorrectly added that in three subsequent referenda the public had upheld that right.

But under questioning last week, Mr Kenny told the Dáil that there were votes in 1992 which had upheld the "X-case judgment" and established a woman's right to abortion information and to travel outside the jurisdiction for an abortion.

He said that in 2002 a referendum seeking to overturn the 'X-case' ruling was narrowly defeated.

Mr Kenny said he had "clarified" the sequence of various votes but Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said he had not corrected the Dáil record, but had merely recited a sequence of events.

She correctly stated that there had been no vote on the core issue of abortion prohibition since September 1983 and added that Mr Kenny's comments were not good enough.

Last Friday, the Taoiseach repeated that he had "clarified matters". His officials have insisted that the issue has now been dealt with.

But Ms Zappone said that what Mr Kenny said on June 1 was inaccurate and it was important for him to correct the Dáil record. She added that she intended to raise the matter with the Taoiseach.

"I think it's very clear. We're all very aware that in fact it was an inaccuracy," she said.

Mr Varadkar also said the Taoiseach was incorrect when he spoke in the Dáil about previous referenda on abortion and the Eighth Amendment.

"What he said was incorrect. I understand subsequently he's actually clarified that, or at least he says he has. So I think it's just a case of the Taoiseach mis-speaking on that.

"There was a referendum on that in 1983. Since then, there hasn't been another one on the Eighth Amendment itself," Mr Varadkar told Newstalk.

When asked if the Taoiseach should correct the record of the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said the Taoiseach had said he had already clarified the matter.

"The important thing now is to deal with the issue and not be getting too concerned about clarifying the record of the Dáil," Mr Varadkar added.

The Taoiseach has committed to setting up a 'citizens' forum' within the first six months of this Government's term. The forum is to be chosen by an opinion polling company and be comprised of neutral people.

Its report will be passed to an Oireachtas committee and will then go to the full Dáil, where TDs will get a free vote on the issue.

It is likely that the issue will ultimately go to another referendum. But Mr Kenny has steadfastly refused to put a timeline on when such a vote might emerge, as he said he cannot dictate terms to either the forum or the Oireachtas.

Yesterday, Mr Varadkar said that it was not enough to abolish the Eighth Amendment and that voters needed to know what would replace it.

Irish Independent

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