Friday 19 January 2018

Taoiseach faces FG revolt over party's abortion position

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett
Richard Boyd Barrett

Niall O'Connor, Daniel McConnell and Majella O'Sullivan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is facing a revolt over the controversial abortion issue as Fine Gael TDs fear the party will lose support unless it promises to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

Party sources at both ministerial and backbench level are adamant that Mr Kenny and other senior Fine Gael figures must "get off the fence" and adopt a firm stance on issues surrounding terminations.

There are growing fears that the party will be punished by voters during the upcoming general election campaign unless its manifesto contains a pledge to hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment.

The Eighth Amendment, voted into the Constitution in 1983, acknowledges the right to the life of the unborn as being equal to the mother's right to life.

To date, the Government has publicly said it cannot properly address concerns around abortion in this Dáil term because it has no mandate to do so.

But privately, Fine Gael TDs are deeply concerned that Mr Kenny is too conservative to adopt a firm pre-election stance on the issue.

"People will be asking - why hasn't the largest party adopted a firm stance and they have every right to do so. We can't keep kicking the abortion issue into touch," said a senior Fine Gael source. But any such move to promise to hold an abortion vote will be treated with the utmost caution by Mr Kenny.

The Fine Gael leader will be determined to avoid another bitter internal abortion row which previously led to several members, including former minister Lucinda Creighton, leaving the party fold.

TDs yesterday debated a private members' bill , tabled by Independent TD Clare Daly, which proposed allowing terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

In a deeply personal contribution, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett spoke of having to bury his daughter Ella after she was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality.

Independent TD Mick Wallace described the Government's claim that it has no mandate to further legislate on the issue as "horses***".

TDs are due to vote on Ms Daly's bill on Tuesday. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is giving deputies a free vote.

Turning the air blue

Deputy Mick Wallace used the word "horses***" during a Dáil debate yesterday. But there have been other examples of unparliamentary language in the Oireachtas.

May 2008, 'Get those f***ers in' - Just weeks after becoming Taoiseach, Brian Cowen got himself in trouble for describing the National Consumer Agency and other bodies as "f***ers".

March 2009: 'Bulls**t' - Then Labour TD Roisin Shortall accused Minister Billy Kelleher of talking "bulls**t" in the Dáil during a motion on the jobs crisis.

March 2009, "F*** you deputy Stagg, f*** you" - Green Party TD Paul Gogarty landed himself in hot water after launching a tirade against Labour's Emmet Stagg.

June 2010, 'F***ed up the economy - Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh defended his use of the f-word during a Dáil debate on social welfare legislation.

July 2013: 'Talking through her fanny'

In unparliamentary language that drew widespread criticism, Senator David Norris accused Fine Gael's Regina of "talking through her fanny".

Ms Doherty said she was "upset" by the remarks, which she described as "contrived and intentional".

Irish Independent

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