Sunday 18 March 2018

Leo Varadkar: Ignoring advice of Attorney General on issue of abortion would set 'difficult precedent'

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Collins
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Collins

Niall O’Connor Political Correspondent

A decision by ministers to ignore the advice of Attorney General Máire Whelan on the issue of abortion would set a “difficult precedent”, according to Leo Varadkar.

The Social Protection Minister was responding to the declaration by Shane Ross that he and some of his Independent Alliance colleagues intend to support a bill tabled by Mick Wallace when it comes before the Dáil on Thursday.

The bill proposes to permit terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, whereby the woman has been assessed by two qualified medical professionals.

Speaking on RTÉ’s ‘Morning Ireland’ programme today, Mr Ross said the issue is one of conscience.

“It is our intention to vote for the bill because we believe it is one of the cardinal views of the Independent Alliance that on issues of conscience and issues this sort there should be a free vote,” the Transport Minister said.

Read more: ‘Attorney general’s advice is simply an opinion’ – Shane Ross denies tension on abortion a threat to Government stability

However, Mr Varadkar today said he disagreed with the move given that the Attorney General has ruled the bill to be unconstitutional.

“It is always right to be compassionate. But it is not right to be false. I don’t think it is right It is not right to vote for legislation that is unconstitutional precisely for that reason,” Mr Varadkar said, adding that he does not believe the dispute will bring down the Government.

Speaking as he arrived at Dublin Castle for the North South Ministerial Council, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said Mr Ross made it clear that this matter is a “discreet issue” or a “once off”.

He added that he has been dealing with these issue relating to abortion since the eighties and that they have always been difficult.

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