Sunday 21 October 2018

Taoiseach to make views on repealing Eighth known after special meeting of Cabinet

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

Shona Murray, Donal O'Donovan and Kevin Doyle

The Taoiseach is expected to finally reveal his hand on the contentious abortion referendum after a special Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Leo Varadkar said he would wait until the Cabinet agreed the wording of the question being put to the public before committing himself to a position.

The Taoiseach refused to be bounced into making his stance known, despite pressure following Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin's strident remarks in the Dáil last week.

Mr Varadkar is said to be conscious of not making the same 'mistake' as the government in 1983 when the Eighth Amendment referendum was carried.

At that time, then-Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald was unhappy with the wording, but went ahead with the referendum anyway.

"We're having special Cabinet meeting on Monday evening, as you know we have a meeting every Tuesday morning but this is a very important issue," said Mr Varadkar, in Davos.

"I don't think it would be possible to shoehorn it into an agenda of 20 or 30 items and for that reason we are having a special meeting on Monday.

"I hope at that meeting the Cabinet will agree to proceed with the referendum and also legislation and I'll certainly give my views after that Cabinet meeting if we have agreement.

"On Monday evening, subsequent to there being agreement at Cabinet I'll be happy to make my views known on the referendum and the legislation thereafter.

"I'm in a difficult position, a different position perhaps to other people, I am Taoiseach.

"So ultimately the question that we are putting to the Irish people has to be one that is sound and has to be one that the Attorney General can endorse.

John Downing: Micheál is in a spot of bother - and this is about more than the impending referendum

"Also I want to as much as I can - respecting the fact that there is a free vote - but as much as I can, bring my Cabinet and my party with me, and that's important too."

A row later broke out in the Dáil last night, after 20 Government TDs were put on stand to counteract perceived attempts to delay the Dáil debate on abortion.

Dáil sittings ended prematurely on Tuesday and Wednesday night after Independent TD Mattie McGrath called a quorum, arguing that the lack of TDs listening to the debate showed "a shameful disrespect for human life".

There is a belief on the Government side that a cohort of TDs in Fianna Fáil and the rural group want to delay the process in order to prevent a referendum being held in May, which would likely maximise a vote in favour of repeal.

However, alluding to this in the Dáil, pro-life TD Éamon Ó Cuív said: "I want the referendum held when the maximum number of citizens of this State can vote."

Irish Independent

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