Friday 24 November 2017

Labour TD Anne Ferris set to be expelled from party after voting in favour of abortion bill

Ann Ferris
Ann Ferris
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

LABOUR TD Anne Ferris is set to be expelled from the party after voting against the government on the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities.

Ms Ferris became the only party TD to break ranks despite speculation that several of her Labour colleagues would follow suit.

By voting in favour of Clare Daly’s abortion bill, Ms Ferris will now be stripped of the party whip.

The government comfortably defeated the bill by 104 votes to 20.

Read more here: Ferris risks sanction by Labour  

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Ms Ferris said she felt she had no choice but to stand by her conscience, adding that she hopes to be readmitted to the party before the general election.

"I wanted to vote for the bill to go to the next stage, which is only committee stage so that the medical experts, the legal experts can come in and have a look at it and go through it line by line," she said.

"If we were told after that definitively it is unconstitutional, then we wouldn't have been able to vote for it. But I am not sure it is unconstitutional," she added.

Read more here: Labour TD Ciara Conway 'undecided' over abortion bill vote 

But in a relief for Tanaiste Joan Burton, other deputies who were uneasy about opposing the bill opted to support it.

Just minutes before the process took place, Waterford TD Ciara Conway said she was undecided over how to vote.

At the party’s parliamentary party meeting, held in Leinster House, Labour TDs and senators heard that the bill was unconstitutional. Addressing the meeting, Communications Minister Alex White said the advice from Attorney General Maire Whelan is that the legislation falls within the "ambit" of the Eighth Amendment and therefore cannot be support.

Read more here: Exclusive: Labour poised to lose at least two TDs over abortion bill 

The Eighth Amendment gives equal status to both the mother and the unborn.

Earlier today, Ms Ferris told supporters that she has received a barrage of support from constituents and female voters over her stance on fatal foetal abnormalities.

She has not been contacted by Ms Burton or other senior party figures since it emerged she is intending to vote against the government.

Read more here: Joan Burton facing Labour party revolt as backbenchers may support abortion bill 

Ms Ferris has told her close associates that she is prepared to lose the party whip but that she believes such a prospect would be "deeply unfair".

It's understood that she will strongly call for a free vote on the issue at this afternoon's meeting of the parliamentary party. However, Labour chairperson Jack Wall has categorically ruled out the prospect of a free vote on the bill.

Online Editors

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