Tuesday 16 January 2018

Lucinda sticks to her guns and quits ministerial post

Abortion rebel replaced by Paschal Donohoe as Bill passes

Lucinda Creighton: 'very sad' over expulsion from party
Lucinda Creighton: 'very sad' over expulsion from party
Promotion: Paschal Donohoe

Fiach Kelly, Fionnan Sheahan and Michael Brennan

Lucinda Creighton has been automatically expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party and has resigned as European Affairs Ministers after voting against the abortion legislation.

And Taoiseach Enda Kenny moved immediately to replace her – naming Dublin Central TD Paschal Donohoe as the new junior minister.

Mr Kenny held an incorporeal meeting with the Cabinet over the phone at 1.30am to ratify the appointment.

The abortion legislation was finally passed by the Dail last night at 12:25am by 127 votes to 31.

Following the passing of the legislation, there was applause in the Dail Chamber from Labour Party ministers and TDs and some Fine Gael ministers.

After voting against the Government on the legislation, Ms Creighton confirmed late last night she had resigned as European Affairs Minister.

She said she was asked to resign immediately by the Taoiseach. Even ahead of her loss of the party whip, Mr Kenny's office informed cabinet ministers yesterday the Taoiseach would move rapidly to fill the junior ministerial post.

Ms Creighton also said she was "very sad" to be outside the parliamentary party.

"I never wished or expected to be expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party," she added.

"This is the party I have worked for unstintingly since I was 18 years old."

"I will, of course, continue to be a Fine Gael member. But at the same time I feel a bit relieved. This has obviously been a huge issue that has been on everyone's minds for months and months and months."

The 33-year-old Dublin South-East TD has become the most high-profile Fine Gael casualty of the bill. She said it was too early to get into whether she would be a FG candidate at the next election.

Ms Creighton said she had no interest in forming a new political party and she would work for Fine Gael candidates in next year's local and European elections. She said she felt the legislation was breaking the promise the party gave in the last general election and she could not support it. But she faces an uncertain future in the political wilderness.

Ordinarily, it would be up to the Cabinet to sack a junior minister but Ms Creighton has resigned.

Unlike the lengthy delay in appointing a new junior agriculture minister, following the sudden death of Shane McEntee, Mr Kenny didn't hold off on replacing Ms Creighton.

Ministers had been warned to expect the appointment to be made without delay.

Speculation around the post had centred on Mr Donohoe as the frontrunner, followed by Pat Breen and Damien English, with Jerry Buttimer as the outsider.

Ms Creighton voted against the Government on the controversial suicide clause to the abortion bill, before the final vote on the legislation.

After casting her vote, Ms Creighton walked over to Mr Kenny and shook his hand. She sat down beside him and they had a brief chat before she left the chamber.

"I wished him luck, I've worked in his department for the past two years, nearly two-and-a-half years, we've had a great relationship," Ms Creighton said of Mr Kenny.

"I have the height of admiration for him and how he conducts his business, particularly on the European stage."

Ms Creighton becomes the fifth and final FG TD to rebel against the Coalition, and cast her decisive ballot on the second day of the final stage abortion debate. She follows Billy Timmins, Terence Flanagan, Brian Walsh and Peter Mathews.

The Coalition won that vote by 130-24.

The five TDs' future in the party is unclear, since Mr Kenny said anybody who voted against the Government could not run for FG at the next election.

After the vote, Ms Creighton said the bill was breaking a FG election promise not to legislate for abortion.

"Life is too short to be resentful but I know in my own mind ... we made a clear commitment before the last election.

"I meant it, I held it sincerely and unfortunately this legislation is a breach of that commitment and that's why I couldn't support it."

Irish Independent

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